God is love. (1 John 4:8)
If you completed the title of today’s word of encouragement with the word LOVE, you probably recalled the song by the same title, which was a number one hit for the British rock band Queen in 1980. There are more songs sung about love than any other topic. Why? Because we were made for love by the God of love.
But what exactly is love? Ask five people to define it and you will get six different answers. So we must look to the only One who can give us the right understanding of love: God Himself.
The Koine Greek language that was used to write the New Testament actually uses four different words to capture the meaning of this all-important word:
- Storge — The emotional bond between family members
- Eros — The romantic love rooted in physical attraction between men and woman
- Phileo — Attraction and affection through friendship
- Agape — Willing self-sacrifice, even when the object of love is undeserving or unappreciative
The word that appears most often in the New Testament is agape, which is the highest and most gracious form of love. When the Bible speaks of agape love, it is pointing to God in Christ, who “did not come to be served, but to serve, and give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). This love is sacrificial. This love is intentional. This love is a choice. Perhaps the best way to describe agape love is to say that it is totally other-oriented, seeking not the greatest good of self, but the good of the object of this love. Agape love is built on the foundation of faithfulness, dedication, and self-sacrifice, with no selfish thoughts of “What’s in it for me?”
When we read “God is love” in 1 John 4:8 (the Greek used there is agape), we are to understand that God’s love is part of His character. God’s love is not emotional or sentimental. It is simply who God is and what God does, and He shows that love to sinful people who are utterly undeserving of it.
Because we are loved in this self-sacrificial way, we are to reflect that same selfless, agape love to others—all others, even the unlovely and the unlovable. Christian, we don’t get a vote on this! We are to love because God first loved us (1 John 4:19, and yes, agape is used there too). This selfless love is not something we do by nature. You and I and all men and women are way too sinful and self-centered to do that! But when God in Christ raises us from death to life, by grace through faith, we now have the capacity to love as God commands. As Spirit-filled disciples of Christ, we can now love others as we are loved by God—selflessly, unwaveringly.
So how are you doing at this crazy little thing called love? Would those who know you best say that your love is agape? Is your love for others self-sacrificial? Or self-serving? Remember, when you draw nearer to God, you will experience more of His agape love toward you, which will empower you to return it back to Him, by demonstrating it to everyone you meet. This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!