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THE GREATEST GIFT
The gift of LOVE is like a seed that GROWS--like a child grows from infancy to maturity--from love for self and love for others, to intimacy in marriage and love and care for children, to love for God. Love is not an inborn gift or trait. It is an acquired quality that must be learned--though some of its physical expressions may be natural or instinctive. At BIRTH all have the gift of physical life (Genesis 2:7), but "no man knows either love or hatred by all that is before them" (Ecclesiastes 9:1).

        LOVE is an ATTITUDE of the mind (intellect) and heart (feelings or emotions), a WAY of THINKING that translates into ones actions and behaviors. It can produce powerful feelings that energize and motivate one to great heights - that overpowering feeling described in the song. It works in the brain by stimulating the flow of chemical neurotransmitters called endorphins and dopamines--the feel good hormones--and these produce their beneficial effects by stimulating other processes that take away tensions and pain and boost the immune system and healing.

        The opposite effects of love are brought about by evil thoughts and attitudes such as envy, jealousy, anger, contentiousness and hate, which cause the outpouring of the stress or "fight or flight" hormones. These prepare the body for an emergency situation but their prolonged effect is stress, suppression of the immune system, emotional turmoil and wearing down of the body and health.

HOW CAN YOU RECEIVE and GROW IN the GIFT of LOVE? Where do you start? Maybe you were deprived or missed out as an infant and weren't nourished in a way to build even the beginnings of love for self--self-esteem or self-acceptance. One must start at whatever point they are now and grow from there.

        As stated at the beginning, the GIFT of Love is FREE and the OFFER is UNCONDITIONAL. You CANNOT EARN it, BUY it with money, DEMAND it, or WORK it up. It is a FREE GIFT without any strings attached.

        But you MUST learn to DISTINGUISH between and choose the GENUINE PEARL of TRUE LOVE from the fake gems of this world's counterfeit "love" or self indulgence which is LUST and covetousness. The choice is between the ways of "blessing or cursing," between "life and good" (the way of love) and "death and evil" (the way of selfish lust) (Deuteronomy 30:15-20).

Lust verses Love Return to Index

        The Bible refers to the COUNTERFEIT love of the world as LUST, which is the selfish desires of the mind and flesh (1 John 2:15-17). Lust is covetous, possessive and controlling and seeks self-gratification. It corrupts the mind and emotions and leads to evil thoughts. Evil thoughts cast out love and are destructive.

        The lusts of the flesh lead to sin, evil and death (Rom 8:3-8; Eph 4:22; James 1:13-15):

"adultery, fornication, uncleanness, licentiousness (unrestrained lawlessness), idolatry, sorcery (Gr. "pharmakeia"-witchcraft, drug use), hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like..."(Galatians 5:19-21).
"Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your lusts"
(James 4:1-3).
        In a more subtle way, "The love (lust or desire) for money is a root of all kinds of evil," which results in many sorrows (1 Tim 6:10).

        REPENTANCE is to TURN away FROM LUST and to put out EVIL thoughts, turning TO the way of LOVE as revealed by God's laws.

        True mature love is not dependant, obsessive, covetous, possessive or controlling. True LOVE is a gift and fruit of God's Spirit (Gal 5:22). God's Spirit is called a comforter (perhaps better translated as "helper" John 14:26). The spiritual fruit of love (agape) is manifested in
"joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control" (Galatians 5:22-23).
"Love (agape) suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely; does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. LOVE NEVER FAILS" (1 Corinthians 13:4-8).
        The major terms translated as love in the New Testament come from two Greek root words-"philia" and "agape". PHILIA is human love, a "natural" affection based on love for self. It develops into friendship and having and sharing common interests with others. This is a give and take relationship based on personal and mutual needs, especially for acceptance and companionship. Philia is often combined with other words such as in philautos (love of self), philadelphia (brotherly love), philandros (love of husband), philoteknos (love of one's children, Titus 2:4), philotheos (love of God), philosophia (love of wisdom), etc.

        Philia love is at best a selfish, dependant human love based on the need for others in order to satisfy self needs, which include: need for acceptance, belonging and love; need for sustenance and security; need for companionship and sharing; need for purpose, accomplishment and recognition; need for intimacy and family relationships; and a need for God the giver of all good things.

        Philia love is love for everything that belongs to and pleases the self. "I love you as long as you give me what I want" (Mat 5:44,46). It is a love for My parents, My spouse, My children, My family, My toys, My school, My friends, My team, My town, My country, My God, etc. Philia love does not love anything that is perceived as a threat or an enemy to what is important to me. It can be considered as natural human affection, an immature stage of true love based on self-survival and getting for self. Human love is a conditioned response that can be trained how to get what it wants like the animals in Pavlov's experiments.

        Before the apostle Peter was converted and filled with the Holy Spirit, he had only an immature philia love for the Lord as revealed by his answer to Jesus' question,
"Simon...do you love (agapao) me more than these?" Peter replied, "Yes Lord: You know that I love (phileo) you" (John 21:15-17).
        Before their conversion and receiving of the Holy Spirit, Peter and all the other disciples forsook Jesus during His time of trial (Mat 26:56). Philia relationships often break up in time of trials or when one no longer gets what they want or need from the other. To overcome human selfishness and weaknesses and emotional ups and downs, one must reach the higher level of godly or agape love.

        The biblical term for mature godly love is AGAPE, translated as charity in the King James version of the New Testament. It has the meaning of unselfish, benevolent (kind, gentle), giving love. Agape is doing what is good for others, caring and giving but not necessarily always what the loved person desires.

        Agape love is a spiritual gift of God.
"God has not given us the Spirit of fear, but of power, and of love (agape), and of a sound mind" (2 Tim 1:7).
        God's love for man is doing what is best for and needed by man, not always what man desires (ie. few yet recognize the need for Christ's sacrifice for their sins, John 3:16). For man to show agape love to others and to God, he must first receive it from God (1 John 4:19), for only God has such unselfish love.

        "There is no fear in [agape] love; but perfect [agape] love casts out fear" (1 John 4:18). Only by agape love can one love his enemies and esteem others better than self (Mat 5:43-48; Phil 2:3). "(Agape) love will cover a multitude of sins" (1 Pet 4:8). It can help us overcome and be healed spiritually, emotionally and physically (Mat 13:15). But it must be renewed in us day by day through God's Spirit (2 Cor 4:16). And we must stir up that gift of God which is given to us (2 Tim 1:6).

FORGIVENESS & OFFENSE
Why does love sometimes fail?

        Human love (philia) often fails because, at its best, it is still selfish and prideful or ego-centric. Pride is a root of anger and strife.
"By pride comes only contention" (Prov 13:10). "He who is of a proud heart stirs up strife" (Prov 28:25).
        AGAPE LOVE NEVER FAILS! Peter's love (philia) failed and he was offended and forsook and denied Christ three times, though just before that he had told Jesus he would lay down his life for Him (John 13:37-38; 18:15-18,25-27). Jesus prayed that Peter's faith, which works by love, fail not (Lk 22:32; Gal 5:6). After Peter became filled with the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, God's faith and love in him never failed him (Acts 2:1-4; 2 Pet 1:1-15)

        The human heart without the spiritual gift of God's love (agape) is "deceitful above all things" (Jer 17:9). We often deceive ourselves--wanting to be good, but not able to always do what is good according to God's moral spiritual law (Rom 7:14-15,18-19). Then we either feel guilty and remorseful, or we try to justify ourselves, which is to pass the blame by accusing and finding fault with others.

        If we are truly seeking God's love, He will correct us (Heb 12:1-11). His spirit will convict us of our sin (John 16:8; Acts 2:37). But if we resist and quench the Spirit by trying to justify ourselves, we are rejecting God and His gift of love (agape) (Acts 7:51-53; 1 Thes 5:19).

        Major blocks to the flow of the gift of God's spiritual love (agape) include: contention, animosity, anger, hostility, rage, wrath, bitterness, resentment, hate, envy, jealousy, adultery (physical or in the mind), covetousness and all the works of the flesh (Gal 5:14-21) as well as pride, blasphemy (speaking evil), slander, unthankfullness, unforgiving (2 Tim 3:1-4).

        Jesus said, "Woe to the world because of offenses!" (Matthew 18:7).

        What should you do when you have conflicts with friends, a spouse, children, neighbors, business associates, competitors, enemies, etc.?

        Offenses are a primary cause of domestic, marital and family problems and conflicts between others, which far too often escalate into the tragedies of abuse and violence. It all starts because people offend one another or are too easily offended--in most cases one or each demanding to get their own way, not willing to give in or make peace.

        Offenses are a sign of emotional, intellectual and spiritual immaturity. Is there anyone who hasn't offended others? It is written,

"There is none righteous, no, not one...for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:10,23).

"For in many things we offend all, if any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man and is able to bridle the whole body" (James 3:2 KJV).
But, human nature being what it is, we are more likely to remember offenses of others against us, than to recognize or admit our offenses against others.

        How should we handle offenses? Jesus said,
"if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses" (Matthew 6:14-15).
        The apostle Peter asked the Lord,
"'How often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?' Jesus said to him, 'I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven'" (Matthew 18:21-22).
        FORGIVENESS - means to give up or forgo any rights or claims of anything due from another.

        Being able to forgive and not adding up the offenses is another step in growth toward mature giving (agape) love. But that does not mean that those who offend should not or will not be corrected for their offenses. God says,

"Vengeance is mine; I will repay" (Rom 12:19)
.         Forgiving others is to pardon any debts or trespasses. Jesus, when He was being crucified, nailed to the cross for our sins (See Passover...The Beginning of Salvation), said,
"Father forgive them for they do not know what they do" (Luke 23:34).

He also said, "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them who spitefully use you and persecute you" (Matthew 5:44).
For that kind of love we must ask for God's help and gift of agape (Heb 4:16).
"And above all things have fervent love (agape) for one another, for love will cover a multitude of sins" (I Peter 4:8).

"Love suffers long (is patient) and is kind...is not puffed up; does not behave rudely ...is not provoked, thinks no evil...bears all things...hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails" (I Corinthians 13:4-8).
Esteem others above yourself and think about their good points (Philippians 2:3). (See "Have You Been Offended?" in the Keys for Successful Living Menu).

The Greatest Love! Return to Index

        Jesus said, "GREATER LOVE has no man than this, than to LAY DOWN one's LIFE FOR his FRIENDS" (John 15:13).

        How does one attain to this level of love?

        Certainly, some have given their lives for others, and this can include giving up their personal desires, goals and time in service for others. Some have even made the ultimate sacrifice by laying down their lives for the benefit of their families, friends and country. That is the greatest of human love, but would you lay down you life for your enemy?

        Paul stated that,

"I have great sorrow and continual grief in my heart. For I wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh, who are Israelites, to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises..." (Rom 9:2-4).
        His kinsmen had become his enemy because he turned to Christ, but he dedicated his life to God to serve them.

        The ultimate example of the greatest love was demonstrated by God.
"For scarcely for a righteous man will one die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners (His enemies), Christ died for us" (Rom 5:6-8,10).
        Few really comprehend the greatness of God's love! (See The Love of God and Jesus Christ!)

        GOD (Elohim), the Father, and Jesus Christ who was the Word ("Logos," Spokesman of God to Israel - John 1:1-3,10-14) went beyond the ULTIMATE love for one's friends to demonstrate Their UNCONDITIONAL LOVE for us when the Father allowed Jesus Christ, to become His firstborn Son and lay down His life for us when we were yet sinners.

        God, our Father, and Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, loved us when we were His enemies who sometime may have cursed and blasphemed (spoke evil against) His name. Jesus Christ laid down His life on the cross to redeem us from our sins (John 3:16-17; Romans. 5:6-11) that we might attain the resurrection (John 5:21-30; Phil 3:10-11,20-21). Sadly, some may even ultimately reject that great love and the sacrifice God gave for them (Phil 3:18-19; Rev 20:11-15).

        Jesus Christ, who gave His life for us, was LORD (Yehweh or Jehovah - Eternal), the Word ("Logos" - Spokesman) of God (Elohim) to Israel in the Old Testament (Deut 6:4; 1 Cor 10:1-4). He,

"Christ Jesus, who being in the form of God..., made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a servant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God (the Father) also has highly exalted Him...that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow...and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Phil 2:5-11).
        Jesus Christ is the Word who was with God and was God and all things were made, including man, through Him (John 1:1-3). He was the LORD (Jehovah, meaning Eternal or Everlasting One), the Spokesman of Elohim (the God Family) to Israel. He was the King of Righteousness and King of Peace who appeared like the Son of God to Abraham (Heb 7:1-3). From before the foundation of the world the two personages of the GOD FAMILY (Heb. "Elohim" is a collective plural noun like family-Gen 1:1,26; Eph 3:14-15), in their great love, knew that one of them would have to give up their power and glory as God and come down in human form to give their life for the sins of mankind to redeem us from eternal death (1 Pet 1:18-21; Rev 13:8). The Word gave up His power and glory to become the Son of God (John 17:24) and came to reveal the Father (Mat 11:27) and make intercession for us so that we also could have eternal life and become sons of God (Rom 6:23; John 1:12).

        Can you imagine living forever in a universe sharing the greatest and most perfect gift of all...LOVE? That is just what God wants to give us, and all mankind -- eternal life in the Kingdom and Family of God...if we will only accept and receive it!

        DON'T DENY GOD and others the OPPORTUNITY and JOY of GIVING the GIFT of LOVE... ACCEPT IT and PASS IT ON to OTHERS, your WIFE, CHILDREN, PARENTS, NEIGHBORS, and even your ENEMIES and YOU WILL BE FILLED.

        As long as you have life it's NEVER TOO LATE to RECEIVE and GIVE the GIFT of LOVE. The MORE YOU GIVE the MORE YOU WILL RECEIVE.

....Remember Love covers a multitued of sins!



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