And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
1 Corinthians 13 is a very popular passage of scripture. It is often quoted on wedding announcements and in the ceremony itself. While the application of the principle behind this passage can pertain to every relationship in our lives, the original command of this passage was given to the church in Corinth in regards to how they were to use their spiritual gifts. Using their spiritual gifts out of this kind of love was meant to create unity within the body.
In our English language we throw around the word love to help us paint a picture of an emotion, a feeling, or a desire we have.
I love chocolate. I love to fly. I love to write. I love being part of the women’s ministry. I love my kids. I love my husband. I love my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
We don’t always use a variety of words to distinguish the level of emotion or affection we have for something or someone. We often use the same word, “love”, to describe these emotions even though the intensity and devotion to one is certainly much more than the intensity or devotion to another.
While a study on the many words (18 different words between the Old Testament and the New) God uses to define our one word love would be a great study to do, my focus will be on the word He chose to use as the focal point of this passage-agape. I want to define this word so we have a better understanding of this particular type of love and how we apply that to our daily living.
Agape is defined as brotherly love, affection, good will, love, and benevolence.
Every definition seems to have layers to it. So I want to peel back the layers of this definition so we are able to see the full picture of what God wants to teach us here.
Brotherly love: To have feelings of humanity and compassion toward one's fellow humans.
What is compassion? Compassion is a sympathetic pity or concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others.
What is pity? It is kindly sorrow evoked by someone else’s misfortune leading one to offer relief or aid in order to show mercy.
Affection: A gentle feeling of fondness or liking.
Good will: Friendly, helpful, or cooperative feelings or attitude.
I don’t know about you, but this is one I need to keep in check often. I know my attitude is not always cooperative and I don’t always feel like being friendly or helpful.
Benevolence: A kind act or a desire to do nice things.
Love: An intense feeling of deep affection.
When I look at what Jesus did while on this Earth and what He did for us on the cross I see a perfect example of this agape love, but what does agape love look like in our lives? How do we practically display this love God calls us to?
We have all had friends or family who has gone through some pretty hard times, some of which have come as the result of their own choices. Do we show them compassion in those times? Do we offer them sympathy that moves us to offer them mercy? Does our attitude reflect the love that God calls us to?
Ephesians 4:2 “with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love.”
Agape love is full of mercy, grace and compassion but this love God calls us to is not and should not be enablement towards one another.
Mercy, compassion, sympathy and benevolence can come with soft words, prayer and through our attitude.
1 Corinthians 10:24 “Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others.”
Agape love teaches us to put others above ourselves. This type of love is self-less and humble.
1John 4:8 “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.”
The word love to describe God in this passage is the word agape. God encompasses every layer of our definition for agape. As Christians, if we bear Christ’s name we should also reflect Him in the way we live.
Meditate on the layers of agape love. Pray for God to show you how to love with this kind of love.
Lord, You have called me to a love that is beyond me. May Your Holy Spirit enable me to love the way You love. Thank you for loving me with such a sacrificial love. Help me to love selflessly the way You have demonstrated Your love for me.