Some time ago, as I was reading in my Bible the definition of love found in 1 Corinthians chapter thirteen, I had a revelation. I suddenly realized that the opposite of love is not hate, as I had supposed, but rather selfishness or self-centeredness. Hate is simply a byproduct of selfishness, which is the absence of real love. Love, in the biblical sense, means putting other people first. It means that their feelings, their well-being and their needs will be placed ahead of our own. If such is not the case then we do not really love them, we just love ourselves and want what they are able to give us.
The Bible, of course, teaches that we are able to love all other people. Jesus told the story of the Good Samaritan who went to great expense and effort to help a perfect stranger who was in need. Jesus said that the Samaritan had showed love, even though he had never met the man and apparently would never see him again. This story is a perfect example of true love. The kind of love God demonstrated toward us when He gave His Son to die in our behalf.
In 1 Corinthians chapter thirteen (the passage that brought me the revelation concerning love's opposite) we find that love is kind and never cruel, courteous and never rude, humble not proud, patient always without envy. Love is exactly what the world needs. We need to manifest true and unselfish love and concern for the welfare of every other person in this world. We do not find happiness by being selfish and unthoughtful of the needs of our fellow men. The pain of those around us touches us. Ultimately we can only rise if we rise together.
The message of the cross of Jesus is simply the message of God's love for us. We (all of mankind) were in trouble, trouble of our own making. We were lost, separated from God and heading for an eternal grave. God, however, demonstrated His willingness to make our problem His concern and to go to extreme lengths to help us. Why? Because He loves us. Even when we are oblivious to His existence, He loves us. Even when we mock Him and rebel against Him He continues to hold out His hand to us. He knows that, even as you seek after your own selfish desires, it is really love that you need and He is willing to provide it for you. We were created to be loved by Him and, by receiving His Spirit of love into ourselves, to love in return. Only love will make the world a better place. It is man's self-centeredness that has turned it into a battleground.
The Rev. Patrick Brayton is pastor of Valley Chapel.