What do you know about love?
The truth is, real love may shock you.
We've all said it - or at least heard it. I love: my dog; pizza; the beach; my kids; my spouse. The problem is that we only have the one word for all of those. And would you believe that I actually have stronger feelings for my husband and kids than I do for pizza? Well, I do.
It's a failure of the English language that we only have this single word. So, let's go to the Greek instead. (Galatians was originally written in Greek.)
A Variety of Love Words
The Greeks avoided our English mess by providing a variety of words for love:
- storge- family love
- eros- romantic love
- philia- good friends (brotherly love)
- agape- unconditional love that only wants the best for others
It is "AGAPE" that Paul uses in Galatians 5:22 as he began to list the Fruit of the Spirit. This is the love that God is. It is never based on how it is treated. (Look at Christ on the cross, begging God to forgive those who tortured Him in Luke 23:34)
God's love is more than fondness. His AGAPE is more than that of a loving parent. His AGAPE is sacrificial, unconditional, eternal, and unchanging. Many may teach that God is vengeful, but He is not. "But You are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love (agape)." Neh. 9:17b (emphasis mine)
God doesn't sit on high with a giant scoreboard, taking off points each time we fail. Instead, He helps up up, dusts us off, and encourages us to try again. He wants the best for us.
Against Human Nature
Sadly, this fierce love is not within the normal boundaries of human nature. This sacrificial and unconditional force is foreign to the human world that focuses more on "me-me-me/what can I get out of this?" most of the time."Greater (agape) has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." See Rom. 5:8, "God demonstrated His (agape) for us in that Christ died for us."
Don't get me wrong. God also loves us enough to discipline us. (See Heb. 12:1-6)
Agape Comes First
I don't believe that it was a fluke to put Agape/Love at the front of this list. All the other Fruit of the Spirit must be rooted in it. And we are able to show agape and grow agape because of the Holy Spirit at work within us. It is His nature to be agape, not ours. The more we move out of the way and allow Him to lead, the more agape will grow within us. That is the challenge.
My next post will explore Agape: In Action.
If you didn't read the Overview, you can do that here.
Father God, thank you for Your agape for us that You would sacrifice Your Son. I ask that You let Your agape flow freely to us and through us in a way that makes a difference for Your Kingdom. Reveal to everyone who reads this someone who needs agape in their life, and give us the boldness to step forward with it.