Thursday, August 26, 2010

21 Days: Day 14 (Is God's Love conditional?)

Did you miss the first post?

Last night we read John chapter 14.  We find lots of familiar verses here (in Fact Calvin actually stopped us from reading one, shouting "I know this, I know this!" and completing the rest of the verse from memory!).  What really stood out to me, however were verses 21-23 (emphasis mine):
"He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him." Judas (not Iscariot) said to Him, "Lord, what then has happened that You are going to disclose Yourself to us and not to the world?" Jesus answered and said to him, "If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him.
Doesn't this sound conditional?  I've heard all my life that God's love is unconditional, so this really made me think!  I wasn't going to bring it up last night, because I don't like to talk about things I've not yet resolved in my mind (personal flaw?) but I did.  The kids didn't have much to say, neither did William.  I thought back to the verse that we read earlier "For God so LOVED the world..."  There must have been a general over-all LOVE for the world, does our obedience spark a closer, more intimate love?

In this same passage (vs. 26) Jesus says that the Holy Spirit will "teach us all things", so I prayed last night that He would help clear this up.  William said that he'd bet I'd be ready to tie a bow on it by tomorrow (I love that man's confidence in me!)  Normally, I would research and form an opinion and THEN blog or teach.  Not today!  Today, I am going to take you along on the journey.  No promises for a pretty bow at the end :)

The first thing that I'm prompted to do is a word study on the original text for LOVE.  Don't get scared!  It's not that hard!  I'm going over to Bible Gateway. Scratch that - they don't have the online lexicon anymore.  Hang on...Google search, OK, now on to Blue Letter Bible.  See on the right where there are 2 search boxes?  The bottom one says LexCon (that's not very beginner friendly, is it?)  If you type "love" in that box, you come up with 40 results, 20 hebrew (Old Testament) and 20 Greek (New Testament).  Now, you could go through all of those, but that would take a long time!

I want to start with a known word in a specific verse though, so I typed "John 14:21" in the TOP search box.

That brings us to the verse with a whole bunch of funy little numbers above all the words:
Notice the numbers above each instance of the word "love", in this verse, they are all "25", this means that they are all the same original root word.  Click on that number and it takes you to this (hold on - don't blank out on me!):
In the upper right, you can click to have it pronounced for you (quite helpful!)  If you are not a word-nerd like me, just skip down to the definitions (Outline of Biblical Usage).  Here we see 2 definitions, and since in the context of the verse we are talking about people, so definition 1 applies:
1) of persons

a) to welcome, to entertain, to be fond of, to love dearly

At this point I am interested to see that the love that we have for Him (expressed as keeping his word) is the same as His love for us.  To be fond of, to love dearly.  I am compelled to wonder if I love God this well...
The next thing I'd like to do is compare with the word used in John 3:16 (go on - find it for yourself.  I'll wait.  You learn best by doing!)
So - what did you find?
Really?  Me too!  It's the same word!  Hmm, now I'm puzzled!  God already loved us, then when we keep Jesus's commandments, it shows we love Him, and Jesus loves us, then God loves us.
The next thing I'll do is scroll down to the Concordance portion.  It shows us the verses where this word is used.  It can help to get a better contextual understanding of the word.  Now remember, this root word is Greek, so the verses are all going to be New Testament.
I see that we should:
Love our neighbors
Love our enemies
Love God (not money)
Jesus loved the rich man (then told him to sell all he had and give it to the poor)
The pharisees loved the good seats in the synogogue (this would be definition 2, to be well-pleased with a thing)
At this point I'm becoming convinced that God's Love is not conditional.  It existed before our obedience (John 3:16) and it is manifested in different ways.  Can you see how dangerous it can be to base a theology on a single verse?
This has not been an "in depth" study, and I'm sure that many have taken it further, and others will take it further.  I'd love to hear about your opinions and see any links that you have to Biblical studies on the Love of God!

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