Love that Never Dies

original photo credit: Yale Law Library via photopin cc
original photo credit: Yale Law Library via photopin cc

Critics of the modern Christianity often complain that our modern Bibles lose something in meaning due the difficulties of language translation. In part, they are correct—although I have found that digging deeper into the original languages is common practice for most of the scholars and pastors who approach Bible interpretation with a great deal of care and humility.

There is one particular Hebrew word, extensively used throughout the Old Testament, that is rich with meaning but does not translate well into English. The Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains (DBL Hebrew) defines the Hebrew word hesed (also spelled chesed) as:

loyal love, unfailing kindness, devotion, i.e., a love or affection that is steadfast based on a prior relationship [1]

One of the best known uses of this ancient word can be found in the sixth and final verse of the much loved twenty-third Psalm:

photo credit: Waiting For The Word via photopin cc
photo credit: Waiting For The Word via photopin cc

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days of my life;
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord
Forever. (NKJV)

The word translated as “mercy” here is actually hesed. Various versions of the Bible also translate hesed as “love” (NIV), faithful love” (HCSB), “unfailing love” (NLT), and “lovingkindness” (NASB). As you can see, limitations in the English language make it difficult for us to get a full understanding of the word’s intended meaning.

Adding yet another layer of significance to Psalms 23:6 is the Hebrew word for “follow” (yirdpuni), which, according to the DBL Hebrew can be translated to mean chase, pursue, and even hound.[2] Do you see it? God’s faithful, undying love will pursue His children all of the days of their lives! God loves everyone ever born, but His hesed is now only fully expressed to those who have entered into a New Covenant relationship with Him through faith in Jesus Christ. What an amazing privilege it is for us to be the apple of God’s eye!

photo credit: Candida.Performa via photopin cc
photo credit: Candida.Performa via photopin cc

Plumbing the depths of God’s undying love for His children, however, is not my primary purpose for addressing this concept. The nature of New Covenant Christianity merits a paradigm shift from following lists of rules (in order to gain God’s acceptance) to returning God’s faithful love with a faithful love of our own. Just as two married people are to be faithfully devoted to one another for all of their days, so, too, God’s children are to practically live out their love for their Lord and Savior.

There is nothing nebulous about genuine love. God’s grace both frees us and compels us to live in a manner which is very different from the cultural mindsets that constantly seek to define us. The Christian life is in no way defined by adherence to the Mosaic Law, but by a faithful covenant love that finds its expression in three specific areas as identified by three Greek words for love –agape, philia, and eros—that were used in the writing of the New Testament.

Over the next several posts, we’ll use this foundation to build a framework by which we can see how New Covenant love is to govern the manner in which we live out our Christian faith. I know I’ve gone a tad technical with this post, but this stuff is too good (and important) to ignore!


[1] Swanson, J. (1997). Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains : Hebrew (Old Testament) (electronic ed.). Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

[2] Swanson, J. (1997). Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains : Hebrew (Old Testament) (electronic ed.). Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

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What Does Real Love Look Like?

Photo by Kevin Connors - morgueFile

Have you ever wondered what real love looks like? I’ll bet you know for sure what it doesn’t look like!

When queried about the greatest commandment, Jesus was quick to reply that loving one’s neighbor as  one’s self was a close second to loving God with all of one’s heart. Admittedly, this type of love has a few loopholes. Some of us don’t seem to like ourselves very well. There certainly is no scarcity of self-condemnation among Christians these days. And so with only a little manipulation we’ve managed to translate “love your neighbor as yourself” into “just do the best you can in being nice to others.” This, of course, is doable most of the time—that is unless I dislike the other person or I have a bad hair day—at which time God graciously winks at my failure, because after all, nobody’s perfect.

But then, just after His betrayal by Judas, Jesus went and upped the stakes!

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34-35 (NASB)

Either Jesus didn’t have bad hair days or He didn’t allow them to influence His attitudes and actions. Jesus always loved others. No loopholes! The truth is that real love isn’t interested in loopholes even if they do exist.

Something tells me that most people tend to view a covenant as a super-glued commitment. We may dislike each other, but we signed on the dotted line and so we’re in this together come hell or high water. Such a perspective totally misses the essence of a God-inspired covenantal relationship. Real love is what makes a Biblical covenant work.

Long before he became the king of Israel, David entered into a covenant with Jonathan, the actual heir to Saul’s throne. God knit their hearts together and Jonathan was willing to surrender his right to the kingship because he recognized God’s call on David’s life.

Photo Courtesy of the Mephibosheth Foundation (http://mephibo.org/)

Years later, after Saul and Jonathan had died in battle, David asked, “Is there yet anyone left of the house of Saul that I may show him kindness for Jonathan’s sake?” 2 Samuel 9:1 (NASB)

David found Mephibosheth, Jonathan’s crippled son who had nothing to offer the king except possible competition for his throne. Rather than kill the potential competitor as kings are wont to do, David lifted Mephiboseth out of the mouth of shame (the probable meaning of his name) to a place of highest honor and treated him as one of his own sons.

The Hebrew word translated as “kindness” is chesed, which has no good equivalent in English. In addition to kindness, various versions translate it as love, mercy, faithfulness, lovingkindness, steadfast love, faithful love and unfailing love.

Chesed is a real, devoted love based on a prior relationship; a love that forever looks for opportunities to help and to bless. David’s covenant love for Jonathan led him to seek out and honor Jonathan’s son Mephibosheth.

Where did David get this type of love? He was shown it by his heavenly Father! Chesed permeates the Old Testament, and in most cases, refers to God’s love for His covenant children—a love that never fails and never fades—and most certainly—a love without loopholes. It’s this type of Gorilla Glue love that Jesus calls us to show to our brothers and sisters in Christ.