What it means to love

WP_20141002_003Love is a word that has captured the imaginations and inspired poets, authors, artists and musicians for generations. If we took a snapshot of the music industry in the 1980s, we’d see a plethora of poetic explorations of love, including but not limited to, “Is This Love,” “Love Bites,” “The Greatest Love,” “Love Song (Love Will Find a Way)” and of course, “The Power of Love.”

Love is a word that is thrown around in modern society.

“I love that jacket.”

“I love the Dallas Cowboys.”

“I love L.A.”

“I love going to the beach during the spring.”

Love. Then there’s the ever present “I love you” spoken between romantic partners, whether love truly exists in the relationship, or not. Love is so commonly used in today’s language that it no longer carries the gravity it did when spoken by Christ and the apostles 2,000 years ago.

Periodically on this blog, I’ve written about the meaning of the Greek word, agape. Agape love is a self-sacrificial love that puts the needs of others above your own. Agape has a redemptive quality. It’s agape that propelled Christ to the cross. Agape.

The definition makes sense, but what does agape look like in action? How can I know if I truly love my brother, let alone my enemy? There are certain characteristics that identify agape love.

We’ll start with Paul’s explanation in I Corinthians 13.

Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Charity never faileth:

Agape love is marked by:

  • Patience
  • Unselfishness
  • Humility
  • Good behavior
  • Pure thoughts
  • Rejection of evil, rejection of wrongfulness
  • Rejoicing in truth
  • Belief
  • Hope
  • Endurance
  • Never ends, hence, it is unconditional.

So, when we ask ourselves if we love our brother, we must ask ourselves, “Am I patient with him?

“Is my friendship with him for my benefit, or his?”

“Do I gossip about him? Or do I reject rumors shared about him?

“Do I trust him?”

“Is my friendship with him contingent on what he can do for me?”

Philippians 2:4-5 concurs with 1 Corinthians 13, stating that love is outwardly focused, not inwardly focused. Love puts the emphasis on the other person.

Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:

When you have agape love toward someone, you are not looking to see what you can get out of the relationship. You are looking at how you can meet the needs of the other. This is why the love from a parent to a child, or from our Lord to us are such powerful examples. A mother loves her son and sacrifices for him greatly, expecting nothing in return. Jesus left the glories of Heaven to suffer for mankind.

In fact, the passage in Philippians 2 speaks to that, saying “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.”

Jesus was in Heaven, enjoying a close personal relationship with the Father, and being praised by the angels. Life was good. Had Jesus been self-centered, He would have been minded to stay in Heaven. Instead, He looked not only on His on things, but also on our things, particularly, our need for salvation.

Therefore, He “made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” (Philippians 2:7-8) As I’ve stated many times, the love of Christ propelled Him to the cross to purchase our salvation. 

And that’s why Luke 6 teaches us to love, not expecting anything in return (Luke 6:35), because that’s who God is. And if we truly want to be conformed to the image of Christ, we will learn to love like Christ. Our focus will be on others without consideration for how we will benefit from the relationship.

So, with that insight from the scriptures concerning love, do we actually love each other? Do we look to each others’ needs? Or are we more concerned that our own needs are not met?

Let’s challenge ourselves to love one another this year. Look on each others’ needs, fears, scars and hurts, and see what you can do to help or heal. Learning to love one another like this will not only create a powerful environment in our lives, but it also brings us into closer fellowship with the Father, which will result in blessings beyond what we can imagine.

Leland Acker is the pastor of Life Point Baptist Church. Life Point meets for Sunday School at 10 a.m., Morning Worship at 11 a.m. Services are held at the Early Chamber of Commerce building at 104 E. Industrial in Early. This week, Bro. Waymon Childress will bring the morning message. 

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