Love is incredible. Falling in love feels otherworldly.
But REAL love, agape, is a reflection of Christ – it is a bright light shining boldly as a witness amidst the darkness of this world. Real love forces us to act contrary to our fleshly desires, our body (naturally self-centered whose goal is self-preservation and self-worship) reels against it. Our body is continuously at war with our spirit for control. Love is not natural for our body. It is a conduit by which the indwelling Holy Spirit guides us to becoming more Christ-like and deeper in love with our Savior.
1 Corinthians 13 is of course, one of the most well known explanations of love in the bible. “If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. So now faith, hope and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”
Real love. Agape. This isn’t about fuzzy feelings that make you happy. This isn’t the being swept off your feet or the rush of falling in love. It is Grace in action.
Ephesians 4: 29-32 “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and all slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”
Galatians 2:20 “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
Agape keeps the Cross in the center of every situation. It is BECAUSE of the cross that we can experience agape. It is BECAUSE of the cross that we can share agape with others. It is BECAUSE of the cross that we MUST live agape in every area of life and with every breath we have.
2 Cor 5:14-15 “For Christ’s love compels us because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died, and He died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for Him who for their sake died and was raised.”
Since Agape love is not natural for us, it can seem elusive and fragile. If we taint agape even just a tiny bit, then it is no longer agape. If you hold back, only loving a little, then you have focused on yourself which is idolatry.
If you say “I will love you, but only in this manner because it is the manner most natural (ie, convenient) for me” then that too is self-centered. Romans 2:8 “But for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury.”
This is primarily what is wrong with the Five Love Language mentality. I enjoyed the book – and think it is a great tool! It is handy to have a way of describing some of these complex emotions and a way of organizing the thoughts that go with them.
But when we use it as a method of manipulation – that is sinful. We shouldn’t speak to our spouse in their primary love language SO THAT our spouse will speak to us in our primary love language. And equally sinful is the opposite reaction – when we acknowledge that we have a way of showing a love that is most comfortable for us and we refuse to attempt to speak our spouses love language.
Romans 12:9-10 “Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.” Love is easily tainted because is holds to a very high standard, God’s Standard. This is the pursuit of holiness. Real love earnestly seeks that which is GOOD, that which draws us closer to Christ.
Phil 4:8 “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think on these things.” If anything, even SLIGHTLY wrong is permitted to dwell then it is no longer agape love, because that changes the focus off of Christ to self.
We tend to bend the rules when it comes to things that make us feel good. This is one of the reasons that pornography and solo sexual acts are wrong. It isn’t putting the other first. It is seeking to satisfy SELF.
This needs to be applied to every area of life even to what we watch on tv or listen to on the radio. If it isn’t true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, or having godly excellence – then we don’t need to have it in our home or in our life. That isn’t what agape does.
But what if it is our favorite tv series? Then you are allowing your own personal pleasure to have lordship over your heart rather than Jesus – who loves us SO MUCH that he sacrificed Himself for us to be made righteous.
Phil 2:3 “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” And also see James 3:16 “For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.”
But what about the other areas of life, the seemingly innocent areas that we don’t keep a firm check on? For example, your spouse has been put on a glucose free diet by the doctor. You have both vowed to help each other live by this diet plan. It is supposed to be a new way of life now.
But he has had a very hard day at work and has asked you for a bowl of ice cream. You both know that ice cream is something that the doctor said he can’t have. He doesn’t like the glucose-free version that you picked up and is asking for the last of the Rocky Road that was still in the freezer. Would it be loving of you to make him a bowl of his favorite flavored ice cream after such a hard day? …. As tempting to say yes as it is – the answer is a firm no.
You try to justify it by saying, “It’s his love language, Act of Service!” Or you may say “I’m being a submissive wife by getting him what he asked even though it’s breaking the rules!” But that is not what real love is or what submission means.
Getting the ice cream wouldn’t be for his best (it’s not edifying), you know it is going against what you both promised and what the doctor said (it’s not honorable), which makes you a cheat and a liar (it is not commendable, just, lovely, pure etc) So you make him some gluten-free brownies instead and offer to rub his feet.
Agape has to seep into EVERY area of our life. Col 3:12-14 “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.”
Love transforms us. Agape is focusing on Gods love for us and it overflowing into how we live. It moves our focus off of SELF (our desires, our self-centered tendencies, our problems, our pain) and onto Christ. Ps 59:16 “But I will sing of your strength, in the morning I will sing of your love; for you are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble.” Love builds our relationship with Jesus because it is what He commands.
Micah 6:8 “He has shown you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Not only is it what we are supposed to do as followers of Christ, but it is for our benefit. It is through love that we experience COMPLETE JOY. So much of the world of focused on doing what will make them happy for that moment – but we can have a sense of completeness (peace) and overwhelming joy.
John 15:9-13 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”