“Love means to love that which is unlovable; or it is no virtue at all.” ― G.K. Chesterton
How many Christians have actually analyzed the idea of ‘falling in love’ with the same lens that they bring to so many other issues: baptism, church government, even eschatology? I have a feeling that very few have. If they had I think they would see that phrase very differently, and start to expunge it from their books, articles, and sermons.
What is the difference, in Scripture, between ‘love’ and ‘lust’? Might I propose that one part of the difference, at least, is that one does not ‘fall’ in love; one ‘falls’ in lust.
Lust, as a word, is linked with passivity. Indeed, it is linked with sin, which is, itself, linked with ‘falling’.
When we look at the word ‘fall’ in Scripture, it has some rather negative connotations:
To fall from steadfastness:
2 Peter 3:17-18 Then beloved, you knowing beforehand, watch lest being led away by the error of the lawless you fall from your own steadfastness.
But grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.
To fall under judgment:
James 5:12 But before all things, my brothers, do not swear, neither by the heaven, nor by the earth, nor any other oath. But let your yes be yes, and the no, no, that you may not fall under judgment.
Next is the most positive version of ‘falling’. We are even to count it ‘joy’ when we fall into a trial. Just so, no doubt, we are to rejoice when we are tempted by lust. But our rejoicing must be in our victory over it, not in our succumbing to it!
James 1:2-6 My brothers count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the proving of your faith works patience.
But let patience have its perfective work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.
But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask from God, who gives to all freely and with no reproach, and it will be given to him.
But let him ask in faith, doubting nothing.
Falling into the hands of God, after trampling the Son of God. Not good:
Hebrews 10:29-31 how much worse punishment do you think will be thought worthy to receive, the one trampling the Son of God, and having counted common the blood of the covenant in which he was sanctified, and having insulted the Spirit of Grace?
For we know Him who has said, “Vengeance belongs to Me; I will repay,” says the Lord. And again, “The Lord will judge His people.” (Deut. 32:35, 36)
It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
Falling into disobedience:
Hebrews 4:11 Therefore, let us exert ourselves to enter into that rest, that not anyone fall in the same example of disobedience.
Falling into temptation, and a snare, and foolish and hurtful lusts… which plunge men into ruin and destruction:
1Timothy 6:7-9 For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.
And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.
But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition.
By being diligent we can make sure that we will ‘not ever fall’. Wow:
2 Peter 1:8-10 For these things being in you, and abounding, they will make you not idle, not unfruitful in the full knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
For the one in whom these things are not present is blind, being shortsighted, taking on forgetfulness of the cleansing of his sins in time past.
Therefore, brothers, rather be diligent to make sure of your calling and election; for doing these things, you will not ever fall.
Lust and Sin
So, ‘falling’, in Scripture, is not a very positive word. It is a passive word, and associated with a lot of negative things. What of lust?
Lust, in Scripture, is oft associated with sin. One is enticed by one’s own lust. Drawn away. Then lust conceives, and gives birth to sin, which brings forth death:
James 1:12-15 Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.
Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man:
But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.
Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.
Here someone is not even falling into lust, or being enticed by lust, but ‘walking in’ lust. And the result? Presumption, self will, a lack of proper respect:
2Peter 2:9-10 The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished:
But chiefly them that walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness, and despise government. Presumptuous are they, selfwilled, they are not afraid to speak evil of dignities.
Lust is addressed in one of the ten commandments. That is, not lusting for something that is not ours:
Deuteronomy 5:21 You shall not lust after your neighbor’s wife; nor shall you covet your neighbor’s house, his field, nor his male slave, nor his female slave, his ox, nor his ass, nor anything which is your neighbor’s.
“Do not lust after her beauty.” I want to be careful here. I do not hold, as some Catholics do, that it is immoral for a man to ‘lust’ after his own wife . Indeed, I believe it is commanded (see Proverbs 5 and the Song of Solomon). But what of a woman who is not his own wife? Here we learn that lusting after another man’s wife ‘lacks heart’ and he becomes a ‘destroyer of his own soul’:
Proverbs 6:23-35 For the commandment is a lamp, and the law a light; and reproofs of instruction are a way of life,
to keep you from the evil woman, from the flattery of the tongue of the strange woman.
Do not lust after her beauty in your heart, and do not let her take you with her eyelids.
For on account of a woman, a harlot, a man comes to the last loaf of bread, and another man’s wife hunts for the precious soul.
Can a man take fire into his bosom and his clothes not be burned?
Or can a man walk on hot coals and his feet not be burned?
So is he who goes in to his neighbor’s wife; everyone touching her shall not be innocent.
They do not despise a thief, if he steals to fill his appetite when he is hungry.
But if he is found, he shall restore sevenfold; he shall give all the goods of his house.
He who commits adultery with a woman lacks heart; he who does it is a destroyer of his own soul.
He shall find a wound and dishonor, and his shame shall not be wiped away.
For jealousy is the rage of a man, and he will not spare in the day of vengeance.
He will not lift up the face of every ransom, nor will he consent if you multiply the bribes.
And Christ calls it ‘adultery’. And did you notice that here it doesn’t speak of a married man with a ‘strange woman’, but ‘a woman’. Assuming the Catholic thesis is wrong, this is not speaking of the man’s own wife, but how are unmarried men exempt from this?:
Matthew 5:28 But I say to you, Everyone looking at a woman to lust after her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
“Past feeling…” in context, speaks of the understanding of the life of God, an understanding of the conscience, of the will of God. And the result? They give themselves up to lust. ‘Give themselves up’, a passive statement or, if you will, a statement of passivity.
Ephesians 4:17-19 Therefore, I say this, and testify in the Lord, that you no longer walk even as also the rest of the nations walk, in the vanity of their mind, having been darkened in the intellect, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance which is in them because of the hardness of their heart, who, having cast off all feeling, gave themselves up to lust, to the working of all uncleanness with greediness. (LITV)
Love, in contradiction to lust, is never mentioned as related to ‘falling’; in Scripture, that is; romance novels tell a different story. Indeed, the words that Scripture uses to indicate love are almost always ‘action’ words: deliberate, decisive, and decided actions on the part of the one doing the love.
“let us love”, “And this is His commandment”… told to love, commanded to love, not ‘falling in love’:
1John 3:18 My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.
1John 3:23 And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment.
1John 4:7 Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.
To say one loves God, and to in reality hate one’s brother, is to be a liar:
1John 4:20 If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?
To have liberty, and choose love. To have liberty, and to act lovingly. To have liberty, and to deliberately not choose to walk in the lust of the flesh. To have liberty… exactly that which is denied by the ‘falling in love’ thesis. To deliberately choose… again, explicitly denied by every idea of ‘falling in love’:
Galations 5:13-17 For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.
For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another.
This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.
For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.
The very definition of love is to ‘walk’. To put one foot after another in obedience: To listen, learn, and do:
2John 1:6 And this is love, that we walk after his commandments. This is the commandment, That, as ye have heard from the beginning, ye should walk in it.
The demonstration of love is to ‘keep’ His commandments. Indeed that we not ‘grieve’ in keeping them:
1John 5:2-3 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments.
For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.
Here is an aspect of love we haven’t dealt with yet. Love rebukes and chastens. Proverbs tells us that a son who is not ‘beaten’ is a son who is not loved :
Revelation 3:19 I, as many “as I love, I rebuke and I chasten.” Be zealous, then, and repent. (Prov. 3:12)
And who is it that Christ loved? Someone he ‘fell in love with’? Someone ‘lovable’? Or someone dead in trespasses and sins? We know that Christ loved us because we were chosen for Him by God the Father when we were unrighteous, sinful, filthy:
Revelation 1:5-6 And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood,
And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.
‘Keeping yourself in the love of God.’ Not falling into it, but keeping oneself in it:
Jude 1:20-23 But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost, 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.
How is our love for God demonstrated? When we keep His commandments:
1John 5:1-2 Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him.
By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments.
This is God’s commandment: that if we love Him we must love our brother as wel;:
1John 4:18-21 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. We love him, because he first loved us. If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?
And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.
We ought to love one another. We should do so. It is our moral obligation to do so.
1John 4:11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.
Numbers 11:34 And one called the name of that place, The Graves of Lust; for there they buried the people who lusted.
To summarize: We don’t fall in love, we fall in lust. Love is patient, kind, fears no evil. Love is an attribute we demonstrate by our actions. It is our reaction to God’s work in us. It causes us to walk in His ways, to keep His commandments. Love never fails. You cannot fall into it, you can only be granted it by God. You cannot fall into it, you have to hang on to it.
Lust, on the other hand, is often the first step in sin. We desire. We see something and we want it. And, all too often, we then ignore our conscience, our friends, and our God to get the thing.
Or, sometimes, more subtly, our lust works in the opposite direction. Sometimes we fail to do a good thing because our lust isn’t tickled. Consider Jacob’s unconscionable behavior toward Leah. She wasn’t as attractive to him, so he literally ‘hated’ his first wife, taking a second after a one week honeymoon. How’s that for ‘loving’ behavior?
You can fall in lust. You can wake up one morning, or look across the room at some party, and decide you are looking at a good thing. You can desire that thing. That desire can feel overwhelming. It can lure and entice, it can tempt and destroy.
You can’t fall in love, but you can fall in lust. But you shouldn’t.
“Let us suppose we are confronted with a desperate thing – say Pimlico. If we think what is really best for Pimlico we shall find the thread of thought leads to the throne of the mystic and the arbitrary. It is not enough for a man to disapprove of Pimlico; in that case he will merely cut his throat or move to Chelsea. Nor, certainly, is it enough for a man to approve of Pimlico; for then it will remain Pimlico, which would be awful. The only way out of it seems to be for somebody to love Pimlico; to love it with a transcendental tie and without any earthly reason. If there arose a man who loved Pimlico, then Pimlico would rise into ivory towers and golden pinnacles… If men loved Pimlico as mothers love children, arbitrarily, because it is theirs, Pimlico in a year or two might be fairer than Florence. Some readers will say that this is mere fantasy. I answer that this is the actual history of mankind. This, as a fact, is how cities did grow great. Go back to the darkest roots of civilization and you will find them knotted round some sacred stone or encircling some sacred well. People first paid honour to a spot and afterwards gained glory for it. Men did not love Rome because she was great. She was great because they had loved her.” ― G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy
Written by: Vaughn Ohlman
Approved by: Jeff Woodward