We’ve all heard the song:
Guess it’s true, I’m not good at a one-night stand
But I still need love ’cause I’m just a man
These nights never seem to go to plan
I don’t want you to leave, will you hold my hand?
Oh, won’t you stay with me?
‘Cause you’re all I need
This ain’t love, it’s clear to see
But darling, stay with me
He sure is right — that ain’t love.
With messages like that all around us, no wonder there’s so much confusion about love; usually followed by heartbreak and disappointment.
To rid ourselves from all confusion, there’s nothing better than the Word of God. Coincidentally, today I stumbled upon 2 Peter 1:5-8:
“For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith, goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love.”
This is quite the breakdown. This verse doesn’t start by love, but by a great list of qualities that go first. The even better thing about it: God guarantees that if we possess these qualities, they will also keep us from being ineffective and unproductive in our knowledge of Jesus. What can be better than love that leads to God? Let’s look at these qualities:
Faith is the firm foundation. There are countless verses about faith and how, without it, it is impossible to please God. Faith in who He is and what He’s done comes first. (Hebrews 11:6)
But it’s not only faith. To faith, we need to add goodness. Faith needs to produce actions that bring good, not harm (Prov 31:12). This goodness is also a fruit of the Spirit, so it comes from God (Galatians 5:22-23). Some translations also define goodness as moral excellence.
We need to know God through His word and be in tune on what His will is. We need to add to our actions the knowledge of what He’s revealed, not our own understanding (Proverbs 2:6).
What an important part of love! We need to be self-controlled in our minds (1 Peter 1:13), words (Psalms 141:3, James 1:19), and bodies (1 Corinthians 6:18, 1 Thessalonians 4:3-7, Titus 2:11-14 ). This is also a fruit of the Spirit — a fruit of our relationship with God.
Love doesn’t quit when things get hard, seem to be going nowhere or seem to be getting worse. After all, imagine if Jesus would have quit! When we persevere, we become more like Him (James 1:12)
Godliness happens from the inside out. What is perseverance if we allow bitterness and complaining to rule our minds? (1 Timothy 4:7, 1 Timothy 6:6-7). Godliness is a byproduct of the ongoing purification process of Christ in us. We become godly by denying ourselves, surrendering our flesh and following Him. (2 Corinthians 7:1)
- mutual affection
We finally made it to affection! Aww. But isn’t it interesting how out-of-order we usually understand love? For most people, it starts here. The reality is that affection without faith, goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance and godliness is not the affection that God intended us to have. Affection without having surrendered all the other areas to God is not the meaningful, deep, beautiful, and lasting affection that God wants us to have. There’s nothing like affection flooded with God’s favor. It’s worth it.
And of course, love. Affection was meant to be accompanied by true love. Not pity-parties or convenience, or habit, or even desire. Love is more profoundly defined in 1 Corinthians 13, and it overlaps a lot of the attributes we studied today.