Galatians 5:22-23 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, (23) gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! (NLT)
Ask a group of people to define love and they might come up with a lot of ways to describe it from simple physical attraction, to something much deeper and more substantial. Some might say there are different kinds and that is certainly true, which is why people’s descriptions can vary. When the Bible uses the word love it is helpful to understand that it also distinguishes between different kinds, although this is not always obvious when translated into the one English word. Therefore often several words are necessary to capture the meaning of the original text.
In the case of love, used in the Galatians passage above, the original Greek word is Agapē. Agapē love is the kind of love God shows us, and it is what motivated Him to send Jesus into the world to die for our sins when we had done nothing to deserve being saved.
John 3:16 “For God loved the world so much that He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.”
Romans 5:7-8 Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. (8) But God showed His great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.
From the Bible we learn God’s love does not ignore our sin, rather is so abundant it’s able to deal with it, and heal us from the damage it has caused. The right response to such amazing love is for us to make a deliberate choice of turning away from our sinful ways and towards Jesus Christ. To do this we ask forgiveness of our sins and accept Jesus into our lives as the only one who can save us, and accept His authority over us. This is how we accept God’s offer of forgiveness and at the same time God gives us His Holy Spirit to help us.
When we do this we embark on a wonderful new way of living…coming to experience and know true Agapē love for the first time and what it’s like to live with such love ruling over us, instead of our sinful flesh!
Take a moment to consider what the passages above are saying.
Agapē love looks past offense (sin) and sees the value of the person.
God created human beings and although we chose sin which has caused a great deal of brokenness, He still looks at us and sees our value. He sees the potential for us to become what He originally intended and this is why He made a way for us to be saved. This is the same kind of love that the Holy Spirit works to grow in us so that we can demonstrate it to others, but it is very challenging to put it into practice.
You see, Agapē love runs against our broken nature. If someone offends us, our natural reaction usually is to hold a grudge, hate, or even retaliate. We may be fine with small things, but depending on the type of offense and who caused it, we may find some offenses extremely difficult to forgive and some absolutely impossible.
Yet if we are to truly display the Agapē love God has shown to us, then a readiness to forgive must become part of who we are. But rest assured, “What’s impossible for us is not for God” and with Him in us and through continued prayer and humble submission forgiveness will become possible.
It’s important to note, forgiveness does not simply excuse bad behaviour, pretend it never happened or place us in a situation where the same thing could happen again. Neither does it mean a damaged relationship can be restored to the way it was before. Instead it allows us to let go of the burden the hurt has put on us and keep loving that person the way God does. Some people may get upset at the idea of forgiving those who have hurt them and especially of being expected to love them and this is quite understandable. It’s important to understand and remember God doesn’t expect this to all happen in an instant. The hurt feelings are unlikely to go away immediately and in some case may never completely go, but choosing to love instead of hate sets us free and speeds our own healing. Holding on to grudges does us no good and can actually make things worse. As someone once said, “Holding a grudge is like drinking poison every day and expecting the other person to get sick.” It just doesn’t work that way.
1 John 4:16-21 We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in His love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. (17) And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face Him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world. (18) Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced His perfect love. (19) We love each other because He loved us first. (20) If someone says, “I love God,” but hates a Christian brother or sister, that person is a liar; for if we don’t love people we can see, how can we love God, whom we cannot see? (21) And He has given us this command: Those who love God must also love their Christian brothers and sisters. (NLT)
While this passage focuses on our love for fellow Christians, we are also called to love those who do not have the same beliefs that we do. We are even called to love our enemies, but it has to be said once again that loving them does not mean we simply excuse bad behaviour or put ourselves in dangerous situations.
Luke 6:35-36 “Love your enemies! Do good to them. Lend to them without expecting to be repaid. Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for He is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked. (36) You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate. (NLT)
This is no easy thing and requires us to exercise wisdom in how we interact with people and we still need to have safe boundaries. To love our enemies will test us and we cannot hope to succeed in our own strength. Only God can give us the strength to keep loving those who may sometimes intend the worst for us. This is the kind of love we are called to because this is the kind of love God has shown to us. Loving others in this way is an incredible witness to the world. It is evidence of God’s power because it is unlike any kind of love that the world has to offer.
Study Time ~
Re-read: 1 John 4:16-21.
After reading take some time to consider the following questions:
Q1. Do you truly believe that God loves you the way the passages above describe? In other words, do you believe He sees past your brokenness to your true value as His child? Do you believe He wants to see you healed and made whole? Spend some time reading the passages above and praying to God for a fresh pouring of His love into your heart.
Q2. Do you have a firm grasp on how much forgiveness God has poured out on you? This is also something to pray about. If you doubt that you have been forgiven then ask God for His assurance. It is important to understand though that we have to be open with God about any sin in our lives that we are aware of and haven’t wanted to let go of. God sees our sin anyway. Nothing is hidden from Him but He wants us to willingly confess sin and seek His forgiveness and His help to grow stronger.
(Please know, if you are not a Christian then God’s forgiveness is available to you too. As mentioned above, it requires a deliberate choice to turn from old sinful ways and turn to God. Jesus was sent to pay for our sin.. all of it! Regardless of your past, God sees a better future for you and all you have to do is accept what He is offering by accepting Jesus).
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And…if you haven’t yet read the first part of this ‘Spiritual Fruit’ series, simply click here to catch-up now!