the weblog of Alan Knox

Love ‘because of’ and ‘in spite of’

Posted by on Jan 5, 2010 in love | 1 comment

Recently, I watched a few episodes of “The Secret Life of the American Teenager”… Yeah, I know, but it’s good to know what people are watching and thinking. Anyway, the theme song says something like this: “Falling in love is such an easy thing to do…”

In the show, teenagers fall in and out of love from episode to episode. I’ve noticed the same phenomenon among my children’s friends. Of course, adults fall in and out of love as well. (Now, the TV show equates love with sex, but that’s a completely different post.)

The problem is, this is not love – at least, it’s not the kind of love that God demonstrates and we’re to demonstrate in response.

“Falling in love” and “falling out of love” – or not loving someone anymore – is not love. Why? It is based on love “because of”… because of attraction, because of emotion, because of feelings, because of sex appeal, because of agreement, because of benefits.

This is the kind of love that Jesus was talking about in the Sermon on the Mount:

For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? (Matthew 5:46-47 ESV)

As Jesus points out, even those who are not part of God’s kingdom “love” people who are lovable and who love them back. This is normal love… natural love… worldly love. It’s the kind of love that asks the question, “What can I get out of this?” It’s the kind of love that is extended “because of” who the other person is or what the other person does.

This is not God’s kind of love. It’s not the kind of love that he demonstrated toward us, and it’s not the kind of love that we’re supposed to demonstrate towards others.

Instead, we’re supposed to demonstrate love “in spite of.” That is, we are love people in spite of their unattractiveness, in spite of our emotions and feelings, in spite of disagreements, in spite of a lack of benefits. In fact, Jesus exhorts us to love those who cannot love us back. This is godly love.

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. (Matthew 5:43-45 ESV)

Godly love is extended towards those who don’t deserve it… it is extended “in spite of” who the other person is or what the other person does. This kind of love is unnatural… it is super-natural… it is spiritual.

It is extended “in spite of” who the other person is or what the other person does, and “because of” who God is and what God does, and “because of” who we are in Christ Jesus and what we do because of the indwelling Spirit.

The world love “because of”… we must learn to love “in spite of.”

One Comment

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  1. 1-8-2010

    I think this love “in spite of” is what sets Christians apart. When I was young, someone did something that destroyed my life. To forgive him was impossible and to love — well, inconceivable. He was not remorseful and I never got justice. In my own strength I could not forgive. I know Jesus said that we must forgive to be forgiven, but I could not do it — not on my own. Only through the grace of the Holy Spirit is this possible for some of us. We can do all things through Christ’s strength. He has used me to help many people over many years because of my experiences so God has used it for good. But I still struggle with the exhortation to love my enemies. I pray that He will love them through me for I cannot do it on my own. Only with His grace.