Wednesday, May 07, 2008


I love our church. So does my pastor. A while ago he posted 34 things he loves about our church.

One Sunday night, when the weather was nice and the service had been over for more than an hour, and people were still hanging around talking to each other outside (because those of us responsible for locking the building had kicked them out), I began to wonder to myself if a church could ever get to a place where her people love each other too much.

I suppose in one sense, that could happen. If our love for each other ever superseded our love for Christ himself, or if our delight was in people, rather than in the God whose image is displayed in those people.

But when I thought about it more, the silliness of such a thought became apparent rather quickly. One can never love another person too much. No one could ever love more than Christ has loved (since this is how we know what love is) and clearly, Christ did not love too much.

But that got me to thinking that I needed a clearer definition of love. You see, when we think of love for another, we think of something which could supersede our delight in Christ, or something which could be taken too far, so that it is not in the other person's best interest. But really, at that point, it's not love at all... it's selfish delight in another person for the gratification of my own fleshly desires for entertainment or companionship or a sense of belonging or whatever else.

So here's the working definition of love that I came up with to help me evaluate whether I'm really loving someone, or whether I'm just having nice thoughts about them for my own benefit.

Love is

that affection or passion which motivates me to pursue another's ultimate good, regardless of the cost to myself.

Feel free to comment on that, if you like. I'm hoping to elaborate on that some more in the days to come.


Tim Challies said...

Good thoughts, Julian. It reminds me of something I read recently where an old Puritan had gone to his pastor, concerned that he loved his wife too much. His pastor replied wisely that he could not possibly love his wife too much. God commands him to love his wife as Christ loves the church--and Christ loves the church to death. And I guess it's the same with the church; you could only love the church too much if your definition of love was all wrong.

I wonder in your definition about the words "affection or passion." Could you not just remove those and say that "Love is that which motivates me to pursue another's ultimate good regardless of the cost to myself?" Because I think love may go beyond affection and/or passion.

I look forward to reading your future posts on this...

Julian Freeman said...

Hey Tim,

Thanks for your insight and question. Since some of the issue you're raising here is something I was hoping to get to eventually, I'll just respond with a new post.