This is post #5 in a twelve blog/podcast series entitled REAL LIFE CHRISTIANITY. In this series, we’ll look at very practical matters like how we must learn to love and honor both ourselves and others in order to be the Christ-centered followers the Master wants us to be here in the twenty-first century. Here’s the homepage for the entire series.
Our Lectio Divina for today: 1st John 4: 7-16 (MsgB)
My beloved friends, let us continue to love each other since love comes from God. Everyone who loves is born of God and experiences a relationship with God. The person who refuses to love doesn’t know the first thing about God, because God is love—so you can’t know Him if you don’t love. This is how God showed His love for us: God sent His only Son into the world so we might live through Him. This is the kind of love we are talking about—not that we once upon a time loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as a sacrifice to clear away our sins and the damage they’ve done to our relationship with God. My dear, dear friends, if God loved us like this, we certainly ought to love each other. No one has seen God, ever. But if we love one another, God dwells deeply within us, and His love becomes complete in us—perfect love! This is how we know we’re living steadily and deeply in Him, and He in us: He’s given us life from His life, from His very own Spirit. Also, we’ve seen for ourselves and continue to state openly that the Father sent His Son as Savior of the world. Everyone who confesses that Jesus is God’s Son participates continuously in an intimate relationship with God. We know it so well, we’ve embraced it heart and soul, this love that comes from God.
It’s a four-letter word that’s been used so generously in our culture, its true definition has nearly been lost.
Take for example the following sentences that are all true, based on my emotions…
I love my wife and kids. I love Chevys. I love hot dogs. I love the Hawkeyes. I love Jesus.
The only common theme found in these five sentences is the phrase “I love”…which presents quite a big problem when it comes to sorting out the type of love I’m talking about here! Do I “love” hot dogs just like I “love” my wife? Do I “love” my children in the same way I “love” the football team I root for? Confusing, huh?
In the ancient Greek language found in our New Testaments, there were actually four different words used for defining the varying types of “love” you and I can experience in this life…
Stergo: a type of common love found between parents and children, or a people and their king.
Phileo: a type of emotional, brotherly-type of love found between good friends.
Eros: a type of sexual attraction and intimate love found between a man and a woman.
Agape: a unique type of sacrificial, un-ending and un-conditional love found between a parent and one child, or between a person and their god.
The New Testament writers took the Greek word agape, for example, and used it as their defining word for “love” when talking about the unique kind of relationship God, our Father, has with us. For the apostle John, who wrote our text for today (1st John 4), agape is no common love, but a love that stands far and above all other emotions found in our human existence. Thus when John says, “God is love,” (God is agape) he is defining the very core nature of the Divine; the center, or the heart of the God Jesus of Nazareth calls Abba Father.
So when you and I, as followers of Jesus, are called to become men and women motivated by love (agape), we’re actually opening ourselves up to the most powerful force in the universe. God’s agape love; His unconditional, unlimited, unending love for us, is so strong that nothing in this world, or the next, can surpass it in any way, shape, or form. Agape that flows from the heart of God into the lives of Jesus-followers, is so powerful and so un-equaled, even the gates of hell can’t prevail against it.
And this agape, my friends, is the powerful, life-changing agent which God freely pours into the lives of all those who simply ask for it. And as a result of that outpouring of agape, those who call themselves Christ-followers can actually become agents of agape love, going out in our world on a daily basis to literally love (agape) “the hell” out of the world around us!
More on that next time!
My prayer: Father God, I stand amazed at the agape love You have for me. That alone is worthy of praise forever and ever. But more than that, You pour out this same agape love in me so that it might flow through me into my world around me. May Your agape be both my sustenance and strength both today and forever. For Your name’s sake. Amen.
My questions to ponder: When it comes to loving myself and others, am I opening myself up to the unlimited potential of God’s agape love, or am I limiting myself to lesser loves that will most certainly fall far short in one manner or another? Am I truly open to following agape, allowing it to become the engine (or primary motivator) in all I attempt to do and say on behalf of Christ?
So what is God speaking to you today as we attempt to live the Christ-centered life?
Thank you for joining us on this 12-session journey we call Real-Life Christianity. We suggest you bookmark our blog/podcast homepage for this series to keep all the blogs and podcasts in one place for your future reference.
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