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3/22/11 6:42 PM
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tope
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Is it possible for an unsaved person to exercise God's greatest command of love? Truthfully? Or is it fictional love? Would like some feedback, this has me a little stumped, simply b/c of the "child" aspect of life, who doesn't Love their children?
3/24/11 8:38 AM
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CJJScout
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Matthew 7:9-11 talks about fathers loving their kids.

But yes, non-believers are capable of love. Why wouldn't they be?
3/24/11 3:54 PM
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Grakman
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tope - Is it possible for an unsaved person to exercise God's greatest command of love? Truthfully? Or is it fictional love? Would like some feedback, this has me a little stumped, simply b/c of the "child" aspect of life, who doesn't Love their children?
I would agree that non-believers are capable of love, but I would disagree with the statement 'who doesn't love their children?'  I mean no disparagement tope, but history is full of stories of child sacrifice, selling of children into slavery, killing one's children for infirmities, etc.   
3/24/11 5:25 PM
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Hypnos
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I agree that non-believers can love. But, We are also called to love our enemies. It's easy to love people we care about family, friends, etc... But loving a enemy or someone that's done you wrong is the challenge. Non-believers would be less likely to love their enemies than a Christian. But just because someone is a Christian doesn't mean it's easy. I struggle daily to love my enemies, but before I became a Christian I could care less about loving them Phone Post
4/21/11 1:34 AM
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Grakman
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Hypnos -  I agree that non-believers can love. But, We are also called to love our enemies. It's easy to love people we care about family, friends, etc... But loving a enemy or someone that's done you wrong is the challenge. Non-believers would be less likely to love their enemies than a Christian. But just because someone is a Christian doesn't mean it's easy. I struggle daily to love my enemies, but before I became a Christian I could care less about loving them Phone Post

 What is love?
4/21/11 2:55 AM
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Ridgeback
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 There are two types of love in the world: one that takes and one that gives. This is common to all types of love — not only towards man. Each person can love a friend, family, children, scholarship, art, motherland, one's idea, oneself, and even God — from either of these two points of view. Even those types of love which by common acknowledgment are of the highest category can carry this dual character.

Take maternal love for example. A mother can often forget herself, sacrifice herself for her children. This does not as yet warrant recognition as Christian love for her children. One needs to ask the question: what is it that she loves in them? She may love her own reflection, her second youth, an expansion of her own "I" in other "I's" which become separated from the rest of the world's "we." She may love her own flesh and blood that she sees in them, traits of her own character, reflections of her tastes, the continuation of the family. Then it becomes unclear where is the principal difference between the egotistical self-love and a seemingly sacrificial love for her children, between "I" and "we." All this amounts to a passionate love of what is one's own, which restricts one's vision, forcing one to ignore the rest of the world, what is not one's own.

Such a mother will imagine that the worthiness of her own child is incomparable with the worthiness of other children, that his mishaps and illnesses are more severe than those of others and finally, that at times the well-being and success of other children can be sacrificed for the sake of the well-being and success of one's own. She will think that the whole world (herself included) are called to serve her child, feed him, quench his thirst, train him, make smooth all paths before him, deflect all obstacles and all rivals. This is a symptom of a passionate maternal love.

Only that maternal love is truly Christian which sees in her child a real image of God inherent not only in him but in all people, given to her in trust, as her responsibility, which she must develop and strengthen in him in preparation for the unavoidable life of sacrifice along the Christian path, for that cross-bearing challenge facing all Christians. With this kind of love the mother will be more aware of other children's misfortunes, she will be more attentive towards their neglect. Her relationship with the rest of humanity will be in Christ as the result of the presence of Christian love in her heart. This, of course, is the most radical example.

There is no doubt that the love towards every being is divided into these two types. One may passionately love one's motherland, working to make sure that she develops gloriously and victoriously, overcoming and destroying all her enemies. One can love her in the Christian manner, working to see that the image of Christ's truth is more and more evident within her. One can passionately love knowledge and art, aiming to see oneself expressed in them, to be proud about them. Or one can love them, being conscious of one's service, one's responsibility for the exercise of God's gifts in these spheres.

One can love one's idea of life only because it is one's own -- and to oppose it, enviously and jealously, to all other ideas. Even in this one can see the gift granted to me by God in order for me to serve His eternal truth during my earthly sojourn. One can love life itself passionately and sacrificially. One can even reflect upon death in two ways. One can direct two ways of love towards God. One can see Him as the heavenly protector of mine or our earthly desires and passions. The other love will humbly and sacrificially offer one's small human soul into His hands. Other than the appellation — love — other than external similarities, these two expressions of love have nothing in common.

St. Maria of Paris
 

4/21/11 11:52 AM
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Grakman
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FROM THE LINK I POSTED IN THE PREVIOUS POST:

"What exactly is agape, or "love" as it is translated? The NT tells us:

Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

We read such passages and tend to assume at once that "love" means what it does to us in modern times -- in this case, a mushy sentimentality that never says a harsh word and never steps on the toes of others. The same word is used in 1 Cor. 13 (though translated differently):

Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.

The question at issue: how is all of this actually worked out in practice? Does agape mean not confronting others with error or sin? Do we need a deep relationship (a "25 ton bridge" as one friend calls it) to relate to a person and to correct them?

On the surface this is an obvious answer, since of course the writers of the NT were constantly confronting others on various errors, even people they obviously could not have known well (even if we assume, wrongly, that they related on modern, individualist terms). It takes a "politically correct" stretch to argue otherwise.

But there is a more moderate view: We can confront, but can only do so politely. Well, that too is obvious to answer, given the many abrasive comments given by Jesus and by Paul to their opponents (i.e., Pharisees, the Galatian "Judaizers") and even to fellow believers (like Peter and the "Satan" quote) who went awry. Indeed, rhetorical analysis of Paul's letters indicates that he used some very sharp rhetorical tactics which would have seriously shamed his opponents and even his readers.

The answer is found in one of two places:

  1. The NT teaches but does not act out agape;
  2. We are not really understanding what agape means.

And as it happens, the social science data tells us that #2 is the way to go. In the following we will draw in some points that some readers may recognize from previous essays here on tektonics.org; but there is also some new material added.

A key difference in understanding the meaning of agape is to recognize that our culture is centered on the individual, whereas ancient Biblical society (and 70% of societies today) are group-centered. What is good for the group is what is paramount. Hence when the NT speaks of agape it refers to the "value of group attachment and group bonding" [Malina and Neyrey, Portraits of Paul, 196]. Agape is not an exchange on a personal level and "will have little to do with feelings of affection, sentiments of fondness, and warm, glowing affinity." It is a gift that puts the group first.

With that in mind, what of the passage which tells us to "Love your enemies"? How is this reconciled with places where Jesus calls the Pharisees names, or Peter "Satan"? How is it reconciled with where Paul wishes emasculation on his Galatian opponents (Gal. 5) and shames the Galatians with his rhetoric? How is it reconciled with even confronting others with sin and error, for that matter?

Given the definition of "group attachment" above, it may be best to understand agape as a parallel to another known concept of today -- not love, but tough love. For the sake of popular culture awareness I will allude to perhaps the most famous example of such "tough love" known today -- the New Jersey high school principal Joe Clark (whose story was told in the movie Lean on Me) who cleaned out his high school and made it a safe place for those who wanted to learn.

Clark was no soft sentimentalist. He kicked those out of school who disrupted the learning of others. He used physical compulsion to do it as needed. He used a bullhorn to get people's attention.

Is this agape? Yes, it is. It is the Biblical form of agape in which Clark valued what was best for his students as a whole versus what the individual wanted.

Now consider this understanding in light of, for example, Jesus' confrontation with the Pharisees and others. It will take a complexity of emotion we find foreign, but conceptually, it is certainly possible to love one's enemies, and yet also attack them; and the same for one's disciples or allies. Like Clark's disruptive students, the Pharisees were a threat to the well-being of others; so likewise Peter when he made his error. They spread deception and falsehood and kept others from entering the Kingdom of God with their deceptions; or else led people down the wrong path and away from spiritual maturity.

In such a scenario, not only is it right and proper, for the sake of agape, to confront and confront boldly; it may be the only responsible thing to do to keep the "disease" or error from spreading and afflicting more souls. (In the ancient world, and even today, insults and polemics were a way to shame and discredit an opponent; see here.)

So agape does include verbally attacking and discrediting one's opponents, or confronting other believers, when they are in the wrong. Jesus speaks to these men not as his enemies, but as enemies of the truth. There is no indication that he speaks to them as personal enemies, for all of his comments reflect their deception of others; the personal relationship between the parties does not even come into the picture. They were enemies for the sake of the Kingdom of God.

By comparison, one would hardly suppose that Matthew 5:44 would restrict one from joining an army and fighting in a war against a Hitler or a Stalin. This becomes a case of having agape for the greater number, and generally innocent, at the expense of the lesser who are guilty. Jesus' situation with the Pharisees and others attacked was very much in this category, since their actions imperiled the eternal fate or the spiritual maturity of others.

One may reply, "But what then of the example of the Good Samaritan? He was kind to an enemy."

He was kind to a personal enemy; the man was not spreading lies and deceiving others. Here is food for thought: If Jesus had been attacking a Pharisee, and the man had suddenly clutched at his heart and dropped to the ground, would agape have us give the Pharisee CPR? Yes, it would. We are thereby making the man our "neighbor" and extending the hand of welcome into our fellowship.

From there what happens? The Pharisee may keep on his attacks against the truth after he recovers; if so, he is still an enemy for the sake of the Gospel and one to be publicly addressed in disparaging terms. But if he drops to the ground again we will still work to save him. Our modern society has lost this ability to distinguish between sin and sinner; it is often assumed that to attack the position is to attack the man.

-JPH"

4/25/11 8:47 PM
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PastorJosh
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The Bible says apart from Christ all of Our righteousness, goodness, love, works....all are filthy rags and they mean absolutely nothing to God. Nothing. You cannot love the way it was designed. Apart from Christ, all you do is sin. You can't do anything else but sin. Phone Post
4/25/11 9:42 PM
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tope
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You understand Josh, there is nothing without him. There is no love without Jesus. Emotions and feelings do not satisfy God, with out God you can not love. The love of God prays for the wicked who conitnually cross your path. The love of God is simply unexplainable except through Jesus. Thank you Father God for your Glorious plan of redemption, I look forward to worshipping you for all of eternity.
4/26/11 12:41 AM
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Ridgeback
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PastorJosh -  The Bible says apart from Christ all of Our righteousness, goodness, love, works....all are filthy rags and they mean absolutely nothing to God. Nothing. You cannot love the way it was designed. Apart from Christ, all you do is sin. You can't do anything else but sin. Phone Post
In the Parable of the Last Judgment Jesus points out that many who will be saved will be surprised that they actually carried out the acts of mercy towards him when they fed the hungry, clothed the naked, comforted the sick, etc.  In other words, where the love of Christ is at work in the heart of any particular human is not always manifest to human understanding.  
 
4/26/11 1:32 AM
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PastorJosh
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THAT'S what you draw from that parable??? Are you serious? Phone Post
4/28/11 11:31 PM
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Ridgeback
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PastorJosh -  THAT'S what you draw from that parable??? Are you serious? Phone Post

 Since that is the plain meaning of the teaching yes.  And since I am a Christian I have this weird habit of actually paying attention to the teachings of Jesus first and foremost.
5/6/11 3:20 AM
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PastorJosh
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I never questioned your Christianity. Ever. Please do not take offense as i meant none. What I do question is taking that one parable and drawing from it that "stand alone" conclusion that isn't supported throughout the rest of Scripture. Back to the Original Poster's question, a person outside Christ does not know the fullest extent of love. If he does not know it, he cannot show it or live it, for he denies deep in his heart the very thing he hopes to express. Phone Post

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