“May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other
and for everyone else.” – 1 Thessalonians 3:12a
Would you agree with me if I were to say, “Most Americans don’t understand love”? When we talk about two people “falling in love,” it demonstrates a misunderstanding about love. Love can’t be fallen into. When a husband or wife says, “I don’t love you anymore,” that person doesn’t understand love. Love isn’t an emotional switch that accidentally gets turned on or off.
If you really pay attention, you’ll notice that we overuse the word “love” – a lot! I say “I love you” to my wife and kids. But I also say, “I love In-N-Out Burgers. I love going to
Disneyland. And I love eating
carne asada tacos!” We’ve tossed around the word “love” so much over the years,
we need to go back to the source—God’s word—to be reminded what true love
There are three Greek words that are translated as “love.” There’s “eros,” which is a romantic kind of love. Next there’s “phileo,” which is friendship love, or brotherly love, between two people who have a close relationship. And finally, there is “agape,” which was chosen by the writers of the New Testament as the best word to describe God’s love and Jesus’ love. Agape is a self-sacrificing kind of love—a much higher form of love than eros or phileo.
You see, eros love sets its sights on someone you’re attracted to. But agape love doesn’t discriminate between someone you think is hot, and someone you think is … not. And phileo love is directed at someone you already have a close personal relationship with, like a family member or a close friend. But agape love doesn’t discriminate between someone you know well and someone you don’t know at all. It doesn’t even discriminate between someone you like and someone who drives you up the wall.
Do you see why agape is the highest form of love? It’s no wonder we find this word used some 320 times in the New Testament in reference to God the Father’s love for Jesus, God’s love for people, and Christ’s love for his church. And it’s no wonder that when Jesus Christ commands us to love one another, he commands us to “agape love” one another. Let’s take a look at what the New Testament teaches us about agape love.
1. God the Father loves His Son. We read about this in John 17:26, when Jesus prays to the Father for his disciples, saying, “I have made You known to them and will continue to make You known in order that the love You have for me may be known in them and I myself may be in them.” He says, in essence, “Father, I know that You love me more than life itself. And I have so badly wanted to share Your amazing love for me with them. So, I have taught them about You and shown them through my actions what You are like. And as they’ve taken it all in, they’ve taken Your love in, and they’ve taken me in, too.”
2. God the Father loves people. Agape is the attitude of God the Father for His Son, but it’s also His attitude toward people. Without a doubt one of the best-known verses in the Bible is John 3:16, where the love of God for the human race is made crystal clear: “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
Now, think about it. What God the Father did 2,000 years ago is no small thing. He sent His one and only Son from absolute
this messy, smelly, sin-cursed world. Why would He do such a thing if He REALLY
loved His son as much as the Bible says? Well, He did it because “God so loved
the world.” God the Father loved God the Son more than life itself. But He also
loved you and me more than life itself. And because He couldn’t bear the thought
of all of us spending an eternity in Hell, He sacrificed His one and only Son
so that you and I could be forgiven and live. There should be no doubt in our
minds: God is love—agape love. And love came down to earth on that first
3. The Father desires for us to love. The Bible is clear that God expects His followers to love as He has loved. According to Jesus, the two greatest commands in the Old Testament are, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37) and “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39). If the Bible is true that heaven is absolute paradise and Jesus Christ is the only way to heaven, there is only one logical conclusion we can come to: The most loving thing you could ever do for any person is to do whatever you have to do at whatever cost to yourself to help people have an all-satisfying relationship with Jesus forever.
Jesus made it clear that he wants us to agape love our fellow Christians. But true, agape love never stops at the church door. Jesus also makes it crystal clear that he also wants us to agape love our spiritually lost and dying family, friends and neighbors. Jesus wants us to do whatever we have to do, at whatever cost to ourselves, to help unsaved men, women and children get saved and have an all-satisfying relationship with him. And that’s a Christmas present that will last for eternity.
Dane Davis is the Lead Pastor of First Christian Church in Victorville. For more information,
visit www.YourVictorvilleChurch.com and join us for church Sundays at 10 a.m.