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Posts Tagged ‘agape’

We live in an era where people want everything boiled down to the bottom line, a 60 second sound bite, or a 140 character tweet.  And the further we roll down this road, the more our resilience to endure anything more substantial than that erodes.  Just like the “Happy Meal”, bought for a fussy toddler, we know it’s not necessarily a healthy choice, but it’s all we really have time or patience for.  Sadly, those of us in the “faith community” are no different in this regard.  In fact, the Christian book stores are full of materials that attempt to boil down the depth and breadth of the scripture into a few bite sized morsels that can fit onto a refrigerator magnet, or maybe a colorful bumper-sticker.  Unfortunately, our hidden agendas are often exposed in this, as we are more likely to gravitate toward those scriptures that justify our current position than to those that are meant to facilitate our growth and transformation.  It seems to me that we cannot really trust ourselves or any other person (who undoubtedly has an agenda of their own) to decide which are the critical principles that we need to derive from God’s word.  Indeed, no one other than God Himself can be trusted to boil it down to just a few lines for us.  Thankfully, He did that.

 

When the religious leaders of Jesus’ day asked Him which was the most important commandment, He gave them two that weren’t on their list.  He said that it was to love the Lord your God with “all of your heart, all of your mind, all of your soul, and all of your strength” and to love your neighbor “as yourself”.  He then made the incredible statement that, “All of the law and prophets hang on these two commandments”.  Later, Paul reaffirms this when he tells the Galatians that the “entire law is fulfilled” in keeping this commandment.  Just before His death, Jesus amended this, when He told His disciples that He was giving them a “new commandment”, which was to love each other “as I have loved you”.  I’m sure that didn’t sound particularly new to them, but in truth it represented a huge leap in the magnitude of what He was calling them to.  Paul goes on to boil it down for us in several other spots within the epistles.  He says things like, “The only thing that counts is faith, expressing itself as love” and that without love, we gain “nothing” and, in fact, are “nothing”.  He also warns us that in the end, the only three things we can carry into eternity are “faith, hope and love”, and that the “greatest of these is love”.

 

Clearly, the unifying theme of all of these bottom-line statements is love, and as such, it is critical that we understand exactly what that word means to God when He says it.  Again, we can be grateful for His sovereignty, as He gives us a very clear and comprehensive definition in 1 Corinthians 13.  Though we’ve all heard the words many times, I wonder if we’ve ever really stopped and thought about them.  God says that, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”  If you read those words slowly, and thoughtfully, they can be pretty intimidating.  Is this how the people we claim to love would describe our demeanor toward them.  For that matter, would any of us claim that these are characteristic of the “love” we profess to have.  To that end, we like to rationalize that the love described in the Bible is really just God’s (agape) love, and that we simply possess some lower form of (Eros) love.  We further like to dissect it into categories like brotherly/sisterly love, and romantic love; and then blur the lines even more with statements like, “I love them, but I’m not in love with them anymore”.  But in the end, that’s all smoke, mirrors and word games.  The God who is love, specifically tells us what love is to Him, and then He commands us to love each other, “as I have loved you”.  He makes no provision for some lower form of affection or fascination, which is too often characterized by traits like selfishness, vanity, envy, manipulation, scorekeeping and destructiveness; all of which are so directly counter to His definition that they could not be considered a watered down version of the same.

 

Considering that the Lord Himself boiled down the whole of the law to the quality of our love, and that He said that the way people will be able to distinguish His children was by the love they have for one another, our understanding of what “love” is makes a huge difference.  If we go with the popularly held concept of it, there is almost no form of sin that we cannot rationalize as being rooted in “love” (e.g.  “I loved her so much that I couldn’t bear the thought of her being with someone else, so I killed her.”).  On the other hand, if we hope to experience and manifest the genuine love that God describes in His word, it will require us to abandon our vain imaginations, succumb to His Spirit, and to allow His heart to spill out of ours.  Ultimately, that is why we’re here and should be the natural result of loving the Lord our God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength.  If we ever get there, we’ll realize that the Beatles were onto something when they sang, “All You Need is Love”.

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