Our culture is obsessed with love. We love to love. 128 songs with the word “love” in the title have topped the US charts since 1943—from Elvis Presley’s “Love Me Tender” to the Beatles’ “All You Need is Love” to Rihanna’s “We Found Love.” And yet, for all of our obsession with love, no concept is as undefined and misunderstood.
A friend of mine recently summed up the essence of this problem when he said, “Love is the most abused word in our culture.” Despite our unwillingness or lack of ability to define love, Scripture gives shape and form to this all-important element of the Christian’s life.
As the “Apostle of Love,” John mentions love 26 times in 1 John. When he comes to explain the nature of love in action, he does so by first telling us what we are not to love. He writes, “Do not love the world, and the things in the world” (1 John 2:15). We are not to set our hearts and affections on the things of a world that is under the sway of the evil one. John goes to great lengths to define what these things are, to avoid any misunderstanding. The love of the world is found in “the desires of the flesh, the desires of the eyes, and pride of life” (1 John 2:16).
These are the same three patterns of temptation that we find in the opening chapters of the Bible. In Genesis 3, we are told, “When the woman saw that the tree was good for food (i.e. the lust of the flesh), and that it was a delight to the eyes (i.e. the lust of the eyes), and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise (i.e. the pride of life), she took of its fruit and ate” (Genesis 3:6). Satan tempts God’s people to seek to please the self rather than to love the Lord.
Just as Satan tempted Eve in the Garden, so he tempted Jesus in the wilderness: “command these stones to become bread” (i.e. the lust of the flesh); “he showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory” (i.e. the lust of the eyes); and, “If You are the Son of God, throw yourself down” (i.e. the pride of life) (Matthew 4:1-11).
The manner by which he tempts us today is still the same. The particular temptations may differ, but the way they work upon the mind and heart of man are the same. The evil one tempts us to love the world and the things in the world by getting us to take our eyes off of Jesus and the purposes of God that are fulfilled in Him.
John closes his explanation of love in action by telling us what we are to love: “whoever does the will of God abides forever” (1 John 2:17). Jesus overcame the temptation to love the world and the things in it by remaining steadfast in His commitment to His Father’s will. He did this to redeem those for whom the Father had sent Him. Jesus abided in the love of His Father by obedience so that we might now abide in the love of the Father by faith in Him.
He who abides in the doctrine of Christ—against all the false teaching that detracts from Christ—abides in the love of God and ultimately overcomes the world. This is love in action.
Written By Nick Batzig