For love is as strong as death, jealousy as cruel as the grave;
Its flames are flames of fire, a most vehement flame.
Many waters cannot quench love, nor can the floods drown it.
If a man would give for love all the wealth of his house,
It would be utterly despised.
(Song of Solomon 8:6,7)

LOVE IS A “DANGEROUS” THING. It is the most powerful force that can operate on our character, and it leaves nothing unchanged. For better or worse, love shapes our character and determines our destiny. Either it lifts us to heaven or it drags us to hell. We may be moved toward God or we may be driven into miserable exile, but love will not leave us where we are.

Two things determine what love will do to us. One is the choice we make as to the objects of our love. If we focus our love upon God and our fellow human beings, love will purify us. But if we allow our love to settle upon either ourselves or the merely material things of creation, then the effect of love will be to destroy us. For example, to those driven mainly by the love of money, James wrote, “Your gold and silver are corroded, and their corrosion will be a witness against you and will eat your flesh like fire” (James 5:3). The fire of love will bless us or blight us, depending upon whether the objects of our love are higher or lower.

But also, our motives for love are critical. If we love primarily for what we can get in return, we will find that love turns out to be a destructive force. But if we learn to love for what we can give, the outcome will be radically different. Jesus taught that it is “more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). And this difference in motive is decisive even when it comes to God. The love of God has a positive effect only when we give our love to Him for His own sake. Whatever benefits we hope to receive, our love for God Himself must run deeper than our desire for any of His blessings. We must not love God for what we can get out of Him.

So let us be careful — very, very careful — about what we love and why. The freedom to choose these things is a part of our glory as personal beings. We’re made in the image of a God who is perfect love, and we flourish only when we love Him rightly. If we fail to love Him rightly, we may still know some sort of love in this world. But that love will be our undoing.

“Love is the fire of life; it either consumes or purifies” (Anonymous).

Gary Henry — +

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