Christians of all people should certainly seek to be loving—but loving as defined and delineated by God himself, and not by the world. Biblical love is always about willing the highest good of the other person.
No, this article is not about a popular and shmaltzy 2003 film, actually. It is in fact trying to deconstruct the faulty notions of what love really is. We expect Hollywood in particular and the world in general to get love quite wrong, seeing it as emotions, feelings, lust or sex.
But sadly, far too many Christians get it wrong as well. They simply slavishly follow what the world thinks, says and does, and completely lose what love is as defined by God. Yesterday I discussed this matter in an article, reminding us that love is not antinomian – that is, it is not without rules and boundaries.
As I wrote in that piece: “A nebulous Christianity without rules, but just a lotta emotive ‘love,’ is completely foreign to Scripture. Biblical love is always a well-defined love, and a bounded love. It is bounded by right and wrong, truth and error.”
In my Bible reading this morning I came across a passage that certainly makes this very case. Philippians 1:9-11 says this: “And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.”
In this one sentence the Apostle gives us all sorts of ways in which we can understand what real love is all about. Notice how knowledge, discernment, excellence, purity, blamelessness and righteousness are all included in how Scripture speaks about love. Little of this is found in the film mentioned above, nor in how most folks think about love today.
But certainly for the Christian we must think about everything in light of how God thinks about it. Indeed, we cannot live right unless we think right. As I just read yesterday, Paul tells us in Ephesians 4:23 that we are “to be renewed in the spirit of your minds.” He said much the same in Romans 12:2 where he said “be transformed by the renewal of your mind”.
So let me look at this Philippians passage in more detail, drawing upon some helpful commentary along the way. The first thing to note is that verses 3-11 form one paragraph, and it is in fact a prayer of Paul’s. Moreover, it sets the stage for what is found in the rest of the epistle. Also recall that Paul was imprisoned while writing this.
Bird and Gupta offer a brief word on the close connection between love and knowledge: “Knowledge and love are ‘mutually necessary’ because knowledge without love is not edifying (see 1 Cor 8:1; 13:2), while love without knowledge proves to be fleeting and fadish.”
And R. Kent Hughes also speaks to these truths: