Agape Love

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels but
have not love, I have become as sounding brass or a clanging
cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand
all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so
that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.
And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I
give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.

Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not
parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not
seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice
in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all
things, hopes all things, endures all things. (1 Corinthians 13:1-7)

Love is in the air around this time of year, when we set apart a special day to honor it. People talk a lot about love. Poets write about it, singers sing about it, Hallmark makes movies about it. Love is the one thing everybody is searching for, but far too often we are “searching for love in all the wrong places”.

The problem is that so many people don’t understand what genuine love is. Is love merely an abundance of emotion? Does an overwhelming passion equal love? That breathless feeling or a fluttering of our hearts when we are around the object of our affection? We have become so used to being ruled by our emotions that we think our feelings should guide our actions.

Or is love an accidental sort of thing that just happens to us when we least expect it? We fall in love, sort of like a mud puddle. Is that really what love is? And then maybe we fall out of love, as if it's something that can be turned off and on like a light switch. These things are not love. The Bible has a word for true, Biblical love: that word is agape, an unconditional love like God's love for us. There are lots of verses that tell us how God loves us with a true, agape love.

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten
Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish,
but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)

But God commends his love toward us, in that, while we
were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)

But God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love with which
He loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, has made
us alive together with Christ, (by grace you are saved;)
(Ephesians 2:4-5)

We love him, because he first loved us. (1 John 4:19)

We love God, because He first loved us. We know we did nothing to earn or deserve God's love for us. He extended that pure, unselfish, unconditional love to us, even while we were dead in our sins, and were enemies to Him. It was an act of His will to love us at our most unlovable, while we were lost in our rebellion and sin and did not even know Him. God's love for us is not a feeling or an emotion, it is an action.

Agape love may result in emotion, that's true, but agape love is not primarily something we “feel”. We know that it is not a feeling, because we are commanded to love, and feelings cannot be commanded. Instead, love is a deliberate action, something we choose to do in obedience, as the Bible commands us. God loves us with agape love, and commands us to love others that way as well. It does not rely on our feelings.

Without His love, it is impossible for us to love others. Naturally, we love those whom we do have strong feelings for. For example, the Bible commands husbands to love (agapao) their wives as Christ loved the church. It's not talking about romantic love, (eros) or brotherly love (phileo). It's talking about agapao love: the unconditional, unselfish, sacrificial love that God has for us.

Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved
the church, and gave himself for it. (Ephesians 5:25)
We have to understand, though, that in God's plan, love isn't something we do only for those we have emotions for, like spouses or children or family members. No, love is more than strong emotions. The Bible tells us to extend that agapeo love to even our enemies. How could we possibly be expected to do this if love were dependent on our emotions? No, God doesn't tell us to have feelings toward those who have wronged us or hurt us: He tells us we are to act toward them as He acted toward us, with love.
You have heard it said, You shall love your neighbor, and
hate your enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies,
bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you,
and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute
you. That you may be the children of your Father which is
in heaven: for He makes His sun to rise on the evil and on
the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.
(Matthew 5:43-44)
Jesus taught that as His followers, we are to do more than others. We must not only show kindness and favor to those we have emotions for, we must love even our enemies. We are to be loving toward all, which is the true mark of Christianity. If we love only those who love us, that is a self-serving kind of love; we are the ones who benefit from such a love. We deserve no reward for that, but God's word suggests that there is a reward for our obedience to love our enemies.
For if you love those who love you, what reward do you
have? do not even the publicans the same? (Matt. 5:46)

But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping
for nothing in return; and your reward shall be great,
and you shall be the children of the Highest: for He
is kind to the unthankful and to the evil. (Luke 6:35)
These things are impossible for us to do if we base our actions on human emotion. Agape love is not something we are born with; it is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. It is He who gives us the power and desire to love as God loves.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering,
gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, self-control:
against such there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23)
To practice agape love, we cannot base our actions on our feelings and emotions. We must base our actions on our desire to follow Jesus and be obedient to the Word of God. In other words, we have to love God first, before we can love as He loves.
And you shalt love the Lord thy God with all your heart, and
with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your
strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is
like, namely this, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
There is no other commandment greater than these.
(Mark 12:30-31)
As we said, there are rewards promised for our obedience. When we freely love God as He has loved us, God has prepared such blessings that we cannot even imagine them. While that is not the main reason to love and serve our Lord, it does promise blessings for doing so!
But as it is written, Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither
have entered into the heart of man, the things which God
has prepared for them that love him. (1 Corinthians 2:9)
As we celebrate love and Valentine's Day this month, let this be a reminder of what love really is. If you have never received God's love for yourself, I pray that you would do so now. Accept the agape love He has for you, personally, by accepting Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. You will never, ever be loved by anyone as much as God loves you.

If you have already received Christ as your Savior, be more determined than ever to practice agape love, for this is our responsibility as Christ-followers. In a world that doesn't really know what real love is, and where to find it, let us practice the agape love that will point others to Jesus!

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