|Photo by MOSSOT 2015|
Saturday, March 2, 2019
Who is Love?
As we saw last week, humans may sometimes be capable of agape, or self-sacrificing love, as in the case of a parent, spouse or soldier dying to protect a child, spouse, or country. But the sacrifice is usually made impulsively before the person has a chance to weigh the outcomes, and it protects a person or idea highly valued by the person making the sacrifice.
In contrast, true agape, like that shown by Jesus Christ, sacrifices with full knowledge of the cost and of the absence of reward, commits to the sacrifice well in advance, and is done to benefit those who hate rather than love the donor.
Imagine, for example, that everyone in the world, except for your son, is dying from a lethal virus infection. Everyone hates your son because they are jealous and resentful of his perfect health. Doctors study him and discover that he has a unique antibody in his blood against the deadly virus, and that everyone can be cured by receiving that antibody. You gladly agree that he should donate his blood to save the world, but then the doctors inform you that it will take every drop of his precious blood, and that he will have to sacrifice himself if others are to be saved.
Now you and your son realize the cost of saving those who hate your son and are his enemies. Yet motivated by pure, selfless love, you both agree to make that sacrifice. Shockingly, instead of loving your son for his lifesaving sacrifice, many still hate him, many ignore him, and many even refuse his precious gift, without which they will die.
Yet this is a weak analogy to what God the Father and Jesus Christ did for us, agreeing that God the Son would shed every drop of His precious blood to save His enemies, not just in this life, but throughout eternity. Only His perfect holiness is the antidote to sin, for which we would otherwise be forever condemned to hell.
Because of our sin nature (Romans 5:12), none of us can ever love perfectly. Only Jesus Christ, the holy, sinless, Lamb of God (John 1:29) Who took on human flesh (John 1:14) to reconcile sinful man to Holy God (Romans 5:10; 2 Corinthians 5:18-20) can do that. The truly amazing thing about the love of God is that He showed us His infinite love by sacrificing His only begotten Son (John 3:16), Who died an excruciating death to pay for our sins, even when we were His bitter enemies (Romans 5:6-10; James 4:4) and children of the devil (John 8:44), rebelling against Christ, despising Him, and rejecting Him.
God does not need us, for He owns everything (Psalm 50:9-14) and is completely self-existent (John 8:58). Yet the Creator of all made us in His own image (Genesis 1:26-27) and wants to have fellowship with us (1 Corinthians 1:9; 1 John 1:3), to be able to call us His friends, His children (Romans 8:16-21; 9:26), His ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20), and joint heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17).
Once we are freed from condemnation by the law, which we cannot keep completely because of our sin nature, we are saved by God’s grace through our faith (Ephesians 2:8-9). We can then follow Him through His law of liberty (James 1:25; 2:12), which is to love God and love one another (Luke 10:27; 1 Thessalonians 4:9; 1 John 4:7-12; Romans 13:9-10). We love Him because He first loved us (1 John 4:19).
God shows His love for us through His mercy (Ephesians 2:4; Jude 1:21), by not giving us what we do deserve, and by His grace (2 Corinthians 13:14; 2 Thessalonians 2:16; 1 Timothy 1:14), by freely giving us what we don’t deserve. His mercy spares us from the eternal punishment in hell that our sins have earned (Mark 9:43-49; Romans 6:23), and His grace allows us into Heaven (Romans 5:21; Titus 3:7; 1 Peter 5:10), for Christ has covered us in His perfect righteousness (Romans 3:22), so that God no longer sees our sins (Psalm 103:12).
Once we are saved by trusting in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way to Heaven (John 14:6), the Holy Spirit enters us and teaches us about who we are in Christ (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13; 4:30). The Spirit also gives us the fruit of the Spirit, which is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance (Galatians 5:22). These fruit are actually different aspects of love and reflect the character and nature of God, for God is love (1 John 4:8).
In 1 Corinthians 13, the so-called love chapter, the apostle Paul describes the qualities of this type of love, here translated as “charity.” It is longsuffering, meaning patient; kind, which corresponds to goodness of the fruit of the Spirit; content rather than covetous, reflecting peace; well-mannered and self-controlled, which parallels the gentleness, meekness and temperance of the fruit of the Spirit.
Self-sacrificing agape love puts the needs of others ahead of personal gain, finds joy in God’s truth and not in anything evil, suffers all hardships, and has faith, hope and perseverance. Love never fails!
Until we receive our glorified body (1 Corinthians 15:35-57), free of all sin, we will not be able to love perfectly as Christ does, but we must follow His example by dying daily to our sin nature (1 Corinthians 15:31). In the “love chapter,” Paul explains that we will not know true love, or charity, until we see Jesus Christ face to face in Heaven. Agape love will last throughout all eternity and outshines even faith and hope (Romans 8:24-25), because these will no longer be needed once our faith becomes sight!