When you ask the average person, “what is the opposite of love?”, the answer is likely to be “hate”. This is a standard programmed response from a linear kind of thinking pattern. The paradigm of; either, or – love or hate, is generally not a helpful way of looking at things. Obviously, the question itself seeds the pre-supposition for division by the use of the word opposite.
Let’s rephrase the question: “When love is present, what is it that will have to give way?
Now you could answer again, “hate”. But do you not hate that or those who seek to harm those whom you love? You will hate a sickness, or anything harmful threatening those whom you love.
Let’s reiterate. You are walking down a street at night with a family member. Suddenly a dark figure appears from an alley ahead. He is holding some metal shiny item in his hand and says with a threatening tone of voice “give me your phones, and your money, now!”. The family member tries to resist and puts up a fight when the robber injures him. You immediately get in there and do everything you can to push the assailant away and he makes off in an unknown direction. Some people, perhaps most will say at that point they hated the mugger. This to is misdirected hatred. Because you love you family member, you hate the scenario of the threat from a mugger. You hate the mindset, or the believe that one could just rob someone else at knife point and stab them if they resist.
It is that horrible believe, that horrible action that we hate.
I hate the cancer that killed my granddad. I hate the car accident that killed my dad, I hate the cancer that killed my uncle, I hate the sicknesses that kills so many people all over the world. I hate famine, I hate corruption, I hate wars, I hate racism, I hate discrimination, I hate destructive ideologies, I hate evil. Why because I love.
Love can hate
Merriam-Websters dictionary defines the word hate as a very strong feeling of dislike.
So many people, especially Christians seem to be afraid of using the word hate. Well, did you know that God hate’s things? God loves us passionately. That’s why He hates anything that would want to harm us. Yet, Christians tend to rise to this pious attitude when the word hate, or hatred is used. That’s also probably because of an oversimplification when interpreting scripture.
Matthew 5: 43-44 King James Version
43 Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. 44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;
Here the Greek word for Hate has the meaning: malicious and unjustifiable feelings towards others, whether towards the innocent, or by mutual animosity.
Is it possible to love a person even if they behave criminally evil? I believe it is. This does not mean approving of them, but it means you value their life as a person. It all comes down to making the right distinctions between the person, their beliefs, and their actions. Throughout the years due to my job, I have had some encounters with persons whom many would describe as nasty characters. They had a reputation for being violent and have hurt people. Some tried it with me to see if they could intimidate or manipulate me. For some reason I picture an individual like that as once upon a time they to were someone’s baby, someone’s child to be loved and raised. I don’t know the environment and circumstances they grew up in. I don’t know how life traumatized them. All of this is absolutely no justification or excuse for their wrongdoing, but it provides some context. The Lord must have seen some good in that person to be willing to die for him or her to. That’s because God value’s life. The essence of that person, his or her being is so valuable that Jesus voluntarily died for them to redeem them.
This is where we separate the person from their screwed-up ideas about life, and behaviour. Their ideas and their behaviour can change, or transform should they begin to perceive the love God has for them. If in a situation where an offender attacks other innocent people, then immediate lawful, appropriate, and proportionate force must be used effectively to stop the assailant. Even if it means taking their life is the only way to protect people from their attacker. That’s certainly not an everyday situation for most people. Let’s pray you and I never get in a mess like that.
There have been multiple instances where armed Police officers have deployed their firearm, shot, killed, or maimed someone unjustly and criminally. Nevertheless, I do believe that most Police officers want to do their job with integrity to protect people from harm, and that they love and value life. If a Police officer has no option but to use his/her firearm and someone ends up dead, that officer is going to have to deal with a lot of trauma because they had to take a life. As stated, the job of a Police officer is to protect people from harm. That should say something about what should be the general mindset of an officer. That officer having to draw his/her firearm hopes they don’t have to shoot. At that point they know that this is a person whose life matters. They may have committed crime, but they are someone’s child, maybe someone’s parent, someone’s husband, wife, or partner. But what about those people who were harmed, injured or worse by that same criminal? This is just not right.
I heard many preachers over the years criticize the Grace and “the Love of God for us” message as a kind of “sloppy agape” message. However, those same people I know who said that were also those who had no backbone in them to stand up for truth, for what is right, and to stand up for the people for whom Christ died. They regularly play a lot of Church politics and with a smile on their face they manipulate and lie to satisfy their ambitious attempt to be the popular preacher. I think that’s more of a “slimy sloppy agape” attitude.
I’m not a violent person and I certainly don’t want to use physical force unless I have no other option. Thank God I generally never have to. Hypothetically then, If I’m stood between a violent assailant and people whom I love or innocent people, and the assailant then moves to attack them he will have to deal with me first, and I will quickly stop them. Whilst I take them down to the floor, I will be careful, and do my best to minimize the damage. I do not hate them. I hate what they were trying to do. I hate the reasons why they wanted to act that way. I hate what caused them to become like that. If I were to stand by and watch my loved ones or innocent people get hurt and do nothing, it makes me an accomplice. Worse, if you do nothing people will get hurt. That is not the time to be a pacifist. Ultimately, what must be the guiding factor when determining what our actions should be is love and value for life.
So what will have to yield if love is present?
Or let’s frame this sentence as at first. What is the opposite of love? Fear.
Lets better capture the concept of what we’re saying. Where fear dominates there is the absence of love, just like darkness is the absence of light. Just like falsehood is the absence of truth. Turn on the light and there is no darkness. Let truth be revealed and falsehood is no more. Let love dominate and fear will disappear.
1 John 4:18 King James Version
18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.
It is not always as clear cut, where you are either perceiving love or sensing fear. The reality is that sometimes we must face the fear, but love gives us the courage, and confidence to overcome it.
Notice that the verse above does not say, love casts out fear. It says perfect love casts out fear.
With the focus on the word perfect, we must understand that this perfect kind of love is referring to a perfect expression and demonstration of love in the sacrificial death of Jesus. It was not the kind of sacrifice where the Father made Jesus give up His life and then the Father punished Him whilst He was on the cross. It was the kind of sacrifice where Jesus learned by revelation that the only way to redeem mankind was by willingly laying down His life, to take humanity with Him in His death, and by doing so to enter a New Covenant with the Father, which resulted in Peace between God and man. When we learn this magnificent truth, we can only respond by loving God back.
1 John 4:19 King James Version
19 We love him, because he first loved us.
The theology of God’s love for us first began to become clearer to me in 1995 just after Bible College graduation. Notice I specifically state the theology of God’s love for us. I had a lot of intuitive and emotional awareness of God’s love for me ever since I can remember. In January 1988 I made a conscious decision to pursue God’s call on my life. During those years I often felt the love of God. But it wasn’t until I could see how scripture emphasizes God’s love for us and that in our own ability we are not able to love God as we should that I began to build a solid theology upon this truth. Once I could get a better grip of the theology of God’s love for us, I also began to notice how 99% of all the messages about the love of God was really all about how we must love God, and walk in love towards others. You see the love that God has for us, or the love we ought to have for God and neighbor are two diametrically opposed ideas.
This following point has been a disturbing factor for my years of preaching and teaching. Though the concept is simple, and you really need a lot of help to get it wrong, the sad thing is organised Christianity has provided a lot of that kind of help. Bottom line is: our faith journey is no longer about how much you love God, or your neighbor, this is now all about how much God love’s you.
Yes, but someone might say, “but in Matthew 22: 36-40 Jesus Himself quoted Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18 in answer to the question of, which was the great commandment of the law. The fact that Jesus quoted these verses, and Matthew being a book in the New Testament should that not set the precedent for those two commandments being part of the New Covenant?” Absolutely not. These two commandments are the law associated to the old Sinaitic Covenant. Jesus referred to these two commandments because He was still operating under the Old Sinaitic Covenant and was therefore a teacher of the Torah and the Tanakh. That’s why it makes complete sense that He would quote these two verses. Also notice that the two verses, one from Deuteronomy and one from Leviticus, are located kind of at random distance from each other in scripture. They are not part of the list of the ten commandments as per Exodus 20. Yet, these two commandments, including the ten commandments are all part of the total of 613 commandments, which made up the Law of Moses. The lawyer who asked Jesus this question only asked Him which one of the 613 commandments was the greatest. Jesus then adds the verse from Leviticus, and basically states that those two commandments were the overarching cardinal commandments of the law.
Deuteronomy 6:5 King James Version
5 And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.
Leviticus 19:18 King James Version
…but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself:..
Matthew 22: 36-40 King James Version
36 Master, which is the great commandment in the law? 37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
We can draw several conclusions from the fact that the two commandments Deuteronomy 6:5, and Leviticus 19:18 are the most important commandments of all the 613 commandments of the law. One, the whole law, including the laws about the Priesthood, and the laws about the sacrificial system, yes, all the commandments are encapsulated in these two commandments to Love God and your neighbor. Two, the whole law could be summarized in the commandment to love, and if you walk in love toward God and your neighbor, you are fulfilling the law. This is basically what the Apostle Paul is saying.
Romans 13: 8-10 King James Version
8 Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law. 9 For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. 10 Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.
Now it is hugely important to grasp the concept of what Paul was saying throughout the whole flow of Romans 13. That’s because Romans 13 has historically been used to teach Christians that we must submit to our governments, the Police and judiciaries even without question. I’m certainly not suggesting that you should disobey them either, unless…..and what do you think is a fully justified reason to disobey them? Well, lets first look at these verses.
Romans 13: 1-2 King James Version
1 Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. 2 Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.
In verse 1 the emphasis is on every soul. It is an inclusive statement. Not exclusive. It means Government leaders, Kings, and Queens, and Emperors, down to the very last person who does the dirty menial jobs. Everyone alike is subject to the powers that be. The word power used here is the Greek word Exousia, which should be translated as authority. (by translating the word as – the higher power, or the powers that be – many readers of this verse have wrongly assumed the higher powers are a reference to Government and it’s agencies acting on it’s behalf including the Church clergy. This is gross error and has been the cause for much abuse by the same for many hundreds of years. Paul is simply saying that all authority comes from God, and there is no other authority.
As a note: God’s authority operates in truth. Truth contains God’s authority. The moment something or someone is not operating in truth, they are operating outside of God’s authority. It doesn’t matter whether a government official is a prime minister, a president, or a King or a Queen, a Police officer, or a Judge. If they are operating outside of truth, they are operating outside of God’s authority. They to are subject to God’s authority. If an officer in a high position is operating outside of truth they are operating outside of God’s authority and by default will therefore employ manipulative tactics to enforce their agenda. But everyone is subject to God’s authority, no matter who they are. Therefore, Paul speaks of rulers who are the ministers of God who bear the sword to enforce justice (verse 3 and 4) This could be the Police officer, or the any agency investigating crime, including crimes committed by high officials. Verse 3 and 4 is a generic principle, which lays out the fact that no one is exempt from prosecution should they commit crime. This is not an isolated warning to people who commit theft, domestic violent assaults, or those who involve themselves in organised crime. This warning emphasizes especially, and not excluding crimes against the people, fraud, and corruption by officials in high places and rest assured that in the appropriate justice system as Paul lays out here no one will be able to escape justice.
Romans 13: 3-4 King James Version
3 For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: 4 For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.
The kind of justice I’m referring to is not God’s wrath upon an offender, and them ultimately ending up in hell or the lake of fire. That is not even part of the context here. This is about truth, containing God’s authority, and when people, no matter who they are, abuse their position, there is a set of principles in place by which the people themselves can judge every wrong committed. That’s why Paul then lays out these principles in verse 8 through 10 in stating that love works no ill to his neighbor, and that love is the fulfilling of the law. He is not saying that they were still under the Old Sinaitic Covenant. He was saying that all acts by the people can be judged by how it measures up to – love works no ill to his neighbor.
This principle beautifully captures the very principle of our universal common law. Common Law expressed in the US constitution and the 1215 Magna Carta of British Law, cannot be codified and passed by a legislative body as a statute, but rather only be written about as in these historic charters. Common law like the law of gravity is something we were all born with. It is the law of our human inalienable rights. Under common law you don’t need 1001 Acts of parliament to stress prohibitions or coerce people into compliance. Deep within our human conscience we inherently know that it is wrong to cause anyone harm. That’s what Paul was saying. Though he was using the Law of Moses as a reference, he emphasized that working no ill towards your neighbor is a universal divine principle deeply rooted in human consciousness. Anyone defying that truth, is operating outside of God’s authority, Pastor, preacher, Pope, Priest, President, Prime Minister, bus driver, school teacher, parent, no one is excluded, everyone knows it’s wrong to work ill towards your neighbor. Of course people can harden their heart and become callus to the point that they sear their conscience and become incapable of perceiving love.
That’s why Paul is also saying that the system which is capable of providing a sound balance of justice when pursuing prosecutions against offenders is to be conducted by people who abide by the Romans 13:10 principle as their measuring yard. This is the responsibility of the people.
Yes, but what about James who also quotes the Sinaitic law?
James 2: 8-12 King James Version
8 If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well: 9 But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors. 10 For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. 11 For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law. 12 So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty. 13 For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment.
There are several points to clarify which are at least important from a hermeneutical and historical perspective. At the time both Paul and James wrote their letters, the Sinaitic Covenant was the people of Israel’s constitution still in place until 70 A.D. when the Temple of Jerusalem was destroyed. So both the Old Sinaitic Covenant and New Covenant were at that time live and running along side each other during that period of the first generation of Christian believers. Those believers knew that there was a judgment coming in their lifetime. They were expecting to be delivered from that destruction as Jesus and the Apostles had foretold them. That judgment was to come at the coming of Christ upon the cloud, when the day of the Lord ( a period of judgment) and vengeance was executed upon apostate Israel for the breaching of the Sinaitic Covenant, which Jesus clearly taught was the commandment to love God and neighbor.
The believers were here instructed to speak and do as they who were going to be judged by the law of liberty. What was that law of liberty? The fact that through the death of Christ mercy rejoices over judgment. It meant that for those of the Jews and Non-Jews who put their faith in Christ as the Messiah who would be crowned King of heaven and earth, they would not perish with the destruction that came upon Jerusalem and Judea. (John 3:16) They would receive mercy instead of wrath.
The Old Sinaitic Law of Moses with the cardinal commandment to love God and to love your neighbor was a standard of righteousness that ultimately no one could fulfill. Only a revelation of our righteousness (right standing and acceptance with God) in Christ will enable us to perceive God’s love for us, and thereby as a consequence, fruit or result to love God and neighbor.
That’s why I get so tired of hearing preachers even 2000 years after the abolishing of the Sinaitic Covenant and the Law of Moses, emphasize how we must love God and walk in love towards others. It is Old Covenant law. Especially if one stresses that God can’t bless us if we don’t walk in love.
Back in the first century, putting faith in Christ meant that a believer was now subject to a new constitution, which became the New Covenant.
John 13:34 King James Version
34 A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.
John 15:12 King James Version
12 This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.
Now this really becomes a major paradigm shift. Number one, this is the only commandment for the New Commandment. Where you often see the word commandment(s) as insinuating multiple commandments, for example in verse 10 of chapter 15 in John, where Jesus says if you keep my commandments, the Greek does not provide us with the multiple option of the word commandment. It is still a singular noun.
The next thing is that Jesus places no condition of punishment upon this commandment should it not be followed. God is not going to unleash His wrath if you don’t walk in love towards others. Instead, the New Covenant as alluded earlier gives us “the people” the responsibility to set the appropriate kind of justice system in place and to prosecute those who work ill against their neighbor.
But now the most striking part of this New Commandment is the fact that the love one another part is a direct consequence of knowing and believing the love of Christ for us, for He said, “as I have loved you”.
1 John 4: 16 King James Version
16 And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us.
So many of us Christians experienced a touch of God in some way or another. We emotionally felt, and perceived God’s love for us throughout our faith journey. And then John talks about knowing, and believing. The word known in this verse is the Greek word “Ginosko” and carries multiple meanings, such as: to learn to know, come to know, get a knowledge of perceive, feel, to become known, understand, perceive, have knowledge of, and is a Jewish idiom for sexual intercourse between a man and a woman.
This is the kind of knowledge the Lord wants us to gain when it comes to the love that God has for us. This is what I meant earlier when referring to the theology of God’s love for us.
The challenging time our world has gone through the last two years has put a lot of people in fear. I don’t need to elaborate on that here. But what gets people out of fear is an intimate knowledge, to be able to perceive the love that God has for us.
I recently watched a video of a Christian who spoke for about 20 minutes about how if we don’t have love, then whatever we do is empty and means nothing. His appeal was very emotional and moving and heart rendering. Yet, it was frustrating to watch, because it is clear to me how so many Christians will feel compelled by a presentation like this, and it will leave them with a sense of their need to do more to love their neighbor. Back in the day when I first began my faith walk, I was often overwhelmed with the awareness of my marching orders to walk in love towards others and my inability to do so perfectly. The truth is that was not faith, it was law. The Old Sinaitic Law. The same with the speaker from the video, no matter how emotionally moving. Telling people they must walk in love towards others, i.e. their neighbor, and if they don’t have love whatever they do is worth nothing, is guaranteed leave them feeling spiritually bankrupt. I will not at this point get to much into 1 Corinthians 13, but I suggest that you avoid using that chapter as a set of laws in addition to the 613 commandments of the Old Sinaitic Covenant. Where it says: “though I have not charity”, charity referring to brotherly love. The giving kind of love. Just add clarification to the word “charity” or “love”, and read it as, “though I have no perception of the love that God has for me”, well then yes, what your doing is just empty. Because you can’t give what you don’t have.
The Good News within the New Covenant has as a basis the revelation of God’s love for you and me and everyone. When you have the revelation knowledge (the theology) of God’s love for you, you will also believe the love that God has for you. That’s because your faith is now based on the word of God, not just your feelings. But when you believe the word of God about His love for you, your feelings will also follow. You will begin to perceive the love that God has for you. That is the true meaning of ginosko, an intimate feeling based on revelation knowledge.
1 John 3: 16 King James Version16
Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.
You see, according to John, it is impossible to intimately, ( Greek – ginosko), perceive the love that God has for us unless we know what He has done for us. When people of any kind of religion or believe system state that they love God, they may say that based on some feeling they experienced. Even Christians, will leave a Church meeting feeling emotionally loved by God if they had a good worship time. Anytime we commune with God and we connect emotionally we will begin to feel the love of God for us. But without intimate revelation knowledge of the love that God has for us those feelings are fleeting at best. You won’t be able to contain that sense and awareness of God’s love for you. Establish your faith in the scriptural truth about His love for you and see what happens. Your life will transform.
The prove of God’s love for you is demonstrated in what Christ did for you, even before you were born.
Romans 5:8 Amplified Bible, Classic Edition
8 But God shows and clearly proves His [own] love for us by the fact that while we were still sinners, Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One) died for us.
Thus we see that God is the one who took the initiative. We respond. He loved us first, and when we perceive and intimately know the love that God has for us, we begin to believe and so we are responding. This kind of faith in Christ, His finished work for us, all because of His and the Father’s love for us will never allow us to work ill against our neighbor. By default, the revelation and perception of God love for me will always move me towards loving others as Christ loved me. Remember, Christ’s love for me is an ever-present tense continuum. He didn’t just love me 2000 years ago. He loves me now and always.
When you love someone, it means you value that person. God loves you. But you may have grown callous towards the word love. But what if I say, God really values you so much. He proved it when He gave His life to redeem you. An expensive piece of jewelry in the shop window will have a price tag on it. The price tag states the value. It tells you how much it is worth according to the seller. God values you so much and says I went to the cross. There I redeemed you. There I purchased your freedom. There you died with me, and I secured your new life by my resurrection form the dead.
That’s how much you are worth to me.