When you hear the word love, what emotion immediately comes to mind? The word no doubt evokes a variety of different feelings and emotions in every individual. But what is love? Not the love man has, or thinks he has. What is God’s love?
John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” That is the depth of God’s love. Because of that love, God allowed His Son to be mercilessly beaten, mocked, and finally crucified in the most ignominious manner imaginable. God allowed that because of love? That’s what John 3:16 says.
God is love (1 John 4:8). God is also a Family. That Family is a loving relationship. For that Family to expand through man, God knew there had to be a sacrifice—the Lamb was slain from the foundation of the world (Revelation 13:8). God loved every human being so much that He allowed that ultimate sacrifice. But what was God feeling when His Son was being slaughtered? Did He desire to see His Son suffer? Obviously not.
What about Christ? God loved the world so much, He gave His only Son. The Son loved the world so much, He gave Himself. Notice the cruel mockings Christ withstood: “And they that passed by reviled him, wagging their heads, And saying, Thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, save thyself. If thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross. Likewise also the chief priests mocking him, with the scribes and elders, said, He saved others; himself he cannot save. If he be the King of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him. He trusted in God; let him deliver him now, if he will have him: for he said, I am the Son of God” (Matthew 27:39-43). The chief priests were right about one thing. Christ did trust God. He literally trusted His Father for everything.
But notice what happened. “And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (verse 46). The Greek word for forsaken means “to leave behind in some place; to abandon, to leave helpless.” That is what happened. That is what God had to do. Prior to this moment, God had been there through everything. He watched and agonized in His own mind and heart as Jesus Christ was being crucified. But at the very end, that sacrifice had to bear the full weight of all sin—alone—with no help from the Father. Hebrews 1:3 says Christ “himself purged our sins.” The Father did forsake Him in those closing moments, because Christ became a sacrifice for our sins. God will have nothing whatsoever to do with sin. And Christ knew His Father turned away. The pressure and power of that rejection was almost overwhelming. Imagine the great feeling of emotion within Christ. What kind of emotion do you think the Father expressed? Yet all of this happened because of God’s great love.
Man Is Not an Animal
In Genesis 1 we find that every different animal was made after its own kind. But when we get to the creation of man in verse 26, we find something altogether different: “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness ….” In composition we are equal with animals—both made from the dust of the ground (Genesis 2:7). Like animals, we have a temporary existence which is sustained by the blood, the air we breathe, as well as the food and water we supply our physical bodies with.
But man is not an animal! There are two main differences: 1) Man was made in the form and shape of God; and 2) Man has mind power—intellect—while animals are equipped with instinct. These differences, the human mind and body, make human beings the “most perfectly designed mechanism ever produced from earthly material substance,” according to Herbert Armstrong (Why Humanity Cannot Solve its Evils).
These two main differences should be obvious to all. A baby calf, which looks nothing like a human being, within minutes is up on all fours, walking to its mother to be fed milk. A human baby however, even though a perfectly designed mechanism, is utterly helpless without parental guidance and instruction. Yet that baby has been born with mind power—but yet without knowledge. At birth, the mind of a baby contains no knowledge. That knowledge must be acquired by the mind. Man’s mind, unlike the brain of a dumb animal, must acquire knowledge and then think and direct whatever he does with that mind power.
In order to rightly direct and think what he does, man needs two different kinds of knowledge: 1) Knowledge of how to work with physical matter and things; and 2) Knowledge of how to develop a close relationship with his Creator and also with his fellowman.;
In his originally created state, man has the mind power and can acquire the knowledge on his own to work with physical things—to deal with physical knowledge. But the knowledge needed to rightly guide his relationship with God and humans is not physical knowledge. It is spiritual. And it comes from God. Therefore, man cannot obtain and act according to this knowledge unless he first receives it from God. That knowledge man cannot acquire on his own is simply love—God’s love. Mr. Armstrong defined this godly love as “an unselfish outgoing concern for the good and welfare of the one loved.” Very simply, love is the way of give.
Human Nature Is to Get
But from the very beginning, man acquired the exact opposite nature—the way of get. God offered Adam and Eve His spiritual knowledge through the tree of life. At the same time, God commanded them not to take, or get, from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:17). God’s law did not allow them to take of this forbidden tree. And God’s law is love (Romans 13:10). So the way of love did not allow them to take of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. But that tree was very appealing to Eve. The fruit looked good.
Genesis 3:6 says, “And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.” Notice that word pleasant. It could be translated as a desire. Eve knew she was not to eat of that tree. But what was she feeling? She desired it! Even though God’s law of love said she could not have it, she still felt like having it.
“And the eyes of them both were opened …” (verse 7). Why the eyes? The Gesenius’ Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon says, “many passions of the mind, such as envy, pride, pity, desire, are manifest in the eyes.” Remember, the mind is one of the main differences that sets us apart from animals. Man’s mind must think and direct what he does. Adam and Eve took of the forbidden fruit after they decided to in their minds. But why did they decide that? Because they really wanted it. They desired it. And why did they desire it so much? Because it appealed to their eyes and it tasted good. It appealed to the senses.
Now love for God is the knowledge that would have directed their minds to make the right decision and not eat of that tree. They rejected that knowledge and did what felt good. Let us briefly examine these three elements; the senses (sight, taste, etc.), the emotions (the feelings, desires and moods) and the mind (which God gave us to direct the actions of our body).
The Five Senses
Mr. Armstrong wrote, “The five senses do cry out for gratification. We humans are composed of flesh—mortal flesh—matter. We can receive pleasurable sensations through these fives senses” (The Missing Dimension in Sex).
God created us with minds. He also created us with the five senses. But why? Because, as Mr. Armstrong wrote, “God intended man to be happy! It is God’s will that we enjoy life—that it is pleasurable, satisfying, wholesome, rewarding! … The right use of the senses brings enjoyable, pleasurable sensations that are uplifting, constructive, beneficial—not only to the self, but to others” (ibid). God intended for us to enjoy wonderful foods which are naturally pleasing to the sense of taste. He made it possible for us to enjoy pleasurable sights; to see those things that are good and wholesome. Also, we can hear those things which are uplifting and encouraging, like fine music.
But here is the important point: “The wrong and sinful use of the senses also may produce pleasurable sensations, but these wrong uses are psychologically, spiritually and physically destructive and harmful—not only to self, but often also to others” (ibid).
So the right and proper use of the five senses cannot be determined by just the pleasurable sensation you may feel. The right and proper use must be determined by the mind, as led by the Holy Spirit.
Mr. Armstrong wrote, “God gave us minds—and made His Word available—to distinguish the true values from the false! Not to decide, in our own minds, what selfish or lustful desire [we] would like to make right—but to distinguish what God reveals He has made right” (ibid).
Again, unlike animals, man must think and direct everything he does. But man must learn to do this. We first must learn and acquire knowledge—right knowledge. After knowledge is acquired, we have the capacity, created within us, to think, plan, make decisions and direct our actions. That is what character development is all about. Character is the ability to come to right knowledge and wisdom and then to direct the mind and body into the right course of action.
The foundation upon which your mind makes right decisions is, of course, right knowledge. If God’s knowledge is rejected, as was the case with Adam and Eve, your mind still directs the body, but it directs it in the wrong way—according to the knowledge you think is right and wrong. When that occurs, the mind is often heavily influenced by your emotions.
Now what is an emotion? It is “a strong feeling—a disturbance—a departure from the normal calm state of rational thinking and acting—an impulse toward an action that has not been reasoned and approved by the mind” (Herbert W. Armstrong, Good News, February 1982). There are several different kinds of emotion: grief, sorrow, fear, surprise, anger, joy, happiness, disgust, yearning—essentially, those things you feel; the impulses or moods you have. But all of these feelings listed above are physical reactions, produced within the nervous system of the material, fleshly body. Emotion is not spirituality. Many deceived churchgoers associate vast mood swings with spirituality. While it is true that a certain amount of emotional reaction will often accompany a truly spiritual experience, nevertheless, the reaction itself is not spiritual—it is physical.
Like the five senses, God created you with a nervous system able to produce physical reactions known as emotions. So let me emphasize that emotion is not wrong. God and Christ have emotion. God created it in us. But emotion is not spirituality.
Worship God in Spirit
“God is a spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24). Since God is Spirit, it should be obvious that we must worship Him in Spirit. But what does that mean? We cannot worship Him emotionally because emotions are physical. Romans 8:9 elaborates: “But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you ….” To worship God in Spirit, we have to have His Spirit dwelling in us. God gives His Spirit to those who are obedient to what He says (Acts 5:32). That Spirit in you then makes you a begotten child of God (Romans 8:14).
But notice what that Spirit in us actually does: “… the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy [Spirit] which is given unto us” (Romans 5:5). The Holy Spirit is in fact the love of God in us. And that is the only love that will actually fulfill God’s law. “Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law” (Romans 13:8). Paul expounds this law of love in the next two verses: “You must not commit adultery, you must not kill, you must not steal, you must not covet—these and any other command are summed up in a single word, You must love your neighbor as yourself. Love never wrongs a neighbor; that is why love is the fulfillment of the law” (verses 9-10; Moffatt). He is referring to the Ten Commandments. The Greek word for love here is agape. That is God’s love—agape.
Matthew 22:36-40 teaches that agape love is loving God more than anything or anybody else; and loving your neighbor as yourself. Both of these commands are agape. There are two other words in Greek which are also translated as love: philia and eros. But only agape fulfills God’s law of love toward Him and toward neighbor.
The Love of God
Notice how Mr. Armstrong defined love: “Love is an unselfish outgoing concern for the good and welfare of the one loved. Love is primarily on the giving, serving, sharing side of the fence—not on the getting, taking, factional, striving side. It is not selfish” (The Missing Dimension in Sex). That is agape love. Agape love is the kind of love God has for this world, even though it’s hostile and rebellious toward Him (Romans 8:9). All of that notwithstanding, God gave His only begotten Son. It’s the kind of love that enabled Christ to suffer and eventually die so that all men might be saved.
Further, Mr. Armstrong said, “Love is unselfish. It is not an emotion, though it may be expressed with an emotional content. True love, combines the rational aspect of outgoing concern—desire to help, serve, give or share—along with sincere concerned affectionate feeling” (ibid). Emotions, as we have covered, are physical reactions produced within the nervous system of the body. Agape love is not an emotion. That kind of love comes from outside the body—from God Himself. “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7). God has to give it. It’s not a reaction. Emotion is from within. God’s love is from without.
Notice this revealing quote by Mr. Armstrong: “More and more I am impressed that one of the most important truths we humans overlook is that human beings are not equipped with instinct, like dumb animals, to guide us into the proper course. … [W]e poor humans act as though we believed man to be merely the highest of the dumb brutes—as if man was equipped with instinct, and the purpose of life were merely to enjoy such feelings, sensations, emotions and moods as impulse attracts us to, without thinking or mental direction!” (Good News, February 1982).
What an apt description of the way this society operates: living for the moment; if it feels good, do it! And it is within this self-centered approach that man has developed his own definition for love! This society has been deceived into believing that true love is a feeling you fall into. And for proof of that, all you have to do is watch virtually any television program or listen to virtually any song on the radio. God’s love is not what man thinks it is. What is God’s love?
- God’s love is giving. It is not something you feel (though true love can combine with sincere affectionate feeling).
- God’s love must be learned. It comes from outside the body—from God Himself.
- God’s love is something you grow into, over a period of time. It is not something you accidentally stumble or fall into. Neither is it something that develops quickly. Love is not hasty. It waits patiently
- God’s love does not fade away. It is an unconditional, unselfish, outgoing concern for the one loved. It is not conditional on certain circumstances.
- God’s love is giving. God’s love is action. It is not a reaction, like emotion.
One of the greatest deceptions Satan has foisted off on society is that true love is something you feel (which is inward or selfish), not something you give (which is outward and unselfish). Agape love is giving. It is God’s love in action.
Notice Philippians 4:8: “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” Those things which are true, honest, just, pure and lovely are found in the Bible. You don’t just all of a sudden feel them. You find the instruction in the Bible and then Paul says to think on these things—to think with your mind. But you do not stop there. Notice verse 9: “Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do ….”
Even many in God’s own Church misunderstand this. How can God’s law—the Ten Commandments—be love? Because first you acquire the knowledge, or instruction, from the Bible. Then, the hard part is applying that knowledge. And as we strive to apply that knowledge, God’s love actually grows in us. “But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him” (1 John 2:5). And it is that spiritual knowledge, applied and expressed in action, that is the love of God. That is how God’s law is love.
Agape love is of the mind. It is not an emotion. It is a way of life that actually controls your emotions. Emotions are not wrong. God has emotion. He can express sorrow, grief, joy, happiness, anger or wrath. So can Christ. But they both perfectly control their emotions! And character development requires that we do the same. You either make your mind control your emotions or you allow your emotions to control your mind.
Mind Must Control the Body
Early on in his ministry, Mr. Armstrong was called upon to officiate his first funeral. A close friend of his family died. He was overcome with emotional grief. In his words, he “began to go to pieces.” He told his family he simply would not be able to conduct the service. Mr. Armstrong wrote, “We were at the time visiting in my father’s home, and he came over to me, put his hands on my shoulders, and calmly shook me, saying in a voice of authority with which he had not spoken to me since I was a child: ‘Here! Snap out of it! This is your responsibility! This family is broken up in sorrow, and they are relying on you. You can’t back out of it! Wake up! Come to yourself! Get a grip on yourself! You are going through with this, and you’re going to do it with credit and calm dignity and sincerity!” (Good News, February 1982). Mr. Armstrong listened to his father’s instruction, prayed about it, and calmly brought his emotions under control—by his mind, as led by the Holy Spirit. He did not feel like officiating the funeral. But he knew he had to.
Years later in his ministry, after performing dozens of funerals, he had to be careful not to go to the opposite extreme of showing no emotion and hardening his senses. This he also controlled with his Spirit-led mind.
When God the Father was watching His Son suffer a horrible beating, you can be sure He did not enjoy it! He was filled with grief. He did not want to see Christ die. He could have intervened on Christ’s behalf. Yet at the very last moment, God turned His face away and His Son was murdered. God controlled His emotions with His mind. He allowed it to happen because He loved the world—you and me.
In referring to the Laodiceans in Revelation 3:19, God says, “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.” The Laodiceans will endure this correction in the midst of the worst time of suffering ever in the history of man—the Great Tribulation (Matthew 24:21-22). Yet, is this something God desires the Laodiceans to go through? Of course not. Nevertheless, it is done out of love to bring about repentance, hopefully.
These examples give added insight into the true meaning of God’s love. Very often, true love goes against every emotional desire you may have. Emotion is good, but only when rightly controlled by the mind. Mr. Armstrong wrote, “Our tempers, feelings, emotions were given to us for a purpose! They are not to be nullified—merely intelligently guided by mind control into the proper channels of God’s law!” (ibid).
Sadly, that is not what this society teaches human beings—just the opposite. Advertising, television, movies, music, you name it—all encourage you to do what you feel is right. People are not taught to control their emotions. They are taught to enjoy emotions, feelings, and sensations.
God says our mind is to control the body. 2 Corinthians 10:5 says, “Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.” We must control our minds to the point where we rightly direct the actions of our bodies. That is character development. That is agape love.
The Example of God and Christ
According to Thayer’s Lexicon,agape is “of the love of God towards Christ.” God gave His only begotten Son. That’s love. Furthermore, agape depicts “the love Christ had towards men … the love which led Christ, in procuring human salvation, to undergo sufferings and death.” Christ gave Himself for you and me (Galatians 2:20). That’s love.
Furthermore, Thayer’s says agape is the very “nature of Christian love.” The same agape. You see, we don’t just agape God and then only have a sort of affection for our brothers or our best friends. No, in the same way God loves Christ and the world, and the same way Christ loves His Father and the world, we are to love God and each other! It’s the same kind of love. We are not here to just have a natural affection for our own family or team or country. That is normal. We are here to develop the very love of God, which is very much abnormal!
1 John 4 makes this plain. “Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him” (verses 7-9). That is how God expressed His love for us. He sacrificed His own Son. Verse 19 says, “We love him, because he first loved us.” Why? Because we cannot love God or man unless God gives us that love first. Remember, that love comes from Him (Romans 5:5; 2 Timothy 1:7).
Back to 1 John 4. Notice the clear command for us to have the same kind of love God has: “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us,we ought also to love one another” (verses 10-11). God so loved us! In other words, as God loves us, we ought to love others in the same way!
But we do not naturally have that love. We must learn it. It must be developed. Our life’s purpose essentially is to develop from the state of getting to a state of giving. To do that, we must exchange old, selfish, carnal habits with unselfish, outflowing concern for the good and welfare of others. That takes serious effort! It will take a tremendous amount of drive, energy and determination. It takes action. Old habits die hard. But those old habits which are deeply ingrained into our very nature must be replaced with God’s habits. And God’s habits must become just as ingrained into our nature as those old habits!
That will not be easy. 1 Corinthians 13:4 says agape love “suffers long.” It can often be very painful to agape other people. Here is how 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 is translated in the Moffatt version: “Love is very patient, very kind. Love knows no jealousy; love makes no parade, gives itself no airs, is never rude, never selfish, never irritated, never resentful; love is never glad when others go wrong, love is gladdened by goodness, always slow to expose, always eager to believe the best, always hopeful, always patient. Love never disappears.”
These are not emotions! They are God-ordained principles initiated by the decisions and choices you make in your mind as led by the Holy Spirit. To build these right habits, you have to just keep forcing yourself, even if it goes against every desire and feeling you have, to practice these actions; to serve and to give unto others as you would have them do unto you. Eventually, after practicing them over and over again, it will finally become automatic behavior. And that is agape love.
What About Philia and Eros?
There are two other words in Greek which are also translated as love in English. They are philia and eros.
Philia love is the love of friendship—brotherly love—love of parent, or child. Strong’s Concordance says it means “to have affection for (denoting personal attachment, as a matter of sentiment or feeling).”
Though philia and agape are related in many ways, there is a fundamental and distinct difference between the two. Man can express philia love, but not agape. Philia love is prompted by a sense of emotion. God’s love, as we have seen, is not an emotion. The simple difference is this: All men can express philia whereas agape love is attained by choice. God made us free moral agents. He gave us minds to direct our actions. For right actions, we must submit to His law of love by choice. Doing so will bring us happiness. But it also requires that we go against what is normal or natural for the carnal man.
All men were created with a natural love toward self. Remember, we are commanded to love neighbor as self. Philia love can be an unselfish, outflowing love, but only when combined with the agape love God gives you.
But for the most part, philia love is something man, without God’s Spirit can express, because it revolves around self. It means “fraternal affection, brotherly love”; in other words, the natural affection you have for those who relate to you in a special way. In The Missing Dimension in Sex, Mr. Armstrong wrote, “There is a certain selfish element in the philia love—love for children, parents or family. We may have this love for those of our club, our team, our group. That is actually, to coin a phrase, love of the ‘empirical self.’”
Natural man can express that kind of love. But here is where Christians often make a big mistake. We’ll go the extra mile for our girlfriend or boyfriend, or our best friend. And we can fool ourselves into believing, I’m a loving person.But God’s love transcends that! God gave His Son for all mankind.
Notice this quote from the March 1967 Good News: “[E]ven some who are baptized, have God’s Spirit, know the plan of God and hope to enter into His Kingdom lack this outgoing love! They just never think about others. Their fruitless lives make it obvious that they do not actively care for others. They intend to do right. They often think to do good works, yet seldom, if ever, get around to actually doing them. They try to be nice. They often say and do pleasant things. They try to be fair. Yet, no one is benefited. No one’s life is being changed. No one’s hope is lifted up. No happiness is radiated to others. No joy is spread. Instead, they are forced to rationalize, defend themselves, argue or retreat. This kind of behavior falls far short of truly outgoing love. In fact, it is not love at all!”
God’s love is concerned about that neighbor who is the absolute farthest away from any kind of natural, brotherly affection. Jesus said, “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). This kind of love is much more than just a natural affection you might have for those closely related to you. It is more than philia.
The third word for love in Greek is eros. This kind of love refers to sexual love between a husband and wife. It does not mean lust. There is a different Greek word for lust. Eros, however, is love expressed physically, not spiritually. But like philia, eros should combine with God’s love. Agape love should be expressed through the sexual union.
Yet even without the Spirit of God, two married people can express eros love which enables them to love each other in a physical and natural sense. That sexual relationship, if not done in lust, can even bind two unconverted people together in a physical sense.
Do you see the clear distinction between the three types of love? Mr. Armstrong wrote, “Of the three kinds of love, expressed by the three Greek words, agape, philia and eros, the natural man is capable of expressing only the last two types of love” (The Missing Dimension in Sex).
A Love Relationship
God’s purpose for man is to become God. To fulfill that purpose requires that we go from a state of taking to the way of give—of agape love. That is the ultimate purpose for all of us. And yet the natural man can express philia and eros love on the physical level. Furthermore, God created us male and female. And within the physical family unit, there are several different roles: father, mother, children. Why? If the only purpose for all of us is to develop agape love, why the different kinds of love? Why the different roles within family? Why male and female?
Because God is a Family! And the very basis of that Family relationship is love. God is love (1 John 4:8).
God is reproducing Himself. And that, of necessity, required that He make man out of matter (Genesis 2:7). He had to make us physical. Therefore, God established the physical family unit as an exact type of His spiritual Family.
But during the first 6,000 years of His plan, God knew only a few would be called out of this world and given His Holy Spirit—or the very love of God (John 6:44). Yet even for the overwhelming majority, those not yet having access to the Holy Spirit, God provided a way for physical marriages and families to also be a love relationship—physically. Sadly, even on the physical level, Satan has done so much to destroy the family unit in today’s society. Marriages are failing and the gap between parents and children is quickly growing wider. Violent acts are often committed between individuals who are related. Nevertheless, the physical family unit, even without the Holy Spirit, can still be a loving relationship on the physical level, by the letter of the law. It was designed to be a love relationship because it is patterned after the God-Family relationship which is based on spiritual love.
Those Called Now
In the midst of this selfish, lustful society, much of which is even going against the natural and normal love and affection you should have for your family, there is a small number who have been called out of this world to understand the spiritual knowledge about marriage and family. What a glorious calling!
In Ephesians 5, Paul outlines the proper roles within the marriage institution. In verse 24, he reveals how the physical family structure is patterned after something very spiritual: “Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.”
The theme of verses 25-30 is love. It is a love relationship. Husbands are to love their wives as Christ loves the Church. “For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh” (verse 31). For what cause? For love! “This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church” (verse 32). It is a great mystery to the overwhelming majority in this world. People do not understand why marriage. Most do not know that it is a God-ordained institution established in the garden of Eden. There is the spiritual Family of God and the spiritual marriage between Christ and the Church, which is to take place when He returns (Revelation 19:7). And that marriage and family relationship is an agape love relationship! The physical family unit is an exact type of that love relationship.
Those who have been called out now have the fantastic opportunity to establish their physical marriages and families, not just on philia or eros love, but on agape love—the very love of God—an unselfish, outflowing concern for the good and welfare of the one loved. As you study the passage in Ephesians 5 and come to understand the proper roles within the physical family, you will repeatedly be reminded of a love relationship. And what kind of love do you suppose God inspired Paul to write about? Throughout Ephesians 5, the Greek word for love is agape—God’s love. Those who have been called out now must learn to build their marriages and families on the foundation of God’s love.
Jesus Christ Lived by Love
Only one human being to ever walk this Earth has fulfilled God’s law of love in His life—Jesus Christ. He did not keep the law for us, as many try to reason. He left us an example, that we might follow in His footsteps (1 Peter 2:21).
“Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me” (Matthew 26:38). This was the night before Christ died. Imagine the intense emotional strain upon Christ. He was sorrowful to the point of almost wanting to die! He loved His disciples. He wanted to be with them on His final night.
“And he went a little farther, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible,let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt” (verse 39). Can you believe that? Christ did not want to go through what He knew would happen the next day! He had emotional pulls stronger than any you or I have ever experienced. What would you have done if you were in Christ’s situation?
“And he cometh unto the disciples, and findeth them asleep, and saith unto Peter, What, could ye not watch with me one hour?” (verse 40). He found them sleeping. How disappointing. He loved these men like His own brothers. Imagine the philia affection He had for them. He wanted His friends there with Him, and yet they slept. “Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (verse 41). Oh how easy it is to be weak and give in to the rush of emotion we are subjected to daily.
Yet Christ didn’t give in. He did not call it quits. How? “He went away again the second time, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done” (verse 42). Because He had agape love! That’s how. He knew God’s love often goes against every emotional pull we have. He didn’t want to die. He didn’t want His close friends to leave Him. But more than anything, He wantedGod’s will to be done. And so He made it because He had perfect agape love. That agape love enabled Christ to rightly control His emotions with His mind.
If we live this way, we are going to be happy. Christ said it is more blessed to give than to receive. Concerning that scriptural principle, Mr. Armstrong said, “That is a true statement, of which nearly all humans are ignorant” (ibid). But we don’t have to be ignorant of that way of life. We can begin to take the steps now to live according to God’s love—His way of give. If we do so, God’s abundant blessings will surely follow.
“Happiness is a funny thing, or is it?” Mr. Armstrong asked, “The more you give, the more you have.” God gave His Son. Christ gave Himself for all mankind. And just look at the potential happiness and joy that kind of unselfish giving opened up for God and man. Soon, God is going to have not just one Son, but billions! Do you give like God and Christ do? To the extent that you do determines whether or not God’s law is being fulfilled in you.