Christ said his disciples would be known by their love for one another. [John 13:35] One would think that love is love. But, it isn’t. Love may have both positive and negative forms. Though Paul describes “the Love” [AGAPE] in 1 Corinthians chapter 13, he also mentions a form of love characterized y hypocrisy. In Romans 12:9 he exhorts: “Let your love be without hypocrisy.” [Compare also 2 Corinthians 6:6.]
True and genuine love is marked by interest, concern, and positive action which seeks the highest good of another. [Philippians 2:1-4] It has no agenda or ill motive. On the other hand the negative form of AGAPE, that is hypocritical love, is identified by a wrong motive.
In recent times some who study what they call “cults” have mentioned the so-called “love bomb” as an identifying feature of such. However, do all Christian groups, no matter their designation, experience the “love bomb”? This is understood to be that initial great interest church members show toward a new person in their midst.
When a stranger enters a church or meeting hall, the “love bomb” explodes! Some will go out of their way to show great interest in welcoming this new person as a prospective member of their church, sect, or organization. It is, of course, only natural that all Christians would welcome someone new in their midst. However, the “love bomb” is exposed by several things in particular.
It does not last! Paul writes that true divine love endures and never gives up. So if an initial love does not continue it was not love to begin with. That is, it was love of a hypocritical variety - it had only one agenda: to gain membership and grow in numbers.
At first much interest is shown in this “newly interested person.” Each meeting they attend others will welcome them and show interest before and after the meetings or service. Some of the more zealous members of the sect will show some kind of hospitality, or even charity. As long as this person continues to attend the church services or meetings this “love bomb” will continue.
However, if for some reason the person withdraws or takes another course, the “love bomb” proves to be a dude. For example, the newly interested person may show some genuine evidence of joining the group. If the person is one in need, charity may be given to this person - AS LONG AS IT SEEMS HE/SHE WILL JOIN THEIR FOLLOWING. But, if this person chooses another path, the charity will cease. They may even now be treated almost as an enemy.
The Nazarene spoke at length of true, genuine love at Luke 6:31-36
“And behave to your fellow men just as you would have them behave to you. 32 If you love those who love you, what credit is it to you? Why, even bad men love those who love them. 33 And if you are kind to those who are kind to you, what credit is it to you? Even bad men act thus. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is it to you? Even bad men lend to their fellows so as to receive back an equal amount. 35 Nevertheless love your enemies, be beneficent; and lend without hoping for any repayment. Then your recompense shall be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. 36 Be compassionate just as your Father is compassionate.” [Weymouth Translation]
Jesus defines the Golden Rule as not just that love shown to those who love us. Jesus suggests there is no “credit” in that. Rather, perfect love - the Christ-like kind - is found in love to those who are not part of our membership, not our friends or family. The Nazarene clarifies that this AGAPE is manifest in two main things: a] kindness; and, b] giving without expecting anything in return. This makes it clear that from Christ’s standpoint love based on the possibility of gaining a new member is no love at all. It is love with an agenda - love that is hypocritical. The so-called “love bomb” was not love in the beginning because it did not endure. [1 Corinthians 13:7]
There are real and sad examples of this kind of “love bomb.” Consider the man who began to associate with one group of Christians. At first a degree of love and kindness were shown to him, but as time past, despite the fact he remained in the church membership, he was later found died in his apartment. He had been dead for two months --and not on church member had called to check on him. Their love stopped when he stopped attending meetings - even if the reason was death.
Another example is that of the single mother with many children. As long as she attended meetings there was a degree of love shown to her. But when she was forced to not only care for her many children, but also support them - an exhausting effort - she could no longer attend meetings as before. Soon, no one cared any longer. Indeed, the elders agreed not to help her in any manner. Why? Because, to quote, “she was no longer attending meetings.”
And, consider the case of the man who attended meetings with a certain church group. They were charitable and hospitable during this period. But when for several reasons, he could not longer meet with them, their charity stopped. Had an agenda been attached to their former kindness?
Even those who remain members of the same church, the “love bomb” general collapses in time, and the new Christian finds his associations his limited to just a few friends. The pastor has lost interest in them - unless they be large contributors. The elders and deacons no longer call. And most of the congregation has forsaken the love they shown in the beginning. These Christians have become like most other people who do not even attend church - isolated with just a handful of friends.
True love, patterned after God and the prime example He sent, Jesus Christ, is demonstrated to both believers and non-believers. Even if these should be actual enemies - the goodness, kindness, financial gifts without expecting anything in return will continue. This is the only way to spiritual perfection, as Jesus himself taught:
44 But I command you all, love your enemies, and pray for your persecutors; 45 that so you may become true sons of your Father in Heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the wicked as well as the good, and sends rain upon those who do right and those who do wrong. 46 For if you love only those who love you, what reward have you earned? Do not even the tax-gatherers do that? 47 And if you salute only your near relatives, what praise is due to you? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 You however are to be complete in goodness, as your Heavenly Father is complete. [Matthew 5:44-48 Weymouth Translation]
Nazarene Commentary 2000© by Mark Heber Miller
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