By Nick Batzig
Our culture is obsessed with love. We love to love. Some 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 twenty-six 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 or the things in the world” (1John 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 lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride in one’s possessions” (v.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, “The woman saw that the tree was good for food” (i.e., the lust of the flesh) and “delightful to look at” (i.e., the lust of the eyes), and that “it was desirable for obtaining wisdom” (i.e., the pride of life). “So she took some of its fruit and ate it; she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it” (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:
The lust of the flesh: Then the tempter approached him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread” (Matthew 4:3).
The lust of the eyes: The devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor (v.8).
The pride of life: “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down,” that the angels would rescue Him (v.6).
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 things of this 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: “The one who does the will of God remains forever” (1John 2:17). Jesus overcame the temptation to love the world and the things in it, remaining steadfast in His commitment to His Father’s will, all for the sake of redeeming the lost. Jesus abided in the love of His Father by obedience so that we might now “remain in him,” abiding in the love of the Father by faith in Him (v.27).
He who abides in the doctrine of Christ—against all the false teaching that detracts from the gospel—abides in the love of God, and ultimately overcomes the world. This is love in action.
Written by Nick Batzig