Lesson 10 - Impersonal and Personal Love

Lesson 10 - Impersonal and Personal Love

Lesson for March 4, 2012

Christian Integrity

Impersonal and Personal Love

Impersonal love is not what we normally think of as love.  It is the virtue in your soul that causes you to have a relaxed mental attitude toward others and treat them with kindness, compassion, patience and forgiveness.  In other words, impersonal love is how we treat others.  Therefore impersonal love must be based on the virtue of the subject; the one doing the loving.  Impersonal love is a function of the Royal Ambassadorship of the believer.  It is our love for God that motivates us to exhibit impersonal love toward all persons, including those who we love personally.  Impersonal love operates from the integrity and virtue that you have developed from learning and applying Bible doctrine.

As a Royal Ambassador, you represent God before the world.  Therefore, as royalty, you are to conduct your life accordingly.  This calls for high standards of excellence in every area of your life.  It calls for honor in your dealings with your fellow-believers and with unbelievers alike.  With Jesus Christ as our example, we are to exhibit the same kind of love that He exhibited.  This kind of love can be accomplished only by a believer with Bible doctrine in the soul, who is being controlled by the Holy Spirit.

When we are properly functioning under the control of the Holy Spirit, we will adhere to the principles found throughout the Word of God.  These principles will enable us to exhibit impersonal love toward others.  This means that we will treat everyone with respect, not on the basis of our “pet prejudices” regarding race, social status, ability or what a person can or cannot do for us. We will refrain from gossip, maligning, judging, character assassination, etc. In other words, we will “live and let live.”  The principle of treating everyone with respect also means that we will be tolerant, be thoughtful and be kind toward others.  We will hold no grudges or resentment against anyone. (I John 4:17-18)

The Word of God teaches us who we are to love. We are to love God, ourselves, and others.  Husbands are told to love their wives, and wives are told to respect their husbands.  Parents are to love their children and children their parents.  We are to love fellow believers.  We are even to love our enemies. (Mark 12:30; Ephesians 5:21-6:4; I John 3:14; Luke 6:27)

The Word of God teaches us how we are to love.  We are to love unconditionally, as God loves.  This means that we are to love others regardless of their race, their beliefs, their language, their place of birth, their body type, the color or style of their hair, their clothes, their behavior, etc.  We are even to love them in spite of their sin.  Our great teacher was the Lord Jesus Christ.  We simply need to practice loving in the same manner as He does. (I John 3:16-24; James 2:1-10)

The Word of God also teaches us why we are to love.  Remember what we have learned about God’s love.  He loves because He has integrity.  Integrity is defined as a state or quality of being complete (God’s love is complete); an unimpaired state of honesty and purity (God’s love is honest and pure); a character of uncorrupted virtue or a loyalty to the truth (God’s love is virtuous and based on truth).  Virtue is strength of character based on objective reality.  Since God is all of these and more, the objective reality is that He is love.  We love because God first loved us. (I John 4:7-11)

Since the entire Godhead indwells each of us as believers in the Christ, God’s love also abides in us.  The question is, “How do we get God’s love out of us so that it benefits us, and others?”  This is what we have studied with regard to the character of Christ being formed in us.  Under the filling of the Holy Spirit, God is able to produce the fruit of the Spirit in the life of the believer.  The first fruit listed is love. (Galatians 5:22-23; I John 4:11-16)                

No one can execute the Christian Way of Life without love.  This includes love for God, love for yourself and love for others.  This is the correct order in which we are to love - God first, ourselves second and others third.  Why is this true?  The Bible says that if we are unable to love our fellowman we cannot love God.  Therefore the opposite is true; only by loving God can you have unconditional love for others.  The Bible also says that we are to love our neighbors as ourselves, which means that love for self precedes love for others.  As a matter of fact, love of self teaches us how to love others. (John 15:10; I Corinthians 13:1-3; I John 3:16-24; [Matthew 7:12, Luke 6:31 – The Golden Rule])

The World System implies that “love” means that we enjoy someone, admire them, that they make us happy, that they treat us nicely, etc.  It is easy to love someone like this. 

The challenging kind of love is unconditional love.  Unconditional love is loving someone that we don’t enjoy, that we don’t admire, that does not make us happy, that does not treat us nicely, etc.  Developing and learning to utilize unconditional love as a “tool” in our daily experience is of utmost importance for a victorious Christian life.  This requires setting aside our emotions and instead thinking and applying Biblical principles in order to produce right attitudes.  Right attitudes will produce right behavior. 

Loving others unconditionally often requires adjusting and adapting to others instead of expecting others to adjust and adapt to us.  This does not mean that we condone bad behavior; rather it means that we love others in spite of their behavior.  After all, we don’t know what a person has gone through or is going through that is affecting their behavior (“walk a mile in my shoes”).  Unconditional love is selfless love - loving without asking “what’s in it for me.” 

We must learn to have a relaxed mental attitude, to “live and let live” and to stop judging others and allow others the “right to be wrong.”  We cannot control the behavior of others, but we can control our own.  Since we are only responsible for our behavior, we have no pressure to try to change or control anyone.  A relaxed mental attitude towards others contributes to both our health and our happiness.  We can only possess this relaxed mental attitude as we begin to mature spiritually. (I Thessalonians 4:9-12; I Peter 3:8-16; James 2:1-9)

Maturing spiritually requires the application of the Bible doctrine that you have learned.  This means we need to train ourselves, replace old bad habits with new habits consistent with our new spiritual nature.  We accomplish this under the control and guidance of God the Holy Spirit.  When this occurs, the Holy Spirit is able to produce the character of Jesus Christ in us. (II Corinthians 5:17; Romans 12:1-2; Hebrews 5:14)

God’s love is always based on His integrity.  All of God’s attributes work together as one cohesive system designed to empower the believer in the execution of His plan, purpose and will.  Therefore, divine love cannot operate independently of His integrity.  Many believers today have “created” God in their personal image.  They often ascribe to God their own superficial, emotional love and call it “the love of God.”  God is not sentimental about us.  He does not love us because we are “lovable.”  God loves the believer because he possesses the righteousness of God.  (John 4:7-12)

Only inside of God’s power system can the believer exhibit impersonal love for others.  Our strength to love another person comes from the integrity we develop from the study and application of God’s Word.  This is how human integrity is able to fulfill divine integrity.  God is the source of love and we take our precedence for loving others from Jesus Christ.  Everyone in I John 4:7, refers to the “beloved,” which means believers.  Remember, John is teaching Christian love, therefore only Christians can exhibit God’s love (born of God).  And only by knowing the doctrine of impersonal love can the believer apply the doctrine.  Impersonal love is how we regard others and often involves being tolerant of others despite their behavior, their personality or their beliefs.   Our attitude should always be the same that Christ exhibited toward others.  The ultimate demonstration of impersonal love was Christ’s attitude on the Cross when He said, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:24)

The unbeliever does not have the ability to exhibit God’s love.  It is the power of God the Holy Spirit that enables believers to exhibit this kind of love.  However, God invented all categories of love, even human love.  Capacity for human love involves thought and emotion.  For the believer, his human love should be on a higher plane than the unbeliever, since he has the potential for increased capacity through the utilization of Bible doctrine.  God’s love is the pattern for human love.

God has not only provided eternal salvation for the believer, He has also given him a system of love in which to live his life.  John 3:16 tells us about this love that God has for the entire human race that caused Him to send His uniquely born (only begotten) Son to provide eternal life for those who believe in Christ.  John 10:10 tells us about the life that God wants the believer to live after salvation.  Only within God’s power system can the believer enjoy the abundant life spoken of by Jesus in this verse.

The Greek word for propitiation is “hilasmos” and means to appease the wrath of an offended party or to satisfy the just demands of someone that has been offended.  The Greeks used the word for appeasing their pagan gods.  A Greek person thought that he had to do this by some “righteous” act, which would demonstrate his true “good” character.  (I John 2:2)

The perfect substitutionary payment for sin that propitiated the righteousness of God was accomplished by a Person of perfect character.  This Person, of course, is Jesus Christ.  As deity, Christ was not able to sin and as humanity, He was able not to sin.  Therefore, He went to the Cross in a state of sinless perfection.  We must remember that Christ in His humanity could have sinned and was tempted to do so on many occasions.   In His humanity, He endured much greater temptations and testing than we will ever face, and yet He was able to refrain from any form of sin (even mental attitude sin). 

God is justified in imputing (crediting) His righteousness to sinful man because of propitiation.   Only by possessing the righteousness of God can a person spend eternity with a holy God.  Man’s righteousness falls well short of the perfection needed to enter Heaven.  However, God is free to give His righteousness to all who believe in Christ because His righteousness and justice have been satisfied by Christ’s death. (Romans 10:4; II Corinthians 5:21)

Divine love expresses the deep, constant love and interest of a perfect God towards imperfect, and therefore unworthy, objects (unbelieving mankind).  Upon faith in Christ, this love and interest has the potential of producing in these now perfect and worthy (positional sanctification) objects (believers) a love towards God.  In turn, God’s love is able to produce in the life of the believer virtue-love towards others.  Virtue-love is a synonym for divine love.  Virtue-love is love based on the virtue of the one doing the loving.  This virtue-love desires to see others come to know the source of this love. (I John 4:18-21)

Under the control of the Holy Spirit, divine love can be reproduced in the life of the believer.  This is impersonal love (unconditional love), whether exercised towards believers or unbelievers and is NOT emotional; it is a matter of the right mental attitude.  It does not depend on the “love-ability” or compatibility of the object.  This love seeks the welfare of others.  (Romans 13:8-10, 15:1-3; Galatians 6:10; Colossians 3:12-13)