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)
In the previous session on Spiritual Fruit, ‘Love Part A’, we discussed the importance of loving the way God does. Godly love is a big topic so we’re going to dig a little further in this part 2 post.
The love we’re talking about here is not the kind that depends on what we get out of a relationship with someone or from the way that person might make us feel. Consider how you might relate to a best friend. The time you first met them you may have considered them just an acquaintance but over time your friendship with them became stronger and deeper. You began to enjoy their company more and perhaps you started to share your hopes and dreams with them; things you would not share with a stranger. You started to love them for their friendship and genuinely care for their well-being.
Agapē love is different to this in that it focuses on the value of the person themselves for who they are in God’s eyes. It is often referred to as unconditional love because there is nothing done to earn it or exchange for it. God loves us unconditionally which means He loves us despite our sin. He does not simply overlook sin but instead wants to see us healed and set free from it. He wants to save us by dealing with sin properly and He sent Jesus for this purpose.
God’s love is unconditional, but salvation is not.
God provided one way to be saved and He has made it available to anyone who is willing to accept the offer because He loves us.
Agapē is also the kind of love God wants back from us. We should not feel love for God only when He provides for us. Our hearts should not grow cold towards Him when we don’t get what we want, or we think He hasn’t protected us when life gets hard. Our love for God should be much more resilient than this. Sadly it is sometimes the case that people do turn from God when faced with troubles, when they should instead run to Him for comfort and strength.
God pours love into the hearts of His people so that they can love others in the same way; even those who may hate them. This kind of love is meant to motivate us to share the Gospel message with those who do not know God, but our natural tendency is to look at people on the surface. We see their behaviour and can be very quick to judge them, if we consider their behaviour to be bad.
Imagine if God treated us like that! No, we are called to love the way He does. It does not mean we excuse sin, rather we point people to Jesus by showing them a love more powerful than sin…The way to break the bondage of sin and a human fleshly-nature ruling over us, and that bondage-break is Jesus Christ.
The wonderful thing about Agapē love is that it adds depth to the other kinds of love we experience. Why? Because if someone we care about hurts us, whether intentionally or not, Agapē looks beyond the offense. Though the warm feelings towards that person may seem gone in the moment, Agapē remains. It helps us see the other person the way God sees them and motivates us to seek restoration. This does not guarantee all relationships can he repaired, but it enables us to let go of the offense into God’s hands, and to not be filled with hatred, anger or bitterness, all of which interfere with our growth as Christians.
Does this kind of love seem unlikely? Do you believe only God is capable of it, and that human beings never could be? Truly, only with God’s help is it possible to love in this way. Yet it is possible when we constantly turn to Him, seeking His strength and guidance. Where we are weak, His Holy Spirit builds us up. This kind of love has a supernatural quality to it that cannot be faked. It must come from God’s heart first and then into our own and only then can we demonstrate it to the world.
Acts 4:32-37: All the believers were united in heart and mind. And they felt that what they owned was not their own, so they shared everything they had. (33) The apostles testified powerfully to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and God’s great blessing was upon them all. (34) There were no needy people among them, because those who owned land or houses would sell them (35) and bring the money to the apostles to give to those in need. (36) For instance, there was Joseph, the one the apostles nicknamed Barnabas (which means “Son of Encouragement”). He was from the tribe of Levi and came from the island of Cyprus. (37) He sold a field he owned and brought the money to the apostles.
Here is a beautiful picture of the early Church. We see love at work in the willingness of believers to help and care for each other, sometimes at great expense to themselves. These are ordinary people who knew God’s love and wanted to pour it out on others. Some might say that anyone could be generous like this and that you don’t have to be a Christian. That’s certainly true to a point but the effect of God’s love at work in the early Church was far more impacting than simple generosity or care for a fellow human being. This was the Gospel message not just being preached but being demonstrated in the lives of believers and it attracted people and the Church grew fast!
Outsiders saw the Agapē love believers had for each other and they wanted to be a part of it because they saw that the message being preached actually meant something. Lives were being transformed and a community of believers grew in which the values and attitudes were very different from that of society around it. Barriers of class and culture were broken down and people saw each other as equals. In the early Church we see people who would otherwise not have mixed with each other become a very closely knit loving community. This is the power of God’s love to transform lives.
Galatians 3:26-28 For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. (27) And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes. (28) There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.
In this passage of Galatians 3 we are told that in Christ (accepted Him as Lord & Saviour) we are all the same. Man-made social and cultural barriers that have come about from racism, sexism, elitism and other ungodly attitudes are broken down. There is no favouritism with God. He sees us all on the same level and all in need of His love and healing. If we are going to call ourselves His children then we must adopt the same attitude.
Jesus gave a very good example of how we are to love others as God loves us. Check out the parable of the Good Samaritan Luke 10:30-37.
At this time in history the Jews and the Samaritans hated each other. Some Bible translations will actually indicate this but others don’t and so it’s easy to miss the significance of what Jesus was saying. Some of those in the crowd may have been shocked or even offended since the hero in Jesus’ story is a Samaritan who helps a Jewish man. Remember that the audience here were Jews. This is not simply a story about compassion. This is a story about mercy.
Mercy is compassion shown despite an offense and this means compassion even to our enemies.
Matthew 5:44-48: But I say, love your enemies! [Bless those who curse you. Do good to those who hate you.] Pray for those who persecute you! (45) In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For He gives His sunlight to both the evil and the good, and He sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. (46) If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. (47) If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that. (48) But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect. (NLT)
If we are to show this kind of love to enemies then how much more should we love our fellow believers!
Ephesians 4:1-4 Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God. (2) Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. (3) Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. (4) For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future. (NLT)
After reading take some time to consider the following questions:
Q1. Do you find it easy to love others? Even those who have done you wrong?
(Remember, we are not talking about warm fuzzy feelings but the Agapē love that looks beyond any offense to what God sees. The Bible doesn’t make any promises that this is always going to be easy, but it does promise that God’s Holy Spirit has been given to all who accept Jesus into their lives and it is from Him that the strength to love in this way is given. Our pray life should be more than just asking for God’s provision. It should also be for the strength to love as He loves. We should be praying to be more Christ-like).
Q2. Do you find it easy to forgive others or do you find it hard to let go of grudges, anger and bitterness?
(This is the real test of Agapē love. Some may find this a tough question because of past hurts but in no way is this study intended to ignore or trivialise what may have happened to you. God grieves over the suffering of his people but this is why forgiveness is so important. It is handing things over to God for Him to deal with and this sets us free from the burden and puts us in a place where healing can begin. Of course this is not a simple thing to do. You may not feel like forgiving but it rarely starts with feelings. Instead it usually has to start with a choice. With God’s healing the change in feelings will eventually follow but it takes time. Again this is something to pray about).
Recommended Further Reading – “Tortured for Christ” by Richard Wurmbrand.
To read the next post in this series on ‘Joy’ click here.