W1D2 of the study: “Who Should I Be?”, by; Mefromthensideout
Today’s Focus Scripture: Psalm 86:15 and 1 John 4:7-8
Agape is the word used to describe the love of God and it, as all of the other attributes we will study, are a requirement for holiness. The more detailed definition is that “agape is an act of the will, an intelligent, purposeful attitude of esteem and devotion; a selfless, purposeful, outgoing attitude that desires to do good to the one loved.” In other words, as Jen Wilkin goes on to write, “agape does not merely feel, it acts. It is the word Paul uses in Romans 5:8 to describe why God sent His Son, and it is the word Jesus uses in 1 John 4:7 and 8 to teach His disciples to love their enemies – even those who hate them. It is also the term used by Paul in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, one of my favorite love passages and an absolutely beautiful example of God’s agape/love.
In our first focus verse today (Romans 5:8), the Psalmist writes a wonderful description of Agape, [God’s love] – pointing out that God is compassionate, merciful, patient, and has demonstrated not only a great loyal love but faithfulness.
In the second of the focus verses (1 John 4:7-8), we are given instructions as believers, those who know God’s love [agape], to love others. So serious is the instruction that there is clarification that if we aren’t loving we do not know God – because God is love.
And as we see in the 1 Corinthians passage, verses 4-8, agape is indeed a very purposeful, act of the will to love, a selfless, purposeful, outgoing attitude that desires to do good to the one loved. Actually if we back up to read verses 1-3 of chapter 13 we see the effects of not having agape [God’s love]. Jen writes this commentary on the passage, “If I seek to be holy without agape, I add nothing. I am nothing. I gain nothing.” In other words, we can go through all of the motions of loving others through the gifts God has given us, we can even use our resources to help the poor or give our life on the behalf of another, but if we do so without a heart of love for God [agape] and those we serve – then it amounts to nothing. All of the words, or God given gifts and knowledge, even our faith and gifts of sacrifice without love would be of no real value.
Loving like God loves is not an easy calling. Actually, it is quite costly. Consider John 13:15 where it is said, “No one has greater love than this – that one lays down his life for his friends.” Jen says it like this, “The costliness of agape is evident in the cross.” Jesus points this out to those wishing to follow Him – when He says to do so means “turning from their selfish ways, taking up their cross daily, and following Him.” (Luke 9:23). In other words, love as Christ loves the Church – even if it costs us – and it will. When we choose to follow Christ and to live and love by God’s standards it will cost us. Jen gives a list of the cost and effect in her book, saying, “it costs us our pride, our comfort, our self-will, our self-sufficiency. At times, it costs us amicable relationships with family, our expectation of safety, and more.” But she goes on to say, “in laying these aside, we learn the worthiness of the object of our love in a deeper way. We find increasing freedom, and as we mature, we resolve to love God no matter what it costs us.” Christ gave a new command to us in John 13:34, where He said, “Love one another, just as I have loved you, you should love each other.” Loving our neighbor comes with a costs as well, “our preferences, our time, our financial resources, our entitlement, our stereotypes. At times, it costs us our popularity, respect, and more. But in laying these aside, we learn the brokenness of the object of our love in a deeper way. We find increasing empathy, and as we mature, we resolve to love our neighbor no matter what it costs us. This is the kind of love that marks believers as distinct from the world.”
God’s will for us is not hidden from our eyes, as we have seen in His word, He wants us to be people who love Him, with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength; and to love others as we do ourselves. Paul said it like this – “Don’t just pretend to love others, really love them”, (Romans 12:9). And as we saw in John 13:34, He wants us to love as He has loved us. In Jen’s application of the attribute of love, she encourages her readers, “When faced with a decision, ask yourself: Which choice enables me to grow in agape for God and others? And then choose according to His will.”
My Response to God’s Word
Father, Thank you for your agape, a love like no other – a love that moved You to act on our behalf, to send your only Son to a world clothed in sin and worthy of death, not the abundant life You have given all who believe. Your love is selfless, purposeful, with an outgoing attitude that desires to do good to us even though we do not deserve it. How utterly great is Your love and character! Help me to love like You Father. To love as Jesus loved us, to act in love according to the love You have shown me. Father let my life be characterized by Your holiness and love – a reflection that will bring You glory, honor, and praise. Help me to turn from my selfish ways, to take up my cross daily and follow You – no matter the costs. – In Jesus’ name – Amen!
NOTE: Borrowing from the format of “In His Image”, at the end of each chapter you will find verses, questions, and a prayer prompt to help you remember and apply what you have read. Consider keeping a journal in which you copy or paraphrase each of the verses for meditation, noting what each adds to your understanding of the attribute covered in the chapter. Then journal your answers to the questions, as well as a prayer of response.
Verses for Meditation
Questions for Reflection
1. Why do you think the idea that “God is love” is so popular with the world? How doour human notions of what love is pollute the way we think about this phrase, even as believers?
2. Think of the most loving person you have ever known. How did he or she demonstrate love? Which of the four types of love (eros, philia, storge, or agape) was most evident?
3. What person (or kind of person) are you most likely to categorize as “unlovable”? What is it about that person’s personality type or behavior that makes him or her unlovable in terms of earthly love? What would it cost you to love that person as you have been loved?
4. How should a desire to grow in agape impact our relationship with God positively? How should it impact our relationships with others positively? Give a specific example of each.
Write a prayer to God asking him to show you where your love for him has been conditional. Ask him to show you who you have wrongly viewed as “unlovable.” Ask him to give you clear opportunities to demonstrate costly love for others. Thank him that his love for you is irrevocable and unconditional.
Check out the book “In His Image”