I completed this assignment for Theology class about three weeks into the term. The point of this assignment was to reflect on certain principles and ideas that had been touched on in our Theology class so far. We were not supposed to just restate the thoughts in our course materials, but instead were to make the ideas our own, reflecting upon them in our way. I was allowed to do this paper in APA format, but because theological papers are usually done in MLA, I decided to give it a try. It is not my favorite style, but it was good for me to do something different. Also, the only materials I referenced at the end were those that were not from this course–those sources are cited with in-text citations but do not have references at the end. I received a grade of 100% for this paper. My teacher said it was exactly what she had been looking for.
Love & Morality
True love and morality cannot exist without each other. In the absence of morality, pure and holy love will never be found. Where unselfish love is present, morality in thought and action always follows. Yet, one must have an ultimate standard by which to discern between right and wrong and selfish love and selfless love. The only standard which has stood the test of time is the Word of God. The Bible defines immorality as disobedience to God’s law. “Sin is the transgression of the law” (King James Version, 1 John 3.4). Etzel and Gutierrez confirm this in Praxis: Beyond Theory when they state, “The Bible calls disobedience to the commands of God, sin” (65). The very essence of this law is love. As this paper explores the theological definitions, biblical foundations, and practical applications of love and morality, it will become apparent that the link between both is found in God’s law.
Theological Definition. “Love can be known only from the actions it prompts. God’s love is seen in the gift of His Son . . . . [This] was an exercise of the divine will in deliberate choice, made without assignable cause save that which lies in the nature of God Himself. . . . Christian love has God for its primary object, and expresses itself first of all in implicit obedience to His commandments” (Hogg and Vine, quoted in Vine, Unger and White, 382).
Biblical Foundation. In Scripture, love is a profound and beautiful concept. “God is love” (New King James Version, 1 John 4.8). Love is not just what He does, it is part of His character. It was because of God’s tremendous love for mankind that He sent His Son, Jesus, to redeem the fallen race (John 3.16; Rom. 5.8). He asks us to show our love for Him by obeying His commands: “If you love me, keep my commandments” (John 14.15). His commandments are a transcript of His character (“The Death of Christ”—week 4 online article, 6), which is a character of innate love. The commandments give us practical examples for loving God and loving others—for reflecting the love of God. The Bible is very clear that if we do not love others, we cannot claim to truly love God (1 Jn. 4.20). Yet, this love is not a forced quality that is maintained outwardly because of fear. On the contrary, “We love Him because He first loved us” (1 John 4.19). When we have accepted His love into our hearts, then and only then can we go on to love others, love God, and obey His commandments (1 John 5.3).
Practical application. Love has become a cliché in today’s society. One can love mashed potatoes, love their car, love their dog, and love their spouse. Love in many people’s eyes is made up of warm feelings and mushy emotions. “The Material and Immaterial Aspects of Man” (week 3 online article) explains that the love is an emotion of the heart, the very place God wants to write His commandments. The article goes on to explain that the heart also houses the conscience, the aspect of the being that discerns right from wrong—morality from immorality. Without any objective law to govern the heart, the conscience and the human’s expressions of love can only be guided by personal opinion. This is very shaky ground, at best, to live one’s life on. True love is the choice to follow God and obey His Word even when one does not feel like it.
Theological Definition. “Moral truths are not just a matter of opinion or personal taste. The Bible teaches that there is an absolute moral law written upon the hearts of all men. The moral law is given by God and derived from His character. It is known by all men everywhere and is absolute and unchanging” (Hayes, 357).
Biblical Foundation. The biblical foundation for morality is found in God’s law. The Ten Commandments (Ex. 20.1-17) highlight acts towards God and man that are morally wrong. However, that is only the surface of morality and God’s standard of righteousness. Morality has far deeper applications. Jesus points out that the commandments apply even to the thoughts and motives of the heart, not just the outward actions (Matt. 5). Elsewhere in Scripture, the Ten Commandments are summarized in two injunctions: love for God and love for fellow man (Luke 10.26, 27; Matt. 22.36-40). It is also clearly shown that God intended that this law of love be written on the hearts of His children (Jer. 31.33). From a biblical standpoint, morality is not just a list of ten outward actions to avoid—it is a condition of the heart obtainable only through the presence of the indwelling Christ.
Practical application. Apart from God and His Word, morality does not make much sense. Those who reject the Bible, yet still try to maintain moral standards have a hard time implementing them (Hayes, 355). Modern thought has claimed that morality is “subjective.” Yet, no one seems to be able to agree on whether it should be based on the majority rule of society or on each individual’s personal choice. At the same time, most people want others to treat them in an objective fashion, despite their wishes to treat others in a subjective fashion. The result is confusion. Someone I know once stated, “I believe that morality is objective… but that each person decides for himself what his own objective moral code will be.” In other words, without realizing it, he was saying that he believed that morality is subjective. Such is the confusion that results from having no set standard for right and wrong. On the other hand, those who look to the Bible for the ultimate standard of right and wrong have a reliable, universal, and fixed standard for morality.
A clear link exists between unselfish love and morality and God’s law. There is an idea among many Christians today that God’s law has been done away with and is no longer binding on New Testament Christians (Our View of Jesus—week 4 video). It is certainly true that Christians no longer need to observe the ceremonies, sacrifices, and feasts of the Mosaic Law, all of which were “shadows” or symbols that pointed to Christ (Col. 1.16-17). However, it is ridiculous to try to throw out the moral law—the very foundation of God’s government. In fact, it is impossible. God’s moral law found in the Ten Commandments can no more be done away with than can the very character and being of God, for it is a blueprint of His righteousness. Without the law, there would be no standard for morality or for true love. Those who try to claim that God’s law is no longer binding do not realize that they will be judged by that same law (James 2.8-12). Towns in His book Core Christianity explains that the reason many atheists reject Christianity is because “if they believed God created man, they would be obligated to live by the laws of that Creator” (88). Christians today should be careful that they do not join the atheist community in trying to justify sin by doing away with God’s law. The only standard of morality and love that can provide universal guidance for all humanity is the Ten Commandments, found in Exodus and expounded on throughout the rest of Scripture.
Outside Works Cited
King James Version. Bible Gateway. Web. 2 Feb. 2015
Hayes, Shawn. “Moral Law.” Hindson, Ed and Ergun Caner. The Popular Encylopedia of Apologetics. Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 2008. 353-357. Print.
New King James Version. Bible Gateway. Web. 2 Feb. 2015
Vine, W. E., Merril Unger and William White. Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1985. Print.