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“True Love - Objective and Controlled”

By: Dee Bowman

When asked what is the greatest command of all, Jesus answered, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.” He further affirmed that “the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” Finally, as if to clinch the proposition, He said, “On these two hang all the law and the prophets” (Matthew 22:37–40).

Love is the supreme commandment, the highest “thou shalt.” It is the one true motive, the first good reason. On it rests all that God has done, all He has said, all He expects of us. Law without love is profitless. Love without law is ludicrous.

Love is more than sentiment, greater than mere feelings. It seeks ways to express itself. Even Puppy Love—perhaps the lowest form of love—will seek some way to express itself. “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments” (1 John 5:3). We love Him, so we express our love by doing what He says. It is not our expression in words, but our translation of the words into action that shows our love. Love is not silent. Nor indeed can it be.

Paul portrays love as a person in 1 Corinthians 13. He says, “Love seeketh not her own” (verse 5). True love looks out, not in. That is, it is objective. Sure, there is a subjective feeling to love, but it does not stop in the heart. It seeks an object toward which to extend itself. Real love does not expend its energies seeking its own things, it looks outward—toward the needs of others (Philippians 2:4).

Love is involved with the needs of others. It encourages, ennobles, emboldens them. Sometimes it exhorts, gracefully agitating others to greater faithfulness. Other times it offers gentle discipline, considering itself, and in the spirit of meekness (Galatians 6:1). Love spends its time helping, not being helped. It looks for the opportunity to bear another’s burden and “so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2).

A young mother knows this other-directed love. She stands before the crib and mops the fevered brow of her little one while she prays God to transfer the fever to her. She is willing not only to share, but to bear. Not part of it, mind you, but all of it. It’s love that causes that. Love does not seek to be comfortable, it seeks to serve.

Shirley Baulch’s brother was in serious condition. If he didn’t find a new kidney, he would die. When she heard about it, she did not hesitate, but immediately volunteered one of her kidneys. Oblivious to the risk involved in even the surgery to remove her own kidney and without regard for the risk she now takes since she has but one herself, she gave. Because she gave, he lives.

Because He loved, He gave (John 3:16). Because He gave, we live. Oh, glorious love!

Paul continues. “Love is not easily provoked,” he says. It is easy—sometimes even enjoyable—to become exasperated with people. But true love will fight against the tendency. Love is temperate, in control.

Control is such an integral part of love. Love manages situations, it does not allow situations to manage it. It will exercise proper restraint in the midst of controversy, and retain propriety, even in the face of ill treatment. To hold yourself back in the middle of intense criticism or angry rebuke is a sure indication of love. To return malevolence with benevolence is control in its purest form. To return provocation with kindness is indicative of mature love. It’s hard to do, sure. But love demands it.

Genuine love will control the amount of time it gives to anger. It will not let the sun set on its wrath (Ephesians 4:26). True love will be angry short. It will even return good for evil (Romans 12:21).

“On these two hang all the law and prophets.” To love God supremely and to suit unto our fellows the highest good is the measurement of genuine love. True love is what God’s law is all about. God’s law is what true love is all about.

Originally appeared in the May 1991 issue of Christianity Magazine.