We are starting our talk with a few questions. The subject itself is framed as question, “Do You Practice Love Abuse?” And I pray you will be able to answer that question by the end of this talk.
This question is reframed in three other ways.
- Are you an abuser of Love?
- Are You A Practitioner of Love Abuse?
- Put another way, are you an abuser?
What we are not talking of
We are not talking of:
No, I am not talking of human love. Human love is majorly lust anyway. I am talking about a different type of abuse and a different type of love.
The word “abuse” is quite common in human conversation and in the news these days. Quite often abuse suggests to many the use of improper, obscene or what some refer to as “swear” language. The type of language not to be spoken in the presence of children. Important as that is, it is not what this article is about.
Domestic and other types of abuse
To some others “abuse” connotes the physical or emotional or psychological ill-treatment of someone or something (e.g.: Domestic abuse, drug abuse, child abuse, racial abuse etc). Important as that is, it is not what we are going to talk about here.
All these are legitimate meanings “abuse” in the right context. And it is important to focus on these ills wherever they exist in the society and to deal with them as appropriate.
We are talking of a special type of abuse
But here we are going to concern ourselves with a different or should I say a special type of abuse. There is a more profound abuse that hardly gets a mention in conversations. This abuse is so frequent as to be commonplace especially amongst those who claim to know and belong to God.
So what type of abuse am I referring to?
Let us go back to the beginning so we can get a clear answer to that question.
The right of God to receive loyal love
You see, God created everything, known and unknown, visible and invisible. As we are informed,
“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” (Gen 1:1).
And surveying what He had created, we are told God’s conclusion,
“And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day” (Gen 1:31).
All who profess genuine faith in Christ are to love the LORD above all else. Next to that love of God is to love one’s neighbour like oneself:
“29 And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: 30 and thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. 31 And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:29-31).
To love God loyally and single-heartedly is the obligation of every genuine child of God. Such love of God is to be demonstrated by the believer through obedience to God in daily life.
Remember, God did not only create, but loves us too. God is the one who first demonstrated His loyal love for us,
“But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Rom 5:8).
God as the object of love abuse
Virtually every Christian you speak to will tell you of loving the LORD. That is what is expected and should be. That is it until you realise that such confession is mouth talk and not heart talk. But the people of God are commanded to love God.
Despite what God commands and all the shouts about love, it is apparent that many are abusing love.
I am referring to the love abuse in which God is the object of the abuse. You are probably surprised at that, right?
You might ask, what has abuse of love got to do with God? Well, my short answer is that love abuse or the abuse of love has everything to do with God.
The one type of abuse which is quite common, but which hardly gets mentioned is what I will call “love abuse”, that is, the abuse of love with God being the object of that abuse.
This love abuse or abuse of love is when the love that should be for God is misdirected to and given to something else. It is love for God directed to and showered on something else.
The genesis of love abuse is the lack of loving God above all else. Loving God above all else and loving your neighbour like yourself go together. They are mutually inclusive.
We believers in Christ talk so much of the cross of Christ. If our knowledge of the cross is commensurate to our depth of understanding of the cross, the world would likely be a different and better place. As it is, we know, that is, we have much information about the cross but little understanding of the cross.
There is a whole world of difference between having knowledge (information) and understanding the information. We leave the discussion of the difference between information and understanding for another day.
The cross is a depiction of love
But returning to the cross. It is common to depict the cross as having two beams: the vertical beam with a horizontal one. That is information. What may not be easily realised is a spiritual dimension of the cross
(Sorry to disappoint you, I am not looking for a theological debate right now. Just trying to illustrate a point.).
The vertical beam represents the relationship between God and each human being. God loves all His creation including man. However, the cross is about the reconciliation of humans to God at great cost to God through the finished work of Christ on the cross. One can then say, the love of God flows to man, and this is depicted by the vertical beam of the cross.
Hence, the love for God demanded by God can only come from God for it is part of the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Rom 5:5 cf. Gal 5:22). And you cannot have the Holy Spirit except by Christ (John 14:26 cf. Rom 8:9).
The horizontal beam represents the relationship between human beings. Similarly to the love for God, the love for fellow human beings demanded by God can only come from God, again part of the fruit of the Holy Spirit. Having received the love of God as depicted by the vertical beam, the true child of God now radiates that same love to fellow human beings as depicted by the horizontal beam of the cross.
The cross is a depiction of the love of God for man and should be that also of the love of man for God.
And so, the genuinely born-again child of God receives the Holy Spirit who then begins to work on the believer so he/she can begin to grow spiritually and manifest more and more of the fruit of the Holy Spirit.
But because the believer in Christ, though growing is not yet a finished product, and can indeed not be perfected until the final glorification in the presence of the Lord, he/she is still very susceptible to becoming an abuser of love.
Again remember, love abuse is the redirection of the love that should be exclusively for God to the wrong direction and to the wrong object.
Let us now look at a few examples of the abuse of love. Out of the numerous abuses of love we shall look at four.
These four are broadly representative of the unchanging desire of humans to turn away from God that they may continue in sin:
Love of self
It seems natural for each human being to love himself/herself above all else. But God was aware of this strong tendency in humans before commanding that He be loved above all else. If you are honest with yourself, you will agree that it is quite difficult at times not to be engaging in self-love. The danger is that uncontrolled love of self may then mushroom into selfishness that then causes the person to do almost everything out of self-interest.
Love of self becomes love abuse when you shower the love meant for God upon yourself, you become your own god, and an idolater!
To guard against this possibility, we are commanded,
“3 Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. 4 Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.” (Phil 2:3-4).
Haman is a classic example of someone with love of self that mushroomed into selfishness. Hear what he thought:
“So Haman came in. And the king said unto him, What shall be done unto the man whom the king delighteth to honour? Now Haman thought in his heart, To whom would the king delight to do honour more than to myself?” (Esther 6:6).
And this love of self we are informed in Scripture will be one of the signs of the perilous times that shall come in the last days (2Tim 3:1-2).
Love of self is one form of love abuse as you redirect the love that legitimately belongs to God inwardly to yourself.
Instead of God being the centre of everything, you plant yourself squarely at the centre as the one to whom all else must reckon with.
Possibly without realising it you have become a god. And like all gods, you also desire to be worshipped. You start worshipping yourself as all your resources are harnessed to ensure that all your desires are met. You then attempt to extend your rule to and over others as you crave their attention and worship.
- Brother, sister, how close to selfishness is your love of yourself?
- Have you become so immersed in yourself that things are only seen through the eyes of “how will this or that be of benefit to me?”
- Are you covering you desire with the cloak of righteousness claiming you are fighting for God’s cause?
Love of the world
Our second example of love abuse is love of the world. Remember, we are talking about those who profess to belong to God. Believers in Christ are warned against having love of the world,
“Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” (1John 2:15).
The love of the world manifests in a diversity of ways few of which are:
- Following the multitude to do evil.
- Colluding with others to bear witness so as to pervert justice (Ex 23:2).
- One who loves the world will usually conform his ways to the standards of the world. To such a one lust is nothing but enjoyment!
Demas is an example of a person who loved the world. There was a time he engaged in the work of preaching and propagating the gospel of Jesus Christ as he worked with apostle Paul and other believers (Col 4:14; Philemon 24).
But along the way, he fell in love with the present world and departed from the gospel (2Tim 4:10).
The love of the world will usually start innocuously, with something minor that is not thought of as anything. It will then surreptitiously expand its tentacles until it possesses its victim completely. Thereafter, such a person will see things only through the eyes of the world much aided by the flesh.
Love of sin
Sin is doing something prohibited by or contrary to God. In the first instance, God informed the first man, Adam of the penalty for disobeying His command. The instruction would have been noticeably clear to the first man:
“16 And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” (Gen 2:16-17).
It was a direct communication between God and the first man. There was no intermediary. It was the same language with no need for translation. First God told him what he could do, then what he should not do, and the consequence of doing what he should not do. The man heard, knew, and understood what God commanded.
The first couple sinned knowingly
Hence, the man knowingly sinned. He chose to deliberately act contrary to what God demanded of him. Hence, the sin of the first human couple in the garden in Eden (Gen 3) caused man to fall.
Since then, man has not only continued in but also loves and delights in sin. Sin was what has and continues to separate human beings from the Holy God who created all.
The penalty for sin has always been death
God told man that the penalty for disobeying His command was death. And man deliberately chose death over life. God has decreed that whoever sins shall die:
“Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die.” (Ezek. 18:4).
“For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Rom 6:23).
It follows that whoever sins have chosen death instead of life unless God provides a means of escape.
Sin is disobeying the commandment of God.
God in His mercy has provided the solution to the problem of sin by the provision of the finished work of Christ on the cross.
Christ is the propitiation (the appropriate atoning sacrifice) for our sins (cf. Rom 3:25; 1John 2:2; 4:10). Though Christ has come and been offered as the sacrifice for our sins, numerous people are still choosing to sin and thereby are choosing death instead of life.
Many are choosing not to appropriate the sacrifice of Christ and are instituting their own alternatives. These man-made, devil-instigated alternatives are unacceptable to and are rejected by God.
That so many are continuing to choose to sin shows the power of sin. Those who sin are characterised in many ways by the word of God. As an example, those who sin are described as those who,
“received not the love of the truth that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: that they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” (2Thess 2:10-12).
Contrary to what many people claim, sinning is neither accidental nor incidental in the life of a person. Rather, from the beginning human beings have deliberately chosen to sin and taken delight in sin and continues to do so as a habit. There seems to be this innate desire in man to do things that are known to be contrary to the will of God.
Scripture after scripture testifies that those who sin do so deliberately. They chose to do their own will and not to do the will of God. They are those,
“who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.” (Rom 1:32).
God hates sin and we have been seriously warned of the consequences of continuing in sin,
“Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience.” (Eph. 5:6).
(cf. Eph. 5:5 and Col 3:6-9 where some of “these things” are enumerated).
King Ahab of Israel and his wife, Jezebel were supposed to use their position as the rulers over Israel to uphold the true worship of God and to rule justly and in righteousness. But they used their position, power, and influence to oppose God, to oppress the people of God and to serve the devil through the worship of idols.
The word of God describes them thus,
“25 (But there was none like unto Ahab, which did sell himself to work wickedness in the sight of the Lord, whom Jezebel his wife stirred up. 26 And he did very abominably in following idols, according to all things as did the Amorites, whom the Lord cast out before the children of Israel).” (1Kgs 21:25-26)
cf. 1Kgs 16:30-33 which give more detail of their abominable idolatry.
“30 And Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the Lord above all that were before him. 31 And it came to pass, as if it had been a light thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, that he took to wife Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal king of the Zidonians, and went and served Baal, and worshipped him. 32 And he reared up an altar for Baal in the house of Baal, which he had built in Samaria. 33 And Ahab made a grove; and Ahab did more to provoke the Lord God of Israel to anger than all the kings of Israel that were before him.” (1Kgs 16:30-33).
This couple just loved to sin!
There are many like them today within the church of Christ who outwardly seem to be sheep but inwardly are ravening wolves (Mat 7:15). They are using their position and influence to oppose God by bringing in damnable heresy into the church and exploiting the people of God for filthy lucre. Please, beware of such ones!
- How are you operating in the position God has placed you in His church?
- By your activities are you obeying or rebelling against God?
- What does it take for you to forgo the word of God for the opinion of someone you respect?
Love of other gods
The living God is in intimate relationship with each of His children.
Each genuine child of God, each genuine believer in Christ carries the presence of God in the person of the Holy Spirit. Hence, each disciple of Christ is truly a temple of God. Loving other gods is tantamount to bringing idols into the temple of God. Such idols will pollute the temple of God making it unclean and unfit for the worship of God.
Hence, the love of other gods is spiritual adultery in Holy Scripture. It is the giving of that which should be the exclusive preserve of God to something profane. It should not be done!
Adultery has devastating effect in human relations
The breaching of the conjugal love within the most intimate relationship between two adult human beings of opposite sex united in the marriage covenant is used to illustrate spiritual adultery. Such a breach when discovered by the victim can be very devastating to the relationship and health of the couple.
If adultery at the level of human relationship could have such serious negative impact, it should be no surprise that it is of even more dire consequence when it is the relationship between God and any of His children that is involved.
The couple in a conjugal relationship are rightly jealous of and diligently guard their relationship against outside interference and enticement as they value their union immensely.
Similarly, God values, seriously and jealously guards His relationship with His children. He does not accept any competition.
In like manner, the true believer should jealously and diligently guard his relationship with God and not allow idol to intrude.
Our God is rightly described as a jealous God,
“for thou shalt worship no other god: for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.” (Ex 34:14). Also see Ex 20:5; Deut. 4:24).
“Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me.” (Ex 20:5).
“For the LORD thy God is a consuming fire, even a jealous God.” (Deut. 4:24)
The commandment of God to all humans is that He must be loved above all else.
“Thou shalt have no other gods before me” (Ex 20:3).
“4 Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord: 5 and thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. 6 And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart.” (Deut. 6:4-6).
Examples of love of other gods even amongst the people of God abound within the pages of Holy Scripture.
The incident of the golden calf amongst the Israelites during the journey in the wilderness is well known to many (Ex 32:1-35). It is difficult to understand how such evil could have taken place considering that the Israelites had witnesses many miracles from God. God was even leading them through the presence of one of His angels.
But then, it truly happened as we are told,
“3 And all the people brake off the golden earrings which were in their ears, and brought them unto Aaron. 4 And he received them at their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool, after he had made it a molten calf: and they said, These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.” (Ex 32:3-4).
God was and is too slow for some
Why did the people do this?
Because God’s timing was too slow or too late for whatever they wanted. We are informed,
“And when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down out of the mount, the people gathered themselves together unto Aaron, and said unto him, Up, make us gods, which shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him.” (Ex 32:1).
Similarly today, we see people in a hurry. They want everything instantly and on their own terms. There are many that imagine a god only in their own image. The true and living God is foreign to what they imagine their god should be. So, they manufacture or concoct a god of their own making.
- Hence, today, we see a diversity of caricatures of Jesus, a Jesus that is far removed from the Jesus Christ of Nazareth:
- Jesus that is too loving to send the wicked and ungodly to hell,
- Jesus that only blesses if you sow “dangerously” into the coffers of the “name it, picture it, claim it” crowd pastor,
- A Jesus that can only heal or do miracles in a specially created atmosphere of music and only if you have enough faith or put in enough money,
- A Jesus that does miracles and wonders through only “specially anointed” one who are the “spiritual elite”
- A Jesus that mandates the foot soldiers who are the spiritual commoners and downtrodden to contribute all the money demanded of them by the so-called man/woman of God before they can be blessed,
- A Jesus that is only present when the foot soldiers are wiped into a frenzy by the false teacher masquerading as “the anointed one.”
One can go on multiplying these false gods that people are running after, which some are even willing to defend with their own life! All these are false gods and are nowhere close to the Jesus of the Holy Bible. But the crowds that follow these false gods, like those that followed the golden calf will not be deterred.
Idolaters reject God
On the pages of Holy Scripture, God makes it abundantly clear that He alone is the true and living God. And demands absolute obedience from His people.
What is common to all idolaters is their rejection of God and His righteousness and the institution of their own gods and the righteousness as determined by themselves.
God has the absolute right and authority to demand unalloyed obedience from all His creation as their God. By His will they were created and exist (Rev 4:11). And beside Him there is no Saviour,
“I, even I, am the Lord; And beside me there is no saviour.” (Isa 43:11).
Before you absolve yourself claiming you are not bowing before some statue, hear this:
“Whatsoever and whosoever you give the worship and reference that is due to God only, whatever has taken the place of God in your life is your idol, your new god. That is what makes you an idol worshipper, an idolater.”
Such idol could be your ambition, your job, a relationship, an infirmity, love of money, love of prominence, love of praise, and many more.
Our God knows us much more than we can imagine. He knows that even at our best we are still vulnerable to love abuse. Hence, the numerous warnings and admonitions in Holy Scripture to be on guard and to avoid as much as possible love abuse.
The Love of self, The love of the world, The love of sin, and The love of other gods are a small sample of love abuse. They are all the symptoms of an underlining condition, the fallen condition of man.
The fallen man’s heart is the seat of the evil as we are informed that, “every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Gen 6:5).
And his heart is described as, “deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked” (Jer. 17:9).
Man is not a sinner because he sins. Rather, man sins because he is a sinner.
The above is not exhaustive. Rather, is more of representative of innumerable others that upon reflection you can add to these. Please, reflection on this small sample.
Are you by any means an abuser of love where God is concerned?
Are you an idolater?
Please, do not wave this off flippantly. Rather, look intently at yourself and the way you are living your life. And if perchance you discover something amiss, please quickly rectify it before it is too late.
I pray the Almighty God will help you to draw the right lessons from what you have heard, and to be in the right relationship with Him in Jesus’ Name, Amen.