Before I continue on in this post, I want you, my readers, to know that I do not consider myself an authority on this subject of love, by any means. Over the past several months, the Lord has graciously been revealing to me not only how I have severely lacked in this area, but also how vastly important and greatly significant it is for my life. It is my prayer and hope that the words I write are sound, but most importantly that they cause you to have a greater desire to know Jesus and seek Him with Your whole heart, mind, soul and strength.
In my previous two posts, I shared a few thoughts on Paul’s writings to the church at Corinth on agape love, specifically, the importance of love in our lives and how, without it, we are nothing. No matter what skills we may have, what language we may speak, what wisdom we may possess, or what “works” we might do for others, if we don’t have love, we have gained nothing and all our efforts and pursuits are meaningless.
Reason to Love
Before I jump into answering the question, “How shall we then love?” I want to first address the “Why?”
Why should we love one another? Why is this agape love so important?
“For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and He died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for Him who for their sake died and was raised.” (2 Corinthians 5:14-15 ESV)
In this passage Paul helps us understand something very deep and critical to the Christian life, namely, that Jesus laid down his life so that we would not live for ourselves anymore. His death and resurrection conquered the power of sin and death in our lives and by this great grace, enables us to live to God. This echoes Paul’s words in Romans 6:4, “We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.”
The gospel of Jesus changes everything. The gospel can completely transform us from living a life insisting on our own ways–worshipping at the altar of Self–to a life of self-sacrifice that is lived unto God. In the latter, we find life.
“For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” (Matthew 16:25 ESV)
The old life is one lived for Self. The new life is one lived to God. Why? Because Jesus died for you and for me. He paid the greatest price to ransom our souls from the jaws of death. How could you not love Him?
It is for this reason, and through their faith (Paul and Timothy) in believing, that Paul says Christ’s love controls or impels them. Christ’s love is the motivation for their actions.
When this is true of our lives, we are freed from the need to justify our sinful reactions towards others because agape love is not dependent on the actions (whether right or wrong) of others, but solely upon the person and character of Jesus Christ.
This is bad news for our flesh: there’s no excuse to withhold love. This is good news for our souls: we have been given life eternal and are able to love like Jesus because of His grace and strength that He works within us. We have been set free!
How Shall We Then Love?
Continuing where we left off in 1 Corinthians, Paul gives us some very practical insight into the characteristics of agape love.
“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8a ESV)
Borrowing from a previous post, I’ve broken this verse down and provided some dictionary definitions of these various fruits of love:
Love is patient – persevering, not easily provoked, constant, calmly diligent, not revengeful)
Love is kind – disposed to do good to others, having tenderness of nature, benevolent
Love bears all things – to support or sustain, to suffer without resentment, to have patience
Love believes all things – to have a firm persuasion of any thing, to hold as the object of faith
Love hopes all things – highest degree of well founded expectation of good
Love endures all things – a bearing or suffering; without shrinking or yielding to pressure
Love rejoices with the truth – to experience joy and gladness in a high degree; to exult
Love never ends – never ceasing
Most importantly, I think it’s essential we look carefully at the life and walk of Jesus as we think about how to love. Paul writes to the Ephesians, “Therefore, be imitators of God, as beloved Children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”
Love is not something we can conjure up or produce in and of ourselves, but to all who have been born of God, they have received this agape love which comes only from God. “…for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.” (1 John 4:7 ESV)
John continues, “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (1 John 4:9-10 ESV)
Love is sacrifice. Love is giving up our own interests for the sake of others. Love is denying one’s own fleshly desires and surrendering to God’s will for our lives.
To love God is to truly live. “Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” (John 12:25 ESV)
We love by following Christ’s own example of humbling Himself, becoming nothing, and laying down His own life for the world. We love through believing and standing on this truth of the gospel and giving of ourselves, because we too have come to know that Jesus died and was raised so that we might no longer live for ourselves, but for Him.
We love by being obedient and keeping God’s commandments (1 John 5:3a).
We love by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.
I have no idea how to adequately communicate these truths, so I pray that the Lord would take what is His truth and touch your hearts and lives and change you so that you too might have life, and life abundant.
“Let love be genuine.” (Romans 12:9a ESV)