Billy Graham - True Love
Now tonight, I want you to turn with me to the song of Solomon, the song of Solomon. Now that comes right after Ecclesiastes, if you're turning in your Bible and just before Isaiah. It's a short book of only eight short chapters, but one of the most thrilling and one of the most interesting books in all the Bible. But this book is very explicit. It's a thrilling and wonderful story of love, of married love. And the intimacies of married love.
And tonight I want to speak primarily to young people and their parents on the subject of love. And on the subject of falling in love. And your relationship with your parents, and your relationship with your children, and your relationship with your neighbor, as it concerns love. What is love? I suppose the most misused word in all the English language is the word love. And in our generation I don't think we have very much comprehension at all about what love really is all about. You know a young person says, I'm in love. What do they mean? I'm falling in love. Or I love this ring, or I love this sweater, or I love this dress, or I made love last night. We use the same word to describe all kinds of things. It's very much like thank you.
You know a person can give you a lifetime of comradeship and friendship and you say thank you. Or someone gives you a cup of coffee and you say thank you. You don't have a stronger word in the English language. And the English language is quite a limited language in many ways in comparison to some of the other languages of the world. And the word love is one of those words that is misunderstood and misused so much today. And I want to talk about that if I might a few minutes tonight. And in the last chapter (I'm reading from the living Bible), the last chapter of the book of the song of Solomon, the girl or the young bride in this book, it's the story of Solomon and his bride, a Shulamite woman. And by the way, a black woman. This woman here was a black woman. She says several times that she's black. And she was considered the most beautiful woman of her day. And she was Solomon's wife.
And in this book is the conversation between king Solomon and his wife as they discuss their married love together, and the ecstasy of this love, the thrill, the depth, the breadth, and the height of this love is tremendous. And we believe, as Christians, that it's a metaphor, or it's a parable, or it's a story of the love that Christ has for the church. And the Hebrews, the Jews believe that it's the story of God's love affair with Israel. And they are differences of opinion among theologians about it. But certainly both could be true. It's the story of God's love affair with the human race.
The story of God's love for those who love him, whether they're Jew or whether they're Christian or whoever they may be. And it goes into the very depths of love. And it tells us how much God loves us and how much we are to love him. And in this passage the bride is speaking and she says, "Love is strong as death and jealously is as cruel as hell. It flashes fire, the very flame of God. Many waters cannot quench the flame of this love. Neither can the floods drown it. If a man tried to buy it with everything he owned he couldn't do it".
Here was a love that money cannot buy. Here is a love that sorrows and problems and difficulties and temptations cannot destroy. Here is a love that the trials that come in every marriage could not destroy. And money couldn't buy it. That's the kind of love that Solomon and his bride had for each other. Do you love that way? But you know, the whole Bible is a love story. It's God's love affair with the human race. You see, God has all those billions of planets out there, all those hundreds of billions of stars, and it's all God's. But of all the planets in the whole universe, the whole universe stands in awe at the love that God showers on this little planet called the earth.
And I imagine the people who live on other planets wonder why God doesn't sweep this planet of rebellion out into oblivion. We're the only planet, in so far as I know, that are in rebellion against God. And yet in spite of our rebellion, in spite of our disobedience, in spite of our sins, God loves us. That's the thrilling thing about it. And God loves every person in the whole world with a love that is beyond our comprehension. And God proved his love by giving his Son on the cross. If you ever doubt that God loves, look at the cross because God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself. That's the greatest illustration of love in the whole world is the cross. Because God is saying from the cross, "I love you, I love you, I love you".
You and I were saved by the cross. Our Lord loved us so much that he gave his only Son to die on that cross. Now love is not feeling. You say, I feel I love him. It's not feeling, love is doing. Love is a verb: God did something. God gave his love. "God commendeth his love toward us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us". The apostle John looking at that cross said, "Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us". And when you look at that cross and think about it, that the Romans used the instrument of execution on a colossal scale. And they put nails in the hands, and spikes in the feet, and spat on the people, and mutilated the bodies. Broke their legs to help them die quicker, and all sorts of terrible things. The most cruel death in the whole world is the death of the cross. And our Lord was hanging there with the mocking crowd making fun of him. And he hung there for you and you and you. God was saying, "I love you".
Jesus laid down his life for us. And that's the reason the scripture says there's no other way to heaven. You can't be saved any other way. You cannot find life with a capital "L" any other way. You cannot gain entrance to the kingdom of heaven without coming by the cross. Because if God could have found another way, he would have found it.
Now the Greeks had four words for love, that described different kinds of love. We have one word: they had four. One was the word called storgé which carries with it the idea of affection. And I'm going to limit that, it covers many areas. But I'm going to limit it tonight to just family love. Because storgé involves the family. And I want to ask you young people tonight, what is your relationship to your parents? Is there communication between you and your parents?
Now the Bible teaches that young people and children and young adults in the home are to obey the parents in the Lord. And even when you get older, you don't have to obey your parents after you have gone away from home and you're 21 or 22, you don't have to obey them in everything, but you're always, as long as you live, you are to honor your parents. You are to honor your parents even when you're up in years. And then when they get old you're to take care of your parents. You don't hand them over to the state and get rid of them.
You know, we have everything turned around in America from the rest of the world. If you go out to China or you go to Japan and places like that they honor old age. They look forward to the day when they can take care of their elderly parents. We try to get rid of them. It's a part of our selfishness. It's a part of one of our sins. We are to love our parents: we are to obey our parents. We are to honor our parents. And in time, we are to take care of them. You see as Christians, storgé love, family love is affected by God's love. Because God's love comes into your heart.
And the same about marriage. What about your marriage? Your future marriage, I mean. You know I took, as I said once, I took my... I have three daughters, they're all three married. And when they were little I took them down the mountain. And we came to a little place and I said, "Do you girls ever think about the fact that someday you'll get married"? And they laughed. They were ten or eleven years of age, twelve. And they said, "Yes, we think about it sometimes". I said, "Do you realize that your future husband is probably now alive somewhere"? I said, "Do you ever pray for him"? They said, "Daddy"! But before we finished we had a prayer meeting for their future husbands. How about your future husband? Have you prayed for him? Maybe you're just praying, "Lord, send him". Have you prayed for your future wife?
You heard about the girl that went to the palm reader to see if she could find any answer to her problem about not getting a husband. And he said, "You'll be proposed to three times this next year". And she said, "No, I won't, I'm going to accept the first one". But it's not just anybody and it's not just the first one. Because you see, marriage is a life-long commitment and that's why it's so important not to be impulsive about it: be sure that you wait on God's choice. How many young people today are rushing madly into marriage and just as madly out? But when you're a Christian and you're able to commit your future to the Lord, and ask him to bring the right man and the right woman into your life, what a thrilling and wonderful thing it is. And he'll do it. God's love can affect your family love.
And then secondly, the Greeks had another word, the word éros. And the word éros refers to sensual or sexual love. That's where we get the word erotic from. And God's love affects éros. Do you have courage to listen to what the Bible says about éros? Do you want to hear it? The standards set forth in this Bible are not the same as the standards we now have in America. They're different standards. And you've got to decide which one you're going to accept. And I'm not going to water it down. I'm going to tell it to you like the Bible tells it. The Bible says that immorality is sin. But the Bible also indicates that sex is not a sin. It's the wrong use of sex that's sin. Many ancient and many modern writers have held the idea that the body is evil.
George Bernard Shaw once wrote about the tyranny of the flesh. Plato thought that the body was evil. But the body is not evil. The Bible teaches that your body is sacred. The Bible teaches that for the Christian that it's the temple of the Holy Spirit. And that includes your sex as well as every other part of your life. Now there's a distinction in the New Testament. You'll have to watch out. You'll find it, by the way, in this little book we want to send you, the world, the flesh and the devil. There's a difference between the flesh and the body in the scriptures. But a wrong view of the body was responsible, in my judgment, for the suppression of discussions of sex and sex in the last century. That I think caused a great deal of harm, I think there's something good about what we've seen, but we've gone too far in our openness about this subject.
It ought to be discussed, it ought to be preached about and the Word of God should be proclaimed on this subject. Because all the way through the scriptures we have the teachings of God on the subject of sex. The scripture says that Adam knew his wife and they became one flesh. That word knew carries with it the idea of sex. Now why did God give sex? The Bible is clear about that. First, for the propagation of the human race. We're all here because of sex. Second, the climax and enjoyment of married love.
Notice "Married love". God has put a fence around marriage and says, "Thou shall not commit immorality". And then thirdly, to express unity. The unity of the man and the wife. They become one flesh. And it becomes a type of Christ in the church. And it becomes very sacred. But when sin entered the Garden of Eden, sex, which was supposed to be sacred, became perverted and lust came in. So that today something that was supposed to be sacred and wonderful and glorious has been perverted into lust and has become sin. Now why does God say, "Thou shall not commit immorality"? To protect your future marriage.
Secondly, to protect your body. You say, well, my body doesn't need protecting. Don't think it doesn't, VD is sweeping the country. Illegitimacy has doubled in the last two or three years in spite of all of the pills and in spite of all the advance in medicine. It's getting worse instead of better. Thirdly, to protect you psychologically. Psychologists are now finding that that first experience that you have outside of marriage never leaves. That guilt always remains. And guilt is one of the greatest psychological problems being faced in the world today. And then to protect society. If we become immoral as a society we destroy civilization. And we become decadent as they did in Rome and other civilizations, and we're destroyed. So God says, for our own good, "Thou shalt not commit immorality".
Now how can a young person have victory over éros ? The Bible says to "Flee fornication". And the mark of a Christian is self control and self discipline. No way to overcome this tremendous temptation except in Jesus Christ. Paul wrote to young Timothy and said, "Keep thyself pure". You cannot live pure in 1973 or 1974 apart from Jesus Christ. He can give you the strength and the power and the victory to live a pure life. He will help you to flee fornication.
Then there's a third word the Greeks had: philía. That carries with it the idea of very strong friendship. We get our word philanthropy from it. We get our word philharmonic, the love of music, or Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love. And it's the word that Peter used when Jesus asked him if he loved him. And he said, "You know that I love you, Lord". He used this word. But Jesus wanted another word. He wanted a deeper word. You have friends and if you have five close friends in your lifetime, you are a very fortunate person. God called Abraham a friend of God. Are you a friend of God and a friend of Christ? And what about your friends? This means strong friendship. A friendship that endures through thick and thin, that never wavers. Give your life to Christ and he will help you with your friendships.
And then fourthly, agápe love. This is another word that the Greeks used. They invented this word for the New Testament. This is God's love. And God's love affects the family, and God's love affects éros, and God's love affects philía. All the other loves can be influenced by agápe love. Agápe love is a supernatural love. A love that we know nothing about apart from God. It's God's love. It's so deep and so wide and so high and so great and has such dimensions to it that no words in any language can describe it. It's a love that God has for you that in spite of the fact that you were rebelling against him, in spite of the fact that you were a sinner, in spite of the fact that you broke his laws, he gave his Son to shed his blood.
In spite of everything we've ever done, God loves and words cannot describe it. And God says the moment you receive his Son as Savior he gives you the Spirit of God to live in your heart. And the Spirit of God produces this love in you and through you. That's the reason Jesus said, "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself". It's a supernatural love for your neighbor. You may not like your neighbor... But you can love your neighbor. Who is your neighbor? They used to interpret that in the olden days, literally the person that lived next door and that's all. But Jesus told the parable of the good Samaritan. He told about the priest and the Levite that passed by when this man had been robbed and beaten.
And a man of another race came by another ethnic background came by, a Samaritan who was hated by the Jews of that day. And the Samaritans hated the Jews. And Jesus deliberately told the story about how the good Samaritan helped this man that had been beaten and robbed. We can't do that in the world in which we live without God's love. But God will enable you to love beyond your capacity to love. He will help you to love your wife. He will help you to love your husband. He will help you to love your children. He will help your children to love parents with agápe love dominating. "By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples" in that ye have agápe, God's love for each other. This is what helps drive us into evangelism. The love of the souls of men.
A man was on his way to the gallows in England a number of years ago. And as he was on the way to the gallows a clergyman was beside him telling him about Jesus Christ and what Christ could do for him. And how he needed to repent of sins because the judgment and hell lay ahead. And he turned to the clergyman and he said, "Reverend, if I believed what you are telling me I would be willing to crawl across England on broken glass to tell people that". Do you love the souls of men enough that you would be willing to go next door to your neighbor and up and down the streets to tell them about Jesus Christ?
God's love in our hearts produced by the Holy Spirit, supernaturally produced. No, I cannot love everybody. But God can give me the capacity to love everybody. And maybe your wife is irritable, maybe you're irritable. God can take you and change you and transform you. And transform that relationship until you can fall in love all over again. God can take you young people here tonight and forgive your past sins, every one of them. Think of it, every sin forgiven, and make your heart just as clean as it was the day you were born. And resensitize your conscience which is in danger of becoming hardened. And give you a new tenderness. And give you the real meaning of love.
And then when the time comes to find the right person, it'll be the right kind of love. It won't be this impulsive, superficial affection that is sometimes mixed in with lust, that is not real and genuine love. Let Jesus Christ come into your heart. Let him forgive your past sins. Let him change your life. And say from this moment on I want him to be in control of my life. I want him to sit in the cockpit of my life and run it and direct it. I turn my life over to him tonight. I'm going to ask you to get up out of your seat right now, hundreds of you. And come and stand in front of the platform. And say by coming, I want Jesus Christ to forgive my sin. I want to know I'm going to heaven. I want him to take over my life and be the director of my life. We're going to wait and you'll have to go back and around. The ushers will help show you how to come. You get up and come right now.
To you that are watching by television you can see as scores and hundreds of people are coming here in St. Louis, Missouri to make their commitment to Jesus Christ, and to accept God's offer of love and forgiveness and mercy in Jesus Christ. You can make that same commitment where you are. God help you to make that commitment and go to church next Sunday.