As referenced in our previous post, Charles G. Finney states, “…love…consists 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.”
The portion of this definition we will consider now is, “…the highest good of God and of universal being…”
To aim for the greater / highest good is contrary to aiming only for one’s personal well-being. This is a central characteristic of love. The apostle Paul states, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others” (Phil.2:3-4). This requires wisdom and self-control. One’s initial, impulsive response in a situation will rarely involve the highest good. Consequently, one must govern both emotions and 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 revealed truth / will and His 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 that communicates the same idea 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.” This requires that we use the natural attributes and abilities God has given us in order to make proper, intelligent moral choices regardless of how we might feel about something or someone.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of Your Father who is in heaven…” (Mt.5:43-45).