I used to think the opposite of love was hatred. It seemed logical enough to me, when love was defined in broader terms. When I believed that way, it was easy to justify almost anything in the name of the love I was claiming to possess. Hatred seemed like a pretty extreme opposite, and one that was fairly easy for me to stay away from. So I could “love” just about anyone, however “love” came easy enough to demonstrate. And I could walk away at the end of most days feeling pretty good about myself, because I “loved” everyone.
Sometime in the last couple of years, however, my brand of “love” was challenged with a new opposite. I heard someone say that love’s opposite is really fear. It took me a minute to wrap my brain around that, but I slowly began to see the connection, and love slowly began to take on a new form. A narrower form. A form that invited me to conform to its image.
The Bible says that God is love, and that His love is perfect – so perfect, in fact, that it casts out every fear. His love has come to liberate my heart from the fear of not being loved, if that makes sense – which frees me to invest myself in what I am created for, without fear of the outcomes.
His love compels me closer to Him, where fear prevents me from drawing near – especially when I mess up. By nature, love reaches, but fear pulls back. Love gives, but fear refuses to release. Little by little, my heart began to embrace a bolder love, a love that bent itself more around the gospel than the mismatched philosophies I had picked up from all the broken pieces of my life. I began to conform less and less to the culture’s version of love, and I began to be transformed by the renewing of my mind through the lens of God’s Word – what He says about love.
Then came a greater narrowing, a deeper definition. Not many months ago, I found myself challenged by my children’s behavior toward one another, and was struggling to bring them around to the standards of love which the Bible upholds for our relationships. I would tell them, multiple times a day, “That’s not loving. Please love each other.” But I realized that they, much like me, had a very vague definition of what love looked like. We talked about love often, told each other all the time how much we loved one another, but we had never really defined love, the way that God defines it. So I went to the Bible and pulled up 1 Corinthians 13 – the passage which has become a piece of art for many t-shirts, handbags and walls:
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy. It does not boast…”
And we began to meditate on it, to study it. We wrote it out and posted it on our bathroom mirror, so that we could mold our lives around it. Around that same time, I began to hear messages (podcasts) about the great enemy of our faith, and the real heart of Christianity. Amazingly, it all clicked and I caught a revelation which I’m sure God has been waiting ages to see me get: the true opposite of love is selfishness.
As I watched my children fight with one another, and engaged in the almost constant effort of trying to guide them back to love, I realized that the root of every issue was a desire to please or protect themselves. And as I began to examine my own heart, and my own daily decisions – in relationships and in the business of life and faith – I realized that the same was true for me.
The heart of the Bible, the heart of God, and the heart of Christianity is love. This is what Scripture tells us:
“Jesus answered, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the greatest and the most important commandment. 39 The second most important commandment is like it: Love your neighbor as you love yourself.’ 40 The whole Law of Moses and the teachings of the prophets depend on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:37-40 (Good News Translation)
I like how the Passion Translation states verse 40:
“Contained within these commandments to love you will find all the meaning of the Law and the Prophets.”
In other words, all that has ever been written and required of us can be fulfilled in the choice to love. Of course, this is not love by any human standard. This is 1 Corinthians kind of love. This is self-denial kind of love. This is the same kind of love that God, who is love, has demonstrated toward us.
“…I give you a new commandment: Love each other just as much as I have loved you. For when you demonstrate the same love I have for you by loving one another, everyone will know that you’re my true followers.” John 13:34-45 (The Passion Translation)
The world will know that we are Christians – and that God is love – by the way that you and I live every day, when we choose to love. The enemy, the opposite of love is selfishness – the desire and choice to please and protect our own selves and our own interests. When we live that way, the world will know that we are not Christians, that God is not love. That’s a pretty narrow standard, but it’s the truth. How many people do you know that don’t want anything to do with God because of the Christians they have encountered – Christians that didn’t demonstrate love, but rather displayed selfishness?
Unfortunately, we live a day and age and culture which are saturated by and obsessed with self. It will not be an easy battle to die to such a compelling force. But if we want to be lovers of God, which demands that we also love one another in the same way He has loved us, we cannot be lovers of self. We must seek daily to deny that in us which fights for its own way and its own recognition and its own satisfaction…so that others will see and know the God of love Who has chosen to live within us.
This is the narrow way of love. But it is also the path to freedom and to glory, the path to promise. With ourselves on the throne, we are deceived into thinking we rule, when in reality we are only slaves to our own lusts and passions. But when we dethrone ourselves, and surrender to the authority and leadership of Jesus, His love leads us into more than we could ever secure for ourselves.
Only in love – gospel love – will we truly be able to know and experience the life we were made for. Outside of that love, we will only meet with frustration, bitterness, disappointment and despair.
Dear Woman of Breakthrough, how have you been defining love? Is it time to take a good look at your love life and narrow your definition, in accordance with the terms God has defined? Today is a good day to choose the life you were made for: the life of love! How great is that life in Christ which awaits us as we abandon ourselves and cling to His Word of promise. He is truly the way, the truth and the life. And we can find God in no other way than the way of love, the way of Jesus.