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Love Is Putting Others First
Love is a very common word we use in the English language today. It’s the topic of many songs and it’s the highest aim that the world longs for. We love chocolate, we love fries, we love hiking, we love our dogs, we love our family, we love the colour blue, we love… but what does love really mean and how does God want us to understand this important word in our lives? C.S. Lewis actually wrote a book about the four different kinds of love found in the Bible in a book called, The Four Loves, published in 1960. In the Greek language the four types of love are: affection (storge), friendship (philia), romantic (eros), and charity (agape). The English language unfortunately amalgamates each type of love into one word, but we know that we don’t mean the same kind of love when we talk about loving chocolate versus loving our family. So what is the kind of love that the Bible describes comes from God, and is the love that God desires for us to have? Christian love is translated 258 times (verb and noun form) in the New Testament as charity (agape). To explain further, this agape love can also be defined as affection, good-will, and benevolence.
This Fall our church is embarking on a study of the 9 fruit of the Spirit, starting with the fruit of love, agape love. A possible reason why love is listed first among the fruit is because without this love, it is not possible to walk in the remaining 8 fruit of the Spirit. The Bible tells us that to know God is to love others, because God is love (John 4:7,8). In other words, to be a child of God is to love others, it’s who we are and not simply something we do. The metaphor of love being a fruit that grows within us by the work and power of the Holy Spirit is incredible, because we know from experience how challenging it can be to love people, even our own family, but especially those who wrong us or are different from us. When we yield each day to the Holy Spirit, God in us, we have the help we need to walk in love no matter the relationship or circumstance. How wonderful it is to know that the Holy Spirit helps us, but how do we know what this love looks like? A few key scriptures can be a helpful guide.
Jesus described the essence of agape love to His disciples as laying down your life for others (John 15:13). No one demonstrated this more fully than Jesus Himself when He went to the cross for all humanity, that by believing in Him, we could come close to God and have an intimate relationship with Him. One thing to note about what Jesus said, is that just before He talked about loving one another, He spoke about abiding in Him like a branch connected to a vine. Once again we see that loving others is only possible when connected to Jesus and surrendered to His Holy Spirit. Another famous passage, often referred to as the love chapter, is found in 1 Corinthians 13, where Paul describes the centrality of love in everything we may do for God. This agape love is patient, kind, it does not envy, it is not proud, it honours others, it is not self-seeking, it does not easily get angry, it doesn’t keep track of wrongs, it rejoices when the truth is spoken, it protects, trusts, hopes and perseveres (1 Corinthians 13:4-7). If this form of love could be summarized into a phrase, in essence, agape love is putting others first. May we make it our priority to be connected to our Lord Jesus, and surrender to the work and power of the Holy Spirit on a daily basis, that we may walk in the love God created us to have and live out.