Unconditional love, what a beautiful, popular word! Every tribe and kindred, regardless of religious affiliation, knows love and practices it in one form, or another. Love can be summarized in three words: phileo, eros and agape. The greatest of these is agape – selfless, unconditional love.
One of the most popular passages used at weddings wraps it up this way, “If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become a sounding brass, or a clanging cymbal . . .” ICorinth. 13: 1ff. Christ, the exemplary lover of people, proved His love with His life. He also commanded His disciples and by implication, His followers, to love one another (John 13: 35).
Today, it seems we have many experts on unconditional love, who apply it to just about any situation under the sun. Christians have never been under more pressure to love unconditionally, than today, yet the Christians’ mandate still remains to finish the race strong. As I search for people to emulate, I find myself confronted by competing views of love that appear to be the same thing on the surface. Or is it? Only one Christ died on the cross and rose from the dead.
Counterfeit love, or Christ-centered love? Counterfeit love emphasizes unconditional love; Christ-centered love also emphasizes unconditional love. So what’s the difference? Isn’t love, love? From a believer’s perspective, how can I know from which platform my mentors are launching? How can I know whether I’m getting the real deal that will help me remain Christo-centered?
Counterfeit love emphasizes unconditional love with little, or no boundaries; Christ-centered love emphasizes unconditional love within the boundaries of God’s holy nature.
Counterfeit love glorifies man’s efforts at loving people; Christ-centered love recognizes our limited human capacity to love and leans on the power of God to help us love perfectly (I John 4: 7 – 21).
Counterfeit love focuses on the most popular thing to do from human beings’ perspective; Christ-centered love focuses on the most honorable thing to do from God’s perspective (John 12: 42ff).
Counterfeit love denies that sin is the underlying cause of human depravity, leaving those who may need help in bondage and uncertain future. Christ-centered love seeks to free people from the debilitating effect of sin and points them to eternal freedom (John 8: 32ff).
Counterfeit love seeks the perfect experience of love, while rejecting the transforming power of God; Christ-centered love seeks the perfect experience of love by submitting to the transforming power of God.
Counterfeit love pays lip-service to honoring God, but lives counter to God’s holy nature; Christ-centered love reveres and submits to God’s holy nature (Exodus 32: 1ff; John 12: 44 – 50).
Counterfeit love emphasizes the size of the works and the visibility of the one who performs the works; Christ-centered love emphasizes the spiritual condition of the heart of the one who performs the works and the visibility of God’s presence in the works (Matth 23: 1ff; Mark 12: 41 – 44; James 1: 19 – 25).
Counterfeit love aims at pleasing the self at all cost and uses people to achieve that end; Christ-centered love aims at pleasing God and Christ at all cost and values people (Mark 8: 34 – 38; Luke 16: 19 – 31).
Counterfeit love focuses on the immediate gratification, with little, or no, regard to long-term consequences, leaving the cost of the aftermath to future generations. Christ-centered love focuses on what is best, both short-term and long-term, and mitigates the risks to future generations, by making far-sighted decisions that please God (Exodus 32: 1ff; Luke 1: 50; Psalm 103: 17).
Counterfeit love focuses on building an earthly kingdom; Christ-centered love focuses on building God’s heavenly kingdom, without ignoring the immediate needs of the people on earth (John 3: 5; 18: 36).
Counterfeit love cherry-picks, or stretches, or sets no boundaries, seeing boundaries as a deterrent to happiness; Christ-centered love sets immovable boundaries, and sees boundaries as protective walls within which one can roam freely and safely.
Counterfeit love deludes and gives a false sense of security. Christ-centered love tells the truth and warns of pitfalls to help us change.
Counterfeit love may appear to be godly at first, but denies the cross of Christ, or accepts the cross, but denies the resurrection, or divvies up Christ among many gods. Christ-centered love is founded on the cross and the resurrection of the One and only Christ Jesus.
Counterfeit love emits the appearance of being sympathetic to the cause of Christ, in reality, it is deceptive and the enemy of Christ. Christ-centered love is about Christ and promoting the cause of Christ.
Counterfeit love may give the appearance of God-love, but will ultimately destroy all who pursue it and the world around it and will come to an end. Christ-centered love will save the one who pursues it and the world it touches and lead to lasting life, because it was bought and sealed with the shed blood of Christ for eternity.
As a believer, I find myself reaching the conclusion that it is impossible to achieve unconditional love, without the help of God through Jesus Christ and the knowledge of the Word. I must remind myself that no one can lay any other foundation than the one God has already laid for us – Jesus Christ (I Corinth 3: 10 ff).
I Corinth 13: 1ff
John 13: 35
I John 4: 7 – 21
John 12: 42ff
John 8: 32ff
Exodus 32: 1ff; John 12: 44 – 50
Matth 23: 1ff; Mark 12: 41 – 44; James 1: 19 – 25
Luke 1: 50; Psalm 103: 17; Psalm 112: 1ff
John 3: 5; 18: 36; Rom 5: 8; 12:9
Philip. 1:9 – 10
I John 3: 1ff; 4: 1ff
I Corinth 3: 10 ff