It’s not earthquakes, or wars, or supposed events in the heavens. Everyone is talking and writing books about such spectacular signs.
The surprising sign of the last days is … love. That’s right. Here is my text, 2 Timothy 3:1-5.
But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. 2 For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, 4 treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power. Avoid such men as these.
Although Paul says in verse 3 that one of the signs of the end is that people will be unloving, he says in three other places that another sign is love abounding. Men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, and lovers of pleasure. Love abounding – a sign of the end – if not the end of the age, at least the end of our culture and life as we have known it.
Some will reply, “Jonathan, that’s not love.” But Paul doesn’t say that. He calls them lovers. It’s just that the love that springs up in their hearts which is a gift from the God of love is misdirected and misused.
The other day, I posted on Facebook a picture of three homosexual men who were “united” in marriage by a Buddhist monk in Thailand. My comment was that when the definition of marriage ceases to be the union of a man and a woman, then marriage can be anything we want it to be, as long as there is “love.”
The three said, ‘We thought what better way to show our love for each other than by getting married.” The article reported that “The ceremony included the traditional exchange of vows in which the trio declared their love for each other, and in doing so, agreed to share their home and responsibilities.”
Love! Who can argue with this? Shouldn’t people be free to marry the person they love? The former mayor of my city boldly proclaimed this in 2012 at the Democratic National Convention. The audience roared with approval. Of course! It makes perfect sense!
Unless, we have missed a crucial point, that love has limits. Love has boundaries.
The greatest words ever written about love are found in 1 Corinthians 13. It’s not just followers of Jesus who love this chapter but everyone! But when we look closely we find, right in the middle of Paul’s beautiful words, something disconcerting about love. He says in verse 6, “Love … does not rejoice in unrighteousness but rejoices with the truth.” Uh oh. Unrighteousness? You mean there are standards for love? Truth? You mean some people might love what is false?
Yes, in the last days, men (and women) will love the wrong things. I suppose that has always been going on, but the last days scenario is that there will be an acceleration of affection for the wrong things.
May I say here that I am not “gay-bashing”? This is not an article about homosexuality. I could have easily talked about corporate greed for Paul says that men will be lovers of money. But the article in the Daily Mail.com on the three guys prompted all this so I use it as an example to press home this point – God has put love within the hearts of all of us. We are made in his image and because he is a God of love it is natural for us to feel and express love. But because of sin, it is easy for our love to be misdirected or to be expressed inappropriately.
We all smile at little boys who want to marry their mother. It is cute. But these little boys need to have their “mother-love” shaped into an appropriate expression of love. It is not right for little boys to grow up and marry their mothers.
In the same way, the love in all of us must be channeled, directed, nurtured, defined. Love must be seasoned with truth and righteousness. Otherwise, it stands in peril of being misdirected and corrupted. This is why Paul also said, “And it is my prayer your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ.” (Philippians 1:9-10)
Love? Yes! Love abounding? Yes! Love indiscriminately offered to whoever or whatever or whenever? No!
Love must have knowledge and discernment mixed with it so that we might make right choices about love in order to be pure and blameless for Christ. Love must be expressed appropriately.
This is crucial for the times in which we live. We must have love with truth. We must have love with righteous standards. Otherwise, untethered, unanchored love will drift into greater and greater bizarre-ness. And in the end, love will cease to be, and we will cease to be.