Define Love, Divine Love
If you have been a Christian for any period of time, or even if you are not a Christian and you have been around Christians very often, there are a few things you have heard. You have heard John 3:16, or maybe you remember Tim Tebow putting the reference in white on his black sun block. You may have even been one of the millions of people to Google the reference to find out what it was.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son so that whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.
You have heard Jesus said that the two greatest commandments were to:
Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength; and love your neighbor as yourself. Mark 12:30-31; Matthew 22:37-38; Luke 10:27; points back to Deuteronomy 6:4-5
You may have even noticed that the board right here in our church says, “love God, love others.”
We see signs and hear phrases everywhere… Live, laugh, love. For love of dog. I’m lovin’ it. Love of my life. Love is blind. All is fair in love and war. Love-hate relationship. Make love, not war. Falling in love. Puppy love. Love will find a way. For the love of all things… And one of my personal favorites, a face only a mother could love…!
Not to mention all the things we love… I love coffee. I love my dog. I love my friends. I love Chick-fil-a. I love racquetball, golf, and fishing. I love my kids. I love my wife. I love spending time with some people, but not everyone obviously. I love steaks on the grill, not to mention, ribs and brisket on the smoker! I love being a pastor, but God hasn’t put me in a position to do that full-time. I love teaching, but I don’t really love my job. I love it when I get to sleep in, but my body hardly ever lets me and I always feel hungover when I do sleep in. I love that I have been clean and sober for almost 25 years…! I love GOD!!!
Do these all mean the same thing??? Obviously not! Or if they do, there is something definitely more wrong with our society than we can even imagine. Maybe that is why the world has gone crazy. We really don’t know what love actually is!!!
I believe there is much more truth to that statement than we truly understand.
In the time Jesus was walking on the earth, the Greeks had at least three different words with an idea translated and defined as love in our culture today. But those three words they used had three very different meanings. And that is part of our problem today, how do we define love? On dictionary.com, the word love has 22 different entries under its definition. 14 of them are used as nouns, 6 as verbs (or actions) with an object, 1 has a verb without an object, and 1 as a verb phrase. No wonder we are confused!!!
This confusion leads to all sorts of misunderstandings too. Who do you love, how do you love, when should you love, what shouldn’t you love, why should you love, do you love at all, shouldn’t I be able to love who, how, or whatever I love, who are you to say I shouldn’t love this, that, or the other?
So many questions and yet we as Christians are commanded to LOVE. The two greatest commands Jesus tells us are to LOVE. God is LOVE.
How we define LOVE is extremely important if we are going to LOVE the way God has commanded us to LOVE and if we are going to teach others to LOVE as he has commanded us to teach others to obey his commands. Friends, we have gotten ourselves into one heck of an ever-lovin’ mess!
Why don’t we see how God, who is love, and who created love, defines love. Instead of 22 definitions of love, and instead of 3 definitions of love, we are going to focus on just ONE definition of love and what that LOVE looks like.
The love we are going to look at in Greek is agape. ἀγάπη In every one of these passages I am going to reference, the same root word agape, is used. So we are only talking about one kind of love. We are talking about what Divine Love really looks like.
When we look back at what Jesus said in the context of Matt. 22; Mark 12; and Luke 10 when he was repeating the Hebrew Shema and adding to it, Jesus used this word agape: to love. We must love God and love others. He told his followers to love one another in several other passages. Same love. When God so loved the world, it’s the same love. This is agape love.
John, the apostle whom Jesus loved, writes this for us.
Dear friends, let us love one another, because love is from God, and everyone who loves has been fathered by God and knows God. The person who does not love does not know God, because God is love. By this the love of God is revealed in us: that God has sent his one and only Son into the world so that we may live through him. In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.
1 John 4:7-10 NET
John goes on to tell us…
Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue but in deed and truth.
1 John 3:18 NET
We find that although love, agape, is being described, love is in every way described as an action. God’s divine love is an active love. But when we are talking about active love, we are not talking about the activity of what we call ‘making love’ we are talking about putting our money where our mouth is and actively doing something when we love God and love people. Paul helps make this even clearer for us. Because God is love, a facet of the fruit of the Spirit of God is love.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
Galatians 5:22-23 NET
To combat lawlessness, all the acts and desires of the flesh that are contrary to walking by the Spirit: sexual immorality, impurity, debauchery, idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions, envy and murder; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. Paul says we need to walk by the Spirit and that first in the list of the facets of the fruit of the Spirit is love. Divine love, God-like love, unconditional love; along with joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control is the fruit that Holy Spirit produces in our lives. And in 1 Corinthians 13 Paul illustrates for us that love is a spiritual gift. 1 Corinthians 12-14 is the longest dissertation on spiritual gifts and the use and practice of the gifts within the context of worship in the New Testament, and Paul says this right in the middle of it about love.
1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but I do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith so that I can remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away everything I own, and if I give over my body in order to boast, but do not have love, I receive no benefit.
4 Love is patient, love is kind, it is not envious. Love does not brag, it is not puffed up. It is not rude, it is not self-serving, it is not easily angered or resentful. It is not glad about injustice, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
8 Love never fails. But if there are prophecies, they will be set aside; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be set aside. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part, but when what is perfect comes, the partial will be set aside. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. But when I became an adult, I set aside childish ways. For now we see in a mirror indirectly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know in part, but then I will know fully, just as I have been fully known. ‘
13 And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.
1 Corinthians 13:1-13 NET
We very frequently hear verses 4-7 taken out of context and read at weddings as instructions to a husband and wife how they should love one another. However, this love, this agape love, this divine love, this is how love should act toward all those around us. The people we like, the people we love, the people we minister to, Jesus even said we should love, agape, our enemies…
Now, you’re going to ask, “Well, Pastor Joe, you’ve given us a whole lot of lip service and description of love; divine, agape, biblical love. But what am I supposed to do if divine love is an action?”
Well, figure it out for yourself…just kidding. Here are 5 ways to show God’s love to others.
Show God’s love by actively listening to others.
Don’t just hear what people are saying, but really listen to them.
Show God’s love by praying with others and for others.
Don’t just tell someone you’ll be praying for them. Offer to join with them in prayer, right then, if they’ll let you. If not, that’s okay, but make sure you do include them in your prayers…don’t just say it and forget it.
Show God’s love by being generous.
Not just generous with your money. Although that is a great way to be generous, but also be generous with your time and with your talents as well.
Show God’s love by encouraging others.
Especially encouraging them to continue to walk the path of faith when times are hard and life is disappointing.
Show God’s love with acts of kindness.
Especially acts of kindness where God receives all the glory. Anonymous good deeds are awesome. Paying for someone’s meal or drink behind you in the drive-thru. But doing an act of kindness with the message that God loves them and is concerned for them, leaving yourself out, is always best. If anything, God lead me to do this for you is a great way to go as well.
No matter who they are and how much you may have against them personally or them against you because of some kind of bias…
It’s possible to show God’s love to anyone.
And showing God’s love to everyone is exactly what Jesus came here to do and what he left us behind to do.
Jesus came to the world to love it and save it, not to condemn it, because the world already stands condemned.
We don’t have to condemn the world. We have to show the world God’s love, because we are Jesus’s body left here on earth.
May you be a blessing and representative of God’s love to someone.