Read: 1 John 2:28 – 4:21
Focus: We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters. This is real love—not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. 1 John 3:16, 4:10
In our culture, I think there can be a tendency to gloss over what love is. Even our dictionaries give an incomplete definition of love. According to Merriam-Webster, the most common definition of love is “a feeling of strong or constant affection for a person”. I’d like to think that in order for Jesus to have suffered on the cross for me and shed His blood to cover my sins, He has more than a feeling of strong or constant affection for me. If you haven’t already, I would strongly encourage you to take the time to go read the entire reading for today. If you only have enough time to read the entire reading or my words, please pass on my words, click the link above, and read what John wrote. It paints a very complete picture of “love” that is much greater than the way we typically use the word love in our society.
Not to get too technical, but sometimes I think it’s important to look at the root of certain Biblical words and determine if the way the word was used in that Bible passage means the same thing the translation means in our current culture. I use biblehub.come to provide context and translation when I do this. There are really four types of love described throughout the Bible (each with a Greek root word that describes that kind of love) – agape, eros, philia, and storge. The word used for love in the focus verses as well as throughout the entire reading has agape as its Greek root. According to about.christianity.com, agape love can be defined as: “Agape is selfless, sacrificial, unconditional love, the highest of the four types of love in the Bible.” When we describe Jesus’ sacrificial death for us, that is agape love. In John 15:13 when Jesus said “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends”, agape was the word used for love. Looking at other Bible verses where agape is used can provide additional context clues as to the power of this word:
Luke 11:42: “Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God. You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone.”
John 5:41- 42: “Your approval means nothing to me, because I know you don’t have God’s love within you.
John 13:35: “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”
Romans 5:8: But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.
Romans 14:15: And if another believer is distressed by what you eat, you are not acting in love if you eat it. Don’t let your eating ruin someone for whom Christ died.
1 Corinthians 13:1-3 (used for love in all three verses): If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. 3 If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.
Ephesians 2:4-5: But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!)
Colossians 3:14: Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony.
1 Timothy 6:11: But you, Timothy, are a man of God; so run from all these evil things. Pursue righteousness and a godly life, along with faith, love, perseverance, and gentleness.
2 Timothy 2:22: Run from anything that stimulates youthful lusts. Instead, pursue righteous living, faithfulness, love, and peace. Enjoy the companionship of those who call on the Lord with pure hearts.
1 Peter 4:8: Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins.
1 John 3:1: See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are! But the people who belong to this world don’t recognize that we are God’s children because they don’t know him.
There are several other instances I could have also included, but I think maybe what I included gets the point across. It wasn’t just one author who used agape, but it was used by several of the authors of the New Testament who wrote in Greek, and it was used by them in a fundamental way that both describes God’s love for us as well as the love we should have in return for God and for others. As we see in today’s readings, it isn’t a warm and fuzzy “love” that’s fickle, fizzles and doesn’t run deep like we are accustomed to in today’s culture. Instead, agape love is a deep and abiding love. It’s unconditional (meaning it doesn’t change or lessen because of someone’s actions or feelings – remember Romans 5:8: But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.). It’s sacrificial. It’s charitable (meaning agape is given regardless of whether it’s returned). It’s accountable. In my opinion, unlike the way “love” is often tossed around in our society today whether it be about relationships, food, clothing, agape love is REAL and meaningful.
I think today’s reading really is something all Christians should have a good understanding of – it’s fundamental in our relationship with God. I think we need to understand how He loves us in order to believe that and how much He loves us. And in turn, we need to understand and put into practice how we are called to love others.
Prayer: Lord, thank You that You love me in a way that is deep, meaningful, and unconditional. Thank You that You love even when I don’t feel very lovable. I believe You are who You say You are in the Bible. Please help me to be more like You. Please help me to love others in the way that You love me. In Jesus’ name… Amen.