Monday, July 18, 2016

A Matter of Love

The Apostle Paul was one who spoke about the love of God because he knew it in a personal way.  He was a man who expressed no love for Jesus Christ or those who followed Him, but God…who is rich in mercy brought about a change in the Apostle’s heart on the road to Damascus as he went to round up more Christians.  On that trip God changed Paul’s disposition, his heart, and his life.
From that moment on Paul lived with love, the Love of God, because of the life of Christ.  It is a love he spoke of in his letter to the church at Galatia.
“…But the fruit of the Spirit is love.” Galatians 5:22 (HCSB)
Paul wasn’t the only or even the first to speak of this love, the love of God through the person and work of His One and Only Son, Jesus.  There may be no more famous verse in the Bible that speaks of God’s love than what came by inspiration of the Holy Spirit of God through the pen of John.
“For God loved the world in this way.  He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16 (HCSB)
John goes on in the first of his three epistolary letters to speak even more of the love of God, but what he states is that it is not simply the love of God it is LOVE itself, in all it’s fullness and flavor these verses represent the greatest example and exposition of what love, true love, is.
“Love consists in this: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Dear friends, if God loved us in this way, we also must love one another. No one has ever seen God. If we love one another, God remains in us and His love is perfected in us.” 1 John 4:10-12 (HCSB)
There are many descriptors and definitions for love in this world, but for the Christian there is one source and standard for love; it is God. We live in a world that uses love so frequently and to some degree so flippantly that it’s meaning has been softened and distorted.  When we speak of or refer to love there are different ways that it is expressed, but there is one love that is special and specific to God.  Agape, the love associated with God, is so significant that the Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible states, 

Love is the first and last word in Christian theology and ethics”
Now there are four different words used in the New Testament of the Bible for love:
  1. Phileo—brotherly
  2. Storge—natural love of a parent to a child
  3. Eros—sexual
  4. Agape—Godly love
When we look at the love of God there are three legs upon which it rests.  Randy Frazee writes in his book Believe that there are three characteristics of agape:
Unconditional—agape places no conditions, expectations, or stipulations on anyone or anything for it to be expressed

Sacrificial—agape takes great risk to step out and give to the greatest degree necessary for the welfare and care of others regardless of the return response.

Forgiving—I’m not sure who said this, but I once read that to forgive is defined as, “giving up my right to hurt you, for hurting me”.
With agape, the love of God, it must be seen and expressed as a distinct way of life, not a random act of leisure to be do when it best fits into a persons schedule or is motivated to a selfish end of personal benefit.  Agape, the love of God, is to be expressed to all people, not only to those for whom one might have a special affection or attachment. And make no mistake about it, Agape, the love of God, will most certainly test the faith of every believer.  Just look at some of the passages in the Bible where agape (love) is found.

“You have heard that it was said, Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. For He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward will you have? Don’t even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing out of the ordinary? Don’t even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”  Matthew 5:43–48 (HCSB)
The person who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; the person who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And whoever doesn’t take up his cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me. Anyone finding his life will lose it, and anyone losing his life because of Me will find it. Matthew 10:37–39 (HCSB)
“[Jesus] said to him, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important command. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands'”  Matthew 22:37–40 (HCSB)
And in turning back to John’s epistolary letter of 1 John 4, we are again reminded of the word concerning agape following verses 10-12.  It is found in 1 John 4:19, “We love because He first loved us.”  1 John 4:19 (HCSB)
And as the Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Corinth, “Now these three remain, but the greatest of these is…Agape”1 Corinthians 13:13 (HCSB)

PS. If you are a follower of Jesus Christ through repentant faith through Him then you are called to love with agape because you, with all assurance, are a recipient and a possessor of it.  After all, it's only a matter of LOVE

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