A Study in Values and "Conflicting" Obligations and
Application of These Principles to the Bible's Use of the Words "Love" and "Hate"
- With a Focus on the Issue of "Love"
Notes About This Chart:
1. Our obligation to love God is greater than any other obligation we have. This love is expressed in various ways, such as trust, obedience, humility, moral purity, etc.
2. Our obligations to people (our "Neighbors") applies to both friends and enemies (Luke 10:29-37).
3. For our purposes, "Other Obligations" includes whatever is not mentioned in the above two categories. This may include obligations to one's self; "religious" activities; obligations such as promises and commitments, which are voluntarily made; and any obligations we may have to the rest of creation (animals, plants, etc.).
4. We have no obligation to sin and the Devil, other than that of total hatred, opposition, and avoidance. In many respects, this opposition is actually an expression of love (and obedience) to God, and love for neighbor.
5. If a "conflict" occurs between obligations on two different levels, the higher level must be given precedence over the lower level.
First... WHAT IS LOVE?
This word is often abused and misused. When the Bible uses this word, it is normally used with a focus on others; it is not self-centered. Three of the basic characteristics that are a part of this kind of love are: commitment, care, and, when directed toward God or neighbor, a willingness to sacrifice, or give of, one's self.
The New Testament was originally written in Greek. Two New Testament Greek words are frequently translated as "love" in English translations of the Bible. One of these words refers to a friendship love. The other - the one most frequently found in the N.T., and the focus of this present study - refers to a commitment love.
This commitment love focuses on others and their well-being (including their spiritual well-being). It can be used in reference to the commitment that should exist in a marriage relationship, but it goes far beyond that, applying to all our relationships, to God and to other people. This type of love is not dependent on the response of others; it can exist even in hostile circumstances.
Level 1 - Obligations to God:
We must love God with the totality of our beings - Matthew 22:37; Mark 12:30; Luke 10:27.
We must love God more than we love our closest family members, more than we love our possessions, our own selves, or anything else in creation. When a conflict arises between our love for these and our love for God, we must choose to love God, rather than the rest of these - Matthew 6:24; Luke 14:26-27, 33; 16:13. (See also John 12:25.)
Level 2 - Obligations to Neighbor:
We must love our neighbor as much as we love ourselves - Matthew 7:12; 22:39; Mark 12:31; Luke 6:31; 10:27.
We must be willing to value our neighbor more than we value our own lives - John 15:13; Romans 12:10b; Philippians 2:3(+).
We must be willing to show this love even to our enemies - Matthew 5:43-48; Luke 6:32-35; 10:25-37. (See also 1 John 4:20.)
Level 3 (a & b) - Other Obligations: a) to Self, and b) Any Other Obligations Not Listed Elsewhere:
We do love ourselves, at least in some ways - Ephesians 5:29 (we don't hate ourselves). This is also implied in the "love your neighbor as yourself" passages (Matthew 22:39, etc.). [Note that these passages are not commands to love ourselves. Rather, they express the fact that we do love ourselves. More often than not, our problem is that we love ourselves too much and need to be told to stop doing so (Romans 12:3, Philippians 2:3, etc.).]
[Our focus here is on the relationships between God, people and ourselves. The other things that are included in this category will also have a lower priority, compared to our obligations to God and neighbor. Additional comments about them can be found in PART 6 and PART 7, below.]
Level 4 - Obligations to Sin & the Devil:
[Sin & the Devil must always be hated/opposed/avoided.]
Dennis Hinks © 2001