In November, we are going to start a series about community called “#squadgoals.” The hope is that we would learn the best ways to love the people in our lives through this series. However, before we can learn to love others well, it is important to understand how God first loved us. 1 John 4:19 says “We love because he first loved us”, meaning that love is something we can mimic because we are made in the image of God.
The Four Loves
Love, by definition, is an intense feeling of deep affection towards someone else. In the Bible, there are four types of love. The first is eros, romantic love; second is storge, love between parents & children, brothers & sisters, and blood relatives; and the third is philia, an emotional and compassionate love between close friends.
The fourth and final love is called agape. You might have heard of this one before, because it is the love that God has towards people. Agape is an unconditional, sacrificial, and selfless love that can only come from God.
In our broken humanity, agape is impossible. Despite this, Jesus still calls us his bride and His beloved church. That can be celebrated regardless of where we are in our journeys.
A great example of Agape love can be found in the Gospel of John. One day Jesus went up to the Mount of Olives, and then returned to a temple, finding a woman who was going to be stoned for adultery. However, Jesus did something completely different. Take a look:
“And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them,"Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her." And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus stood up and said to her,"Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?" She said, "No one, Lord." And Jesus said,"Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more" (John 8:7-11 ESV).
Like what??? Who does that? In any of our Earthly standards, it doesn’t make sense. Even in the context of the Bible, the “right” thing to do would have been to stone the woman. But Jesus, in his infinite wisdom, said “Neither do I condemn you”. In order to fulfill the law, he had to be unconditionally compassionate. There’s no way around it.
What Agape Looks Like for Us
Now, having faith and taking steps of courage to believe in the agape of Christ is a whole other ball game. Or, more like half of it.
To start, you have to read your Bible. Read, read, read Scripture. Also, it is really helpful for me to pray before I begin to read because it’s through prayer that the Holy Spirit moves to bring his words to life and personal application. For me, it has taken years to even see the beginning fruits of Jesus’ love in my life, so it takes time! But it is so worth the process.
Next, there is no formula! Rest, relax, and have fun! For some, growing in agape might happen overnight, while for others, it could take months and years to see 25% breakthrough. But that’s okay! Seeing victory and freedom in your journey is what matters. Let sin die in your life, and through that dead sin and Christ’s living word, seeds planted in you throughout your life will grow into a beautiful oak tree.
Lastly, have courage to love everyone from a stranger at Wesley, to your best, best, best friend you have known since birth, to even your rival on your soccer team from high school. Serve them to the best of your ability and always know your limits in serving. Having a servant’s heart and a compassionate one at that will never cease to show agape for Christ’s bride, the church body.
In “The Lion King”, there was a scene when Simba talks to the ghost of Mufasa in heaven, and Mufasa’s voice is full of compassion and authority, and reminds him of his true identity. Not the one his people gave him of an outcast and a liar. Instead, Mufasa tells Simba that he is a king, and he is loved by his father: Simba is a bold, courageous lion, and he eventually becomes what he was destined to be through agape. For us, the same is true. The Holy Spirit lives in us, and putting our faith in him gives us strength and helps us become the son or daughter God created us to be. Jesus didn’t have to come to earth to die for us, but he chose to! That means he desires relationship with us more than we know so he could bridge the gap we made, and be a family through Christ. Nothing more beautiful than that, right?
Author | Brad Schiebel