Written by Lanette Zavala, author of Marriage Vows Under Fire and publisher of MillennialEdge.net eMagazine.
How in the world can “true love” for one person turn us against another person? As believers in Christ, are we really able to find God-fearing love within our hearts if, while we embrace some people, we shun others for reasons that God’s Word would not validate?
Experiencing divisions within families, cliques within churches, and broken relationships in which one person was chosen to love unconditionally while others were branded to avoid, I have learned that synthetic love exists right alongside authentic love – everywhere.
Like any other born-again believer, I am learning more about God’s Agape love from His Word gradually – never at a point of complete understanding and never at a point of perfection, though I press toward that perfection as I surrender to the heart-cleansing power of Jesus Christ. I’m like any other believer abiding in Him. Having said that, I can add that I’ve learned a few truths about love. There is human love, and there is Agape love.
Synthetic Human Love
Have you ever been in a relationship that required or strongly compelled you to turn against someone in order to support the person with whom you have that special relationship? Did you honestly think that true love made you come to the decision of shunning one person (for no valid reason) in order to demonstrate loyalty toward the other? True love does not influence such a decision. Human love – synthetic love – influences such a decision.
This kind of love has broken up families, alienated thousands of church members who eventually left fellowships where they had once perceived as loving environments (and hopefully left for Word-based fellowships elsewhere), stolen spouses to spin off families in the appearance of pseudo-honor, formed cliques that give friendship a twisted meaning, and resulted in other issues that complicate life to the point where God has often become the problems’ blame during consequences.
Who can really count on synthetic love? You’ve got to keep up charades, appearances, and acceptable behavior in order to retain it. Don’t believe me? Mess up once or too many times and see what happens. In most synthetically loving relationships, just repent and embrace God’s truth; then, see what happens. A disassociation takes place.
People begin to avoid those who disrupt a carnal flow that once felt comfortable for everyone trapped inside it. Sometimes that comfortable flow is deception. Sometimes it’s a co-dependent relationship that allows one person to wreck havoc on others who passively foster the chaos for the sake of a peace that really doesn’t exist. Sometimes flattery is all people can tolerate in relationships based on human love. I believe this statement has dwelt in the back of most of our minds: “As long as you tell me what I want to hear about myself, you’ve got a friend in me.”
Here is what synthetic love requires:
1) Secrecy to cover up lies
3) Formation and upkeep of pedestals
4) Clique activity
5) Disassociation from one in order to maintain association with another
Is there forgiveness for synthetic love and all the problems stemmed from it? Absolutely. God gave His only begotten Son as the Remission for our sins in order that He can readily forgive the sins of those who surrender to Jesus Christ in repentance. Through this loving gift, He empowers His followers to distribute that love, which we’ve experienced.
When Jesus explains in His Word to us how to love our neighbors, He gave an unfailing model that was a sure outline to follow. He said that we were to use our love for ourselves as an example of how we are to love others. “Love your neighbor as yourself” means love your neighbor in the same way you love yourself. (Mark 12:31)
Agape Love (The Love of God) Which Is Authentic
Jesus told us in John 15:13, “Greater love has no man than this: that a man lay down His life for His friends.” Primarily, Jesus was referring to Himself as He made that statement and as Himself setting an example of how His followers (born-again believers) are to love.
I Corinthians 13 is one of the most frequently read chapters when defining how we are to love others with God-fearing love. Paul very thoroughly elaborates in the entire chapter how we as Christ-followers love. We love in self-denial, in truth, in humility, in kindness, in simplicity, in hope, in forgiveness, and in perseverance. It’s a life-long lesson that we learn through triumphs relying on Christ and through failures from which we rebound in faith after loving in our humanly way.
Where there is opportunity to engage in the complacency, shallowness, and even elementary easiness of synthetic human love, can we dare to take the high road by choosing God’s Agape love that instructs us how to do so in His Word? Agape love within a believer never flatters, never deceives, never forces decisions on someone to choose “us versus them”, and never stops standing corrected on how to love. But Agape love may require distance with forgiveness while ensuring that the love does exist. Agape love may require a sharp rebuke where praise may have been the option – but the wrong option – in the face of an offense (like adultery, violent tendencies, or traumatic negligence).
Agape love can be tough at times yet always gentle. Dealing with so many people in our lives, there is no blanket solution in dealing with all problems in a Godly loving way. But because God’s wisdom accompanies His love, there are unique ways to deal with each person in our lives without setting aside Agape love in order to do so. We can continue to learn firsthand that It never fails.