What Happened to Love?

What’s wrong with singing about love?

If you’ve been around this site in the past week, you may have noticed that i took several posts to dis modern worship songs.
If you read carefully, you may have noticed that my main complaint was primarily aimed at songs that focus on God’s love.
If you missed those posts, you can find them here:

Perhaps you wonder what is wrong with singing about love. My answer is simple: nothing! There is absolutely nothing wrong with singing about God’s love. God is not upset that we sing about His love. In fact, by the end of this post, i hope you see that i am utterly dead apart from the love of God.

But, as the first post linked above discussed, the plain fact of the matter is that love is not the only topic in the Bible. In that article, i compared the word love with the word holy for the simple fact that both of these words describe God’s nature.

  • Isaiah 6:3 (HCSB)
    And one called to another: Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of Hosts; His glory fills the whole earth.
  • 1 John 4:8 (HCSB)
    The one who does not love does not know God, because God is love.
  • 1 John 4:16 (HCSB)
    And we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and the one who remains in love remains in God, and God remains in him.
  • Revelation 4:8 (HCSB)
    Each of the four living creatures had six wings; they were covered with eyes around and inside. Day and night they never stop, saying: Holy, holy, holy, Lord God, the Almighty, who was, who is, and who is coming.

In these four verses, we quickly see that God’s holiness is emphasized three times as much as God’s love. In my “Worship Leader” post i assumed that the result throughout the Bible would be similar, so i did a search for all the occurrences of the words love and holy, and it came out as follows:

God’s love is spoken of in more ways than simply “I love you,” so doing a search in the Bible for love yields a result of 575 uses in 526 verses. Now before you get your arguments ready, 44 of the verses that contain the word love are found in Song of Songs which is focused entirely on the romantic love between a husband and wife. And, even if i grant that the remaining 482 uses of the word love are used about God’s love toward people (which they are not), that still leaves 30,621 verses in the Bible with no reference to God’s love for people.

This is the most popular topic in our worship songs today, and it is unfortunate, because mathematically the word love only occurs in 1.5% of the verses in the Bible.

The word holy, on the other hand, occurs 639 times in 574 verses. Now sure, it makes it into only 1.8% of the verses in our Scriptures, but it only occurs in 343 songs today compared to the word love which occurs in 1,207 songs today.

I must admit, after i published that post, i realized i only searched for the word love and the word holy. I left out all other forms of love (loves, loving, loved, etc.), and i forgot all other forms of holy (holiness, sanctify, sanctified, etc. [sanctify comes from the same root word as holy, so they belong together]). When these numbers are taken into account, the result is surprising.

All forms of the word love occur 760 times in 665 verses. This means that if 665 of the 31,103 verses speak about love, then about 2.1% of verses in Scripture mention love (and i am not excluding Song of Songs this time).

All forms of the word holy, on the other hand, occur 696 times in 620 verses. This means that if 620 of the 31,103 verses speak about holiness, then only 2.0% mention holiness (and that is rounding up to the nearest tenth of a percent).

I must apologize for being sneaky in the “Worship Leaders” post. Forgive me for not bringing the data 100% accurately.

Love is a more significant emphasis in Scripture than holiness (focusing only on the numbers), though i will still point out that no one ever praises God for being “Love love love,” though they do praise Him for being “Holy holy holy.”

So with that said, there is nothing wrong with singing about God’s love. We must sing about God’s love!

But that does not change the fact that most modern worship songs that make love their focus are far off the mark.

Why is your site entitled “live in Love” if you don’t want to sing about love?

There is nothing wrong with singing about God’s love. We must sing about God’s love!

But that does not change the fact that most modern worship songs that make love their focus are far off the mark.

This is a very valid question, though if we keep in mind my conclusion in the prior section, it behooves us to determine what biblical love looks like. My site is entitled “live in Love; find your true reward,” because apart from the love of God no one will ever reach God.

  • 1 John 4:10 (HCSB)
    Love consists in this: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
  • Jude 1:21 (HCSB)
    . . . keep yourselves in the love of God, expecting the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ for eternal life.

God loved us first. If it were not for His love–sending Christ to earth to die for us–we would be dead and doomed and headed to hell. However, there is more to living in love than just believing one time that Jesus died on the cross for our sins. We must continue in the faith. It’s why Jude writes, “Keep yourselves in the love of God.” This life is about living it. It’s not merely about praying a prayer one time and moving on with your life.

John 3:16–the most famous verse in the Bible–literally reads as follows:

“God loved the world in this way: He gave up His only Son in order that all who are believing in Him might not perish but have eternal life.”

If you currently believe, you can be assured in your salvation. If you only believed in Jesus three years ago on Easter when you went to church, i plead with you to believe again. Make belief your lifestyle!

But let’s look more closely at this love that everyone is enamored with singing about in our Christian culture today. Romans 5:6-10 reads as follows:

For while we were still helpless, at the appointed moment, Christ died for the ungodly.  For rarely will someone die for a just person—though for a good person perhaps someone might even dare to die.  But God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us!  Much more then, since we have now been declared righteous by His blood, we will be saved through Him from wrath.  For if, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, then how much more, having been reconciled, will we be saved by His life!

This is the love that God showed us. This is the love that used to be praised in worship songs of two hundred years ago. However, in recent history, everything has become about my emotions and about feeling good, so instead of explaining why we needed God’s love, God’s love gets emasculated and turned into some weird romantic expression. A favorite song of many, “How He Loves,” is a prime example:

 

(Original version of the song recorded in 2005 by John Mark McMillan.)
If you watch the video and read the lyrics carefully, there is really no content there. It simply repeats the line “How He loves us” until you’re hypnotized into thinking it must necessarily be true, regardless of whether or not you are believing in Jesus.

(Originally written in 1738 by Charles Wesley.)
If you watch this video and read the lyrics carefully, it sounds like an exposition in verse of Romans 5:6-10. This is what our worship songs should sound like.

God’s love is amazing. Modern worship songs have succeeded in making it into something ordinary, and it is a terrible–practically evil–reality. Let’s put the AMAZING back into God’s love!

He did not have to love us, and His love cost Him. It was not an infatuated, teenage girl with a crush, type of love. It was masculine, sacrificing love shown to utterly worthless people.

What should we do then?

With that said, let me propose three actions:

  1. Study love as the Bible defines it.
  2. Write songs that make God’s love look amazing.
  3. Love others in this way.

1. Study love as the Bible defines it. If you would like help in this pursuit, this is one of the primary purposes of this site. “How do we live in love?” Also, there’s no better way to begin learning how to live in love than to study the life of Jesus Christ, who was love incarnate. This Saturday marks the first entry in a new series through the book of Mark.

And if we study love as the Bible defines it, then we will be able to . . .

2. Write songs that make God’s love look amazing. The simple fact of the matter is modern worship songs–for the most part; exceptions exist–are failing in this regard. If biblical love is studied and rediscovered, then worship songs that come out in the future will be of a caliber that God can actually smile upon and say, “They are attempting to understand my love for them (cf. Ephesians 3:16-19).

And if we study love as the Bible defines it, and if we write songs that accurately represent God’s love, then we will be able to . . .

3. Love others in this way. This is the definition of the Christian life. Love God; love others! We must understand, biblically, God’s love for us, and put it into words of praise so that it is internalized. When we do this, we will be better equipped to live the Christian life of love, and thus we will be “living in Love, finding [our] true reward.”

In this with you.

Soli Deo Gloria
Pro Ecclesia
Solus Christus
Sola Fide

Thanks for reading!

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One thought on “What Happened to Love?

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