Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD. - Psalm 27:14

Not Just Any Kind of Love!

John 15:12 – My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.

Love is selfish – or at least the way most of us practice love.

A couple months ago we wrapped up another Christmas. Like most families, the ideal is to get everyone together to celebrate. Distance often makes this challenging.

Our solution is often two-fold. First, if possible, we will video-conference on Christmas Day with long-distance family. Second, we will mail our gifts. It is a poor substitute for having family with you but it works – kind of.

When we talk about how Christmas went for each family someone always has a story of frustration of a long-distance family member who puts no effort into coming home. When presents are sent – nothing! No pictures. No videos. No “thank you” notes.

Exasperated the frustrated family wants to give up. They refuse to spend money to buy and mail gifts if they cannot even make an effort to say “thank you.”

That is “conditional” love. We love when our love is rewarded – and we all do it on occasion.

Admittedly, we don’t look for big rewards. In fact, we gladly give an expensive gift for the minimum price of a “thank you.” It costs nothing but a thoughtful and simple effort.

Sustaining our love often relies on getting some form of love in return. I tell my wife “I love you” and she responds, “I love you.” Her words are a return on an emotional investment.

Often, however, when our efforts of love and sacrifice are met with a negative or null response, we stop. We refuse to make ourselves vulnerable again to the hurt and disappointment.

Christ’s instruction, nevertheless, is to love. The Greek word he used is AGAPE. AGAPE love focuses more on commitment than PHILEO’s focus on affection and family. Paul put it this way: 

Romans 5:6–8 – You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

God’s love was demonstrated at a time when we least earned or deserved it. We were “powerless” and “ungodly.” He sent Jesus to die for us “while we were still sinners.” That is more than affection. It is commitment.

The term AGAPE is used throughout Scripture. It is the starting point in understanding God’s commitment to us. It is used to describe the relationship between husbands and wives (Ephesians 5) and our relationship with others (Luke 10:27), including our enemies (Luke 6:35).

This “love” is purely selfless. It looks for no reward, only our commitment. Demonstrating AGAPE does not earn for us salvation but reflects our appreciation for the salvation earned for us by Christ. The Apostle John summed it up well when he said:

We love because he first loved us. (1 John 4:19)

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