The world gives us various definitions of love. Love of money, love of sin and love of evil have permeated the ends of the Earth. Man has become a lover of himself and as such ignores the Creator who is the very being of love. The world praises self-love, and uninhibited desires are encouraged to be sought, destroying the image of God in man. We live in a society that has called evil good and good evil, and Satan has been able to succeed at twisting love into his grand design, weaving patterns of deceit at every turn. "Eat, and you shall not die; the doors of knowledge will be open to you and you will be like gods knowing good and evil" was the Serpent's sales pitch to Adam and Eve, and what a sale it was. Inspiration reveals a link to appetite in the allurement of the forbidden fruit, but appetite not only for the mere aspect of food but for every evil ever known. Satan wished to pass down his covetousness of God's position to humankind, and he has largely been successful. In the lives of the unbeliever, self becomes the ultimate being in existence, and as such, no sin is ever too detestable to be committed.
God alone can be the source of ultimate goodness and love. God is not an arbitrary being, making laws one day and casually violating them another. God created laws that everything, both spiritual and natural must adhere to or face dire consequences. It is only in the fact that there is an objective Source of moral values do we understand that there is such a thing as love. There are those that would wish to consign love to a mere emotion evolved to protect us and to ensure the continued survival of our offspring. The prominent atheist biologist Richard Dawkins wrote, "The universe we observe has … no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference." What a sad and depressing way to look at our existence! It would be one thing if it were true, but the evidence points to the idea that it is not! For people like Dawkins, love becomes just another disposable sentiment in the evolutionary chain, and exists only for our survival. Further logical inference would suggest that once one does not need love to survive, one can toss it away into a trash heap. No wonder unbelievers have such a skewed view of love! If love isn't objectively grounded upon God, then love can be redefined to further any person's pleasure to the detriment and loss of their soul.
Scripture tells us,
"This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away." 2 Timothy 3:1-5
If God is the very basis and ground of love, then it cannot be love to leave others to revel in breaking God's Law. Isaiah 58:1 begs of us, "Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and shew my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins." Isaiah isn't admonishing heathens, he is admonishing "the house of Jacob." True love calls for a return to the Source of love, God who is our Creator. True love calls for us to never leave our comrades in arms to the fire of the enemy. "Cry aloud, spare not!"
When rebuking our fellow men on account of sin, we account for ourselves first, for the wounded usually are not able to effectively help the wounded. Jesus Himself told us, "For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye." Matthew 7:2-5
Once we are able to present ourselves in humility before God, then we can work the field and help warn others, gathering them into the corner of safety—the cornerstone of which is Christ, the solid Rock. True love means less of ourselves, prioritizing others instead. The work of preaching righteousness brings with it a possible liability, one that often gets lost among those of us that claim to uphold Present Truth, and that is pride. For one that preaches Truth as it is found in the Word of God, it is unlikely that the temptation will be found in the lust of the eyes or the lust of the flesh. The weakness of the preachers of righteousness is the pride of life. "For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world." 1 John 2:16
General Douglas MacArthur is known as the hero of the liberation of the Philippines in World War II and the genius mastermind behind the Incheon landings during the Korean War that made the communist North Korean Army turn on its heels. But despite of MacArthur's genius, his strategic acumen and leadership ability, he was relieved of his command by President Truman. Writes Matthew Stockner, "MacArthur’s most notable trait as a leader is his pride; MacArthur’s apparent lack of ethical behavior is a result of his arrogance. His insubordination of Truman is a demonstration of his immense pride in his abilities. This trait is an innate facet of his personality and caused both his ascension to greatness and his fall from grace" (Matthew Stockner, “The Ingrained Leadership of Douglas MacArthur,” Undergraduate Leadership Review, Volume III, Issue II, pg. 20, 21).
Writes Ellen White in reference to the parable of the laborers, "This parable is a warning to all laborers, however long their service, however abundant their labors, that without love to their brethren, without humility before God, they are nothing. There is no religion in the enthronement of self. He who makes self-glorification his aim will find himself destitute of that grace which alone can make him efficient in Christ’s service. Whenever pride and self-complacency are indulged, the work is marred" (COL 402).
Theological skill or even articulation in how one expresses the Three Angels' Message is no indicator of righteousness. If we aren't able to exercise humility in character, love of self will be evident, and we become a reproach to Christ. True Christ-like love is the emptying of self, and the putting on of Christ.
We often say that the work of calling sin by its right name should be a work without fear or favor. And it is true, "The servant of God should never allow his own spirit to be mingled with the reproof which he is required to give; but he is under the most solemn obligation to present the Word of God, without fear or favor. He must call sin by its right name" (SDA Bible Commentary Volume 2, pg. 996).
No one should fear rebuke of sin when done in the Spirit of Christ, for only through this can one exhibit the love of God. "There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love" (1 John 4:18). If you fear to warn others, you have no love for them.
Yet we must not make the unsound assumption that all rebuke must be critical, unpleasant, and unruly. This is most definitely not the case. There will be times for tough love—when you are in a foxhole with a fellow soldier and he decides to peek over the top and you hear the whistling of enemy bullets overhead, you would most certainly physically yank down your startled companion to the safety of shelter. But would you physically yank and wrestle your child to the ground if he used your toothbrush by mistake? Is it possible many of those that claim to be Christian “adults” act childish?
Many a time we lack discernment and use inappropriate methods at inopportune times, which leads to division and strained relationships. All because we have become too reliant upon self and perhaps too lazy to ask the Holy Spirit to provide us the proper discernment.
“The manner in which the truth is presented often has much to do in determining whether it will be accepted or rejected” (Testimonies For The Church, Volume 4, pg. 44).
It is to be regretted that many do not realize that the manner in which Bible truth is presented has much to do with the impressions made upon minds, and with the Christian character afterward developed by those who receive the truth. Instead of imitating Christ in His manner of labor, many are severe, critical, and dictatorial. They repulse instead of winning souls. Such will never know how many weak ones their harsh words have wounded and discouraged (Historical Sketches, pg. 121).
We are told, "Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. And of some have compassion, making a difference: And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh" (Jude 1:21-23).
If we are to have the love of Christ, we must abide by His standard of love, not our own. We criticize the world at large for their twisting of love, but have we, who claim to know Present Truth, often ourselves exhibited a godless love at times as well?
Perhaps this could be a litmus test of how Christlike our love is: let's ask ourselves when we preach against others' sins, "Are we willing to lay down our lives for them?" If not, then we do not have the love of Christ who gave His life for us while we were yet sinners. It could very well be that when our sense of duty is imbued with the love of others over the love of being “better” than others, then we will have attained the true measure of godly character.