An honorable Christian Man cultivates healthy loves.
Yes, you read that right: “loves.” There are many things that call for our love. Real mean are lovers, but we are called upon to love the right things and in the right ways. In order to avoid any sappy or fantastical ideas of love, you need to understand what healthy love looks like. Even the word “healthy” is important. It is that which is free from illness, or disease. It could be described as a pure love, a robust love, or a wholesome love. To practice the kind of love that is spiritually healthy is to practice the kind of love that is free from spiritual bacteria, disease, or contaminants. While many people in our world may crave for this kind of love, very few find it. The reason for this is because they seek it in all kinds of wrong ways and from all kinds of wrong sources. Also, their definition of this kind of love is skewed. Therefore, many people in our world never understand what healthy love is, what it looks like, and therefore never find it themselves.
For the Christian man, it should be obvious that if our hearts and minds are going to be shaped properly with regards to having healthy loves, then they must be shaped by the right things. A woodworker must have the proper tool if he is to shape the wood the way he wants it. The same thing holds true spiritually as well. If our hearts and minds are going to be shaped properly by God, then the proper tool must be used. Without question, the foundational tool to teach us what healthy loves look like is God’s Word. Consequently, a healthy love is that which is shaped by and conforms to the ideas put forth in God’s Word. If, however, our love for something or someone does not conform to God’s Word, it is, by definition, an unhealthy love.
What Biblical Love is Not
As Christian men, we must cultivate a love that is biblically informed, free from contamination, and honoring to God. While we are bombarded with all kinds of pictures of love through the various entertainment outlets, we must root our understanding of biblical love firmly in the soil of the Bible, allowing it to inform our minds, to shape our desires, and to drive us to actively pursue healthy loves in our lives. Perhaps there is one characteristic to highlight here that would lead out to all other kinds of unbiblical notions of love.
Biblical Love is Not Selfish
First Corinthians 13 is God’s divine definition of love. There are sixteen specific descriptions of love in this text. Love is all of them together. There is not one kind of love that is patient, and another that is kind, etc. Love, the kind that God is and that God expresses, is all of these at one time in full perfection. While each aspect is deserving of in-depth study, one stands out for our purpose here. Verse five tells us that love “does not insist on its own way.” Love is not selfish.
Men, we must face the reality that we are selfish creatures by nature and by choice. We struggle with selfishness more often than we want to acknowledge. We are selfish with our time, with our relationships, with our television viewing, with our hobbies, and with a host of other things.
Even as Christian men who claim to know and love God, we regularly and perhaps even defiantly, practice a selfish love towards others. We make demands of our spouses that will simply gratify our own selfish desires. We selfishly bully our children into being our slaves in different ways, making demands of them that we would never make for ourselves. We selfishly use people in the work place in order to scheme things for our own benefit. We selfishly entertain ourselves with things we ought not. We refuse to help out our wives around the house. The list could go on and on. Selfishness is antithetical to biblical love. It has no place in the pursuit of biblical love. Selfish love is not healthy. Selfish love is not honoring to God.
King David, though a man after God’s own heart, struggled with selfish love in at least one instance. When he viewed Bathsheeba from his balcony, he saw a beautiful woman, and selfishly lusted after her. He did not even know who she was. After hearing that she was the wife of one of his most trusted mighty men in his army, he did not deny his selfish pursuit, but ordered her to be brought to him in secret. He committed adultery with Bathsheeba. In so doing, he impregnated her, then deceived the nation, and even had her husband Uriah murdered (2 Samuel 11). This was an incredibly selfish act. This was not love, but shameless lust for a woman who was not his to love. Though he was King, his position before God did not allow him the freedom to do these atrocities. In that time period, though it was culturally acceptable to do the kind of thing that David did, it was not acceptable to God, and was therefore sinful.
Men, it is time that we do away with our selfish lusts and realize that they are not healthy. Selfishness (expressed in a multitude of ways) does not promote godliness, holiness, purity, or real manliness. It also does not grow the kind of loving relationship God desires you to have with your wife and children. Selfishness only promotes hardship and destruction. Our culture promotes and accepts a selfish kind of love. In fact, it is virtually the only kind of love it knows.
Many Christian men have bought the lie of the worldly culture, believing that because it is acceptable to others, that it is “only natural,” that it is therefore permissible before God. Since when is selfishness ever acceptable in God’s sight? Since when is it ever acceptable for a man to selfishly lust after a woman who is not his wife, indulge himself sexually with her, and go on as if nothing is wrong? Yet that is what many men are doing today – not only in the world, but even in our churches. My brothers, these things ought not so to be!
Men selfishly sit in front of a computer screen, or mobile device, or television, and allow their fleshly appetites to gorge on the muck and mire of the world. Ridiculous!
Men selfishly refuse to interact with and cultivate healthy relationships with their wives, and instead satisfy themselves in some selfish way. In their selfish and unbiblical thinking, they believe it is more enjoyable for them to gratify themselves than it is for them to build intoxicating and satisfying relationships with their wives. That is hog-wash!
Men selfishly disengage from family time to spend time with “the boys” and indulge in primate-like behavior, while listening to, and even participating in degrading language about their wives or women in general. Disgraceful!
The world preaches a message of selfish indulgence in all things while the Bible preaches a message of self-denial and delayed gratification. We deny ourselves because we are not the biggest deals in the world. Selfishness has an over-inflated view of self. It cannot love biblically. Therefore, it must be put to death. Our minds must believe that biblical love is not selfish; our hearts must embrace the fact that biblical love is not selfish; and our wills must choose to display lives of biblical love rather than selfish pursuits. We must value what God values, and refuse what God says to refuse.
A selfish love will destroy your life individually as it nearly destroyed King David’s. It will destroy your marriage, as it has for countless marriages ending in divorce. It will destroy your family, as it continues to do throughout our country, and even within the church. It will destroy your Christian testimony and any effectiveness in your Christian witness. The reason for this is because selfishness refuses to truly promote the things of God. For the selfish person, religion is useful as a means of satisfying some selfish desire. Biblical love, however, and biblical Christianity, is not selfish.
This selfishness in love plays out in a variety of ways. We can show love to someone, only to try to receive something in return. We can selfishly indulge in the pornographic industry. We can adopt the Hollywood version of love, which is lust on steroids. But God’s Word teaches us a different kind of love; a love that emulates the love of God that is giving, sacrificial, and willful.
As Christian men, we must understand the kind of love that God describes in the Bible and seek to cultivate that kind of love in our marriages, in our homes, and in our churches. Too often, we are content with a cheap, hollow kind of love that we think is enough, but there is no real commitment or biblical understanding. This needs to change.
As men who strive to live honorably before God and men, let us cast aside the selfish, unbiblical love, and beg for God’s help in cultivating biblical, healthy loves in our lives for the glory of God.
Taigen Joos is the pastor of Heritage Baptist Church in Dover, NH. He blogs here, where this article first appeared. It is republished here by permission.