The American evangelist and revivalist, greatly used of God, Charles G. Finney, writes, “…love…consist in choosing the highest good of God and of universal being, for its own intrinsic value, in a spirit of entire consecration to this as the ultimate end of existence.”
I would like to look at the elements of this statement.
First, “…love…consist in choosing…”
Love does not consist in feeling. Love, as a moral quality, requires choice. Of course, not all choices produce or are a manifestation of love. It involves choice of a very specific sort.
Love is not a natural attribute but a moral decision as God does not command us to have certain natural attributes but rather to make moral choices.
It is the choice of “…the highest good of God and of universal being…”
Establishing the purpose of and pursuing the highest good is at the center of love. This requires wisdom and self-control. One’s initial impulsive response in a situation will rarely involve the highest good. Consequently, one must govern their emotions and their mind in an effort to search out the highest good.
First, we are to aim for the highest good of God. This means we resolve to do what is pleasing to Him, consistent with His truth and guidance. This is based on the fact that He consistently operates in love with greater wisdom than any human being. The phrase “universal being” refers to all others without personal partiality that would lead to exceptions that violate love in the grand scheme. The Biblical statement is, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength (and) love your neighbor as yourself.”
We are to make this choice “…for its own intrinsic value…”
“Intrinsic” means true, genuine, real or inherent in contrast to assigned or created (made up). There is appropriateness, built-in value to pursuing the highest good. Pursuing one’s personal self-interest or the preference of a “special interest group” will not produce the same value or arrive at the same end.
This is to be done “…in a spirit of entire consecration…”
This corresponds with “ALL your heart…ALL your soul…ALL your mind…ALL your strength.” Some assume such a pursuit is impossible. I suggest we view this requirement in light of the following question: “Can you throw a baseball as far as you can throw a baseball?”
Finally, we are to be committed “…to this as the ultimate end of existence.”
The goal of operating in love and producing love is the filter through which all of our choices should be made.