Thursday, February 14, 2013

Agape Love is Life-Giving

God is a God of life. Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. The Holy Spirit is the giver of spiritual life. God's agape love is likewise life-giving.

"From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work," (Ephesians 4:16)

Lovelessness brings death. Love gives life. Those that are living in agape love bring life wherever they go. It is important to see what we leave behind us. What fruit follows us? Our lives should be life-giving.

A man who had no interest in Christianity was a casual friend with his next door neighbor. They talked over the back fence, borrowed each others lawnmowers and such, but had not relationally moved beyond that. One day, the non-Christian man's wife discovered she had cancer and died 3 months later. Here is part of the note he wrote after this tragic event:

"I was in total dispair. I went through the funeral preparations and the service like I was in a trance. After the service, I went to the path along the river and walked all night. But, I didn't walk alone. My neighbor -- afraid for me, I guess -- stayed with me all night. He didn't speak; he didn't even walk beside me. He just followed me. When the sun finally came up over the river, he came over and said, 'Let's go eat some breakfast.'

"I go to church now. My neighbor's church. A religion that can produce the kind of caring and love my neighbor showed me is something I want to find out more about. I want to love and be loved like that for the rest of my life."

Agape love is life-giving!

Agape Love is Reliable

God's love is a reliable love. Stable love can be built upon. Reliable love can be leaned on. Agape love provides a foundation to build our lives and relationships on and is solid support we can lean on when we waver.

"And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God and God in him," (I John 4:16).

Unreliable things frustrate me! Computers are a sometimes unreliable but necessary evil. Cell phones seem to lose connection and the most inopportune times. My daughter had a car that would not start when the weather was colder than 32 degrees. More frustrating than those things are unreliable people.

Do you have a Jekyll/Hyde person in your life? You never know which face you'll encounter. They can be as warm as a spring day and the next time you meet they'll be as cold as a Siberian winter. And, sometimes, like Iowa weather, they can change atmosphere in a matter of moments. You know that while you can count on them sometimes, you can't count on them all the time. Because of that, you don't really know when you can count on them.

Agape love is reliable! People who walk in agape love can be counted on to be consistent in their relationships. This love is built on hope and trust. We can rely on the love of God. We need to be the kind of people others rely on. And we can be, if we walk in agape love.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Agape Love is Stable

As we search Scripture for expressions of agape love, we will discover that God's unconditional love is a stable love.

"So that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And, I pray that you, being rooted and grounded in love..." (Ephesians 3:17 NIV).

Note the phrase rooted and grounded. Love doesn't vacillate or stumble. A life of divine love is one that is firmly established and can be counted on. Human love is fickle and changing. We talk about falling in love and falling out of love as if we have no control over the matter. The truth is that God's love brings stability and consistency. You can build on it.

Sometimes cartoons can clarify truth with their simplicity. Piglet sidled up to Pooh from behind. "Pooh!" he whispered. "Yes, Piglet?" "Nothing," said Piglet, taking Pooh's paw. "I just wanted to be sure of you." "I will not drag you along; I will not leave you alone; I will stand by you and have my hand there for you to hold when you need to."

Thomas Merton is quoted as saying, "As long as we are on Earth, the love that unites us will bring us suffering by our very contact with one another, because this love is the resetting of a Body of broken bones. Even saints cannot live with saints on this earth without some anguish, without some pain at the differences that come between them." (Thomas Merton, A Thomas Merton Reader, ed. Thomas P. McDonnell, (New York: Image Books, 1974), 320.)

Agape love provides a wonderful foundation for our lives to rest securely on. Relationships are stable. Friendships are stable. Marriages are stable when they are rooted and grounded in agape love.

Agape Love is Demonstrative

The fourth quality of agape love that we discussed on Sunday is that this love is demonstrative.

"But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us," (Romans 5:8 NIV).

D.C. Branham was the president of the Bible college I went to and was the pastor of the local church. He would often exhort us by saying that "love unexpressed is seldom felt." Vines Expository Dictionary suggests that agape love can only be known by the action in prompts. God demonstrated his love in the giving of His Son for the redemption of the world. Where do you see agape love? You see it clearly as it hangs on the cross of Calvary.

How do you and I show our love? This love is not a matter of feeling but of doing. Agape love is both an noun and a verb. It is a condition of the heart and and action of the heart. This love demands expression and action. The following story helps illustrate this concept.

Two brothers worked together on the family farm. One was married and had a large family. The other was single. At the day's end, the brothers shared everything equally, produce and profit. Then one day the single brother said to himself, "It's not right that we should share equally the produce and the profit. I'm alone, and my needs are simple." So each night he took a sack of grain from his bin and crept across the field between their houses, dumping it into his brother's bin. Meanwhile, the married brother said to himself, "It's not right that we should share the produce and the profit equally. After all, I'm married, and I have my wife and children to look after me in years to come. My brother has no one, and no one to take care of his future." So each night he took a sack of grain and dumped it into his single brother's bin. Both men were puzzled for years because their supply of grain never dwindled. Then one dark night the two brothers bumped into each other. Slowly it dawned on them what was happening. They dropped their sacks and embraced one another. -Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, A 2nd Helping of Chicken Soup for the Soul (Deerfield Beach, Calif.: Heath Communications, 1995), 37.

Love takes action!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Agape Love is Harmless

"Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law," (Rom. 13:10 NIV).

Agape love is committed to doing no harm. It does nothing that is base, wrong or wicked. It seeks the well-being of others.

Pain is not necessarily evil. A surgeon causes pain in order to heal. An assailant causes pain in order to injure. Sometimes pain is necessary for healing to take place. Harmless love is not painless love. It is a love that refuses to injure but will take steps necessary to build up.

Many, by now, have heard about the insulting pastors refusal to tip a waitress at Applebees in the St. Louis area. It is fair to have a discussion about the place of tipping in our economy and the legitimacy of businesses to add an 18% gratuity to a group in a restaurant. That isn't what this tip receipt is about. A pastor brought God into the equation and made an irrational connection between tipping and tithing. What would agape love do? It does no harm to its neighbor. Agape love would not leave an arrogant and insulting note. Agape love would tip and perhaps even add an additional tip for a waitress who was serving their needs. When we injure or insult in the name of our faith, our faith is invalidated.

The law was given as a restraint to evil and injurious actions and behavior. That is the sense in which love is the fulfillment of the law. When we claim to be under grace rather than subject to the demands of the law, we need to fully understand what that means. It means that we are living in such a godly way that the law can make no demands on us. Love provides that power.

As you go about your daily activities, remember that love does no harm. That is a challenging way to live. People can be harmful but love does not repay in kind. It is harmless! Are you?

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Agape Love is Convinced

"For Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died," (2 Corinthians 5:14 NIV).

Paul describes agape love as a compelling force driven by a powerful conviction. We often note that Christ died for all because all are spiritually dead. This text comes at the subject from the other direction. The fact that Christ died for all proves that all are dead. Jesus did not die for those who are spiritually alive. So, if He died for all, it proves that all are in need of spiritual life.

Agape love is convinced that everyone in this world needs to be touched by the love of God and the life saving power of Jesus Christ. This love does not respond out of emotion but out of conviction. Our interaction with people is governed by this compelling conviction. It has a made up mind, settled and convinced of the need this world has for a manifestation of agape love.

I recently read a story about two men who lived in a small village. After engaging in an intense dispute that they could not resolve, they finally agreed to bring their dispute to the village judge. The man went to the judge's home and told his side of the dispute. The judge responded by saying, "You are absolutely right." The following night, the other man presented his case. The said to him, "You are absolutely right." Listening to this exchange, the judge's wife scolded her husband and said, "Those men told you two different stories and you said they were both right. That is impossible!" The judge looked at his wife and said, "You are absolutely right!"

An unstable mind will bend to and change with every circumstance! Agape love doesn't respond to immediate and changing environments. It has a made up mind!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Agape Love Is Sincere

February is the month of love at Berean! During this month we will be  exploring the love pyramid. The Greek language uses four unique words for love:

1. Agape -- Divine love. 
2. Phileo -- Brotherly love. 
3. Storge -- Familial love. 
4. Eros -- Passionate love. 

This week we will consider seven important dynamics of agape love. Scripture tells us that agape love is sincere!

"Love (agape) must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good," (Romans 12:9). It is important to note that sincerity is linked with hating evil and embracing good. Love does not overlook right and wrong in someone's life. Sincere love wants what is best for everyone and evil destroys in many different ways. Sincere love clings to good and draws others to it, as well.

Sincere love is a powerful force. It is without hypocrisy or hidden agendas. It refuses to wear a mask or play a role. It is an authentic expression of what God has placed in the heart. You can't fake sincerity. It must be supplied by God's Spirit.

Steve Goodier, in Prescription for Peace (Life Support System Publishing, 2000), speaks about sincere expressions of love this way in regard to one's spouse,

"Compliment your spouse at least once every day. It should be sincere. Then point out something new you appreciate about him or her every week. Make sure it is something you have never mentioned before. You’ll be surprised at what it does for your marriage. Sincere compliments cost nothing and can accomplish so much. In any relationship, they are the applause that refreshes.

I love the phrase, "they are the applause that refreshes." People everywhere need encouragement and are looking for someone who cares. Why not find someone today to encourage with sincere love -- the applause that refreshes? It may be the difference maker in someone's life!