Considered on Valentine’s Day, 2021. Christians know more about love than anyone else and have the potential for being the best lovers because Christians have a model for love that no one else can really appreciate and have a power to generate real love that no one else can ever have.
Christians have a special model of love in the love of God. Love is the predominate way in which Scripture pictures God. God can be seen in many ways (all-powerful, glorious, holy etc.) but when John wanted to describe God he said, “God is love.” (I John 4:18)
The early church had an interesting time trying to define the concept of God being love. The Hebrew the idea of God being a God of love was depicted through the word “hesed’ which spoke of the unique, forgiving, faithful, giving, blessing, relationship between God and the nation of Israel. “Hesed” encompassed all the qualities of God seen in His covenant relationship to Israel.
The church, however, reached out to the Gentile community. The covenant relationship that meant so much to Israel did not really apply to Gentiles. The church, therefore, went searching for a way to describe this same love characteristic to them.
In the Greek there were 4 different words for love.
1. “Eros” or sensual love. It is the root from which we get our English word “erotic” and while it was not specifically evil it was not a fit description for God.
2. “Storge” or family love as displayed between members of a family or tribe. It was too limited to depict God’s love.
3. “Philio” or brotherly love depicted the love shown to those outside the family. Like “storge” it was too limited to really define God’s love. We get Philadelphia meaning “brotherly love” from this word.
4. Finally the Greek had a word for love that was almost never used, “agape.” Because it was so seldom used it had little meaning other than “love.” The early church decided to appropriate that little used word and pour into it the concepts of God’s love even though no word could ever fully describe God’s love.
Remember, only those who know Jesus in a personal way via their commitment to Him can understand even in part “agape” love and that gives us an incredible edge in our capacity to love.
1. “Agape” love, or God’s love, is love expressed and offered regardless of the merit one might have for it. One of the primary messages of the Bible is that God loved us while we were yet sinners and gave Himself for us. In our culture, love is often offered only to those who seem to deserve it for one reason or another. “Agape” love is offered to all but freely.
2. “Agape” love is steadfast. Because it comes to us without merit it goes on forever. There will never be a time in all eternity when we will not be loved by God. Read Romans 8:31-29. “Agape” love is not withheld if the recipient fails in some way but is always steadfast and sure. Read I Corinthians 13. Paul reminded us that “agape” love does not keep records of wrongs done to it; it does not envy and is not self-seeking. This steadfast “agape” love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, and always preserves. It is steadfast, always there no matter what. “Agape” love goes far beyond the “in sickness and health” of the marriage vow. It never fails.
3. “Agape” love does not place a limit on what it will do for the one loved. God so loved us He gave His only Son to die for us. God does not distance Himself from us when the price gets to a certain point or the connivance level reaches a given point. “Agape” love is always there for us. There is absolutely nothing that can ever cause God to love us any less than He did on the Cross or that He did on the day He saved us from our sins. Because His love does not have limits, we not only don’t have to earn it, but there is also nothing we can do to add to detract from it. It is always 100%, totally, completely love for us.
“Agape” love is our model and John wrote that in the same way we have been loved, we are to love others, setting no limits and making no expectations in return for it. “Agape” love is so encompassing that when Jesus described how it would look in real life, He said it included loving neighbors we may never have met and even those who would otherwise be considered our enemies.
As Christians we understand what real love is in ways no non-Christian can ever know. We know what true love is because we have experienced His loving forgiveness. We understand true love because it has been showered upon us in so many indescribable ways.
There is more. Not only has God modeled real love for us, but He has also given us His Spirit to live within. One of the incredible ministries of the Holy Spirit is to transform us into the character of God. First on the list of changes promised in Galatians 5:22-23 is love. The fruit of the Spirit is LOVE, “agape” love, God’s love. No one who is not a Christian has that advantage. The Holy Spirit indwells only Christians so we and we alone can learn how to love as God loves.
What will that love look like in us? Some believe that what Paul was saying in Galatians 5 was “The fruit of the Spirit is love” full stop. They believe that the other characteristics or fruit that follow present a picture of how love is played out in real live. The other fruit is then seen as facets or manifestations of love. That was not what Paul had in mind but a study of the nature of love in I Corinthians 13 shows an amazing parallel to the fruit that are listed after love in Galatians 5.
God wants us to be known by the way we love. When Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was, He replied, “Love the lord your God with all your heart and mind and your neighbor as yourself.” Love is the only characteristic singled out as a barometer of faith with Jesus declaring, “By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, that you love one another.” According to the book of Acts the early church had a unique witness because of their love for one another with Acts telling us that those Christians were known in their communities as those who indeed did love one another.
If God is the model of agape love and He has given us His Spirit to enable us to love, why do we sometimes fall so far short of our potential as true lovers?
One of the reasons we find it difficult to love the way God wants us to is that we have been led by culture to have a false idea of what true love is. Too often Christians have accepted the cultural definition of that says love is primarily an emotion. Certainly, there is an emotional component to love but “agape” love is so much more that an emotion. “Agape” love is a commitment, a decision to love and stay in love. “Agape” love is a decision to allow God’s love to permeate our lives so we love those whom He loved the way He loves, not with our love but with His love.
Whom should we love beside God? Broadly, God’s Word encourages us to love everyone. More specifically God wants us to love the following:
1. Scripture records clearly that we are to love our family. God’s Word records that we have been given family as a special gift and we have been given the capacity to love them in practical ways as none other.
2. Scripture also stresses that we are to love the brethren and because we love them, we are to care for any brethren who are hurting in any way.
3. Finally, Scripture insists we are to love our neighbors and even to love our enemies.
Christians make the best lovers because the God who is love is our model. Because we have been loved so much by God He calls upon us to love others for His sake and then gives us His Spirit to teach and enable us to love. In many ways, Valentine’s Day is God’s day and should be celebrated 24/7/365.