I recently had a friend show me a comic that caught my attention.
As you can see, it depicts Jesus speaking to a crowd of His followers. His words rebuke them for using “scripture to determine what love means” instead of the reverse. Initially, this can seem like the kind of sappy sentiment that we’re supposed to ‘like’, share all over social media, and let speak for us in the culture. The only problem is that it is completely backward.
The problem is with love itself. God created it, and it was good, but like everything else it was mangled in the wreckage of the Fall. Everything, including love, was corrupted by the entry of sin into creation, a reality that often causes our natural attempts at love to be selfish, self-centered, and self-serving. The result is that in all creation, we know of love, we just don’t know what godly love is.
Before the Fall, Adam was relieved to have someone to spend his life with, and said, “at last.” (Genesis 2:23) After the Fall, Adam turns against her. He blames her for their sin while throwing her under the bus. Love toward God is also tainted. Cain kills Able out of jealousy because of a perceived slight in worship. He want’s God’s approval, but not enough to actually follow God’s words in Genesis 4. In just a few generations we see everything from polygamy and incest to choosing wives to spite parents. We know enough to worship, but refuse to worship the true God according to His prescribed methods. Love is no longer good as God created it.
It is only through His Word, the Scriptures, that we can begin to comprehend God’s design for love. I like the Christian Standard Bible’s treatment of John 3:16 because it makes Christ and His work an example of the selfless love God desires. If our understanding of love is fine, then there is no need for Paul to teach us that it is patient and kind in 1 Corinthians 13. But the truth is that human love is a sad distortion of its original design.
And so this comic is all wrong. It’s backward. We couldn’t know what godly love was until God, Himself, revealed it to us. To try to interpret His Word through the distorted sense of human love will always lead us askew. No. Even love needs redeemed, and is why humans deal with everything from pornography to adultery to same sex relationships. Our love is all wrong apart from God, which is why we should remember the He is love, but love cannot be our god.
I believe that if Jesus were to stand in front of those followers today, He would not rebuke them for being unloving. I believe He would stretch out His nail-scared hands and offer to show them what true love looks like as He began with Moses and all the Prophets, to interpret for them all the things concerning himself in the Scriptures. And in sharing the gospel, He would probably clarify with His previous choice of words, “God loved the world in this way…”