February 2009 – LOVE: The Challenge of the Great Commandment
(or “Oh my gosh, who’s going to help me obey this one?”)
To Begin our study, please read Matt 22:37-40
The scriptures command us to love God and love others as you love yourself. In addition, Jesus emphasized this command by saying the keeping of the whole Law is summed up in His one new commandment to love one anothe, as the following verses repeat:
John 13:34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.
I John 3:23 And this is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as He commanded us.
John 15:12 This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you.
Love others as Jesus loves us – WOW – that’s very challenging to me. As we continue looking into it, the real meaning of this commandment is only going to become an even greater challenge to us before it gets better. Stick with me though because I’m also going to give you the key to meeting it.
For many of us to love God is not so hard most of the time, but to love others and love them as we love ourselves, that is not so easy. Many of us struggle with even liking, much less loving, ourselves. We are often hardest on ourselves, demanding and judging ourselves and we end up doing the same to others. We’re miserable with our own condition and can’t stand to be reminded of it when we see it in others. I love the verses in Romans 14:4 says: “Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and stand he will, for the Lord is able to make him stand.” Oh, thank God for His insight into our hearts and this firm word to “lay off” judging ourselves or other believers, all His servants. I’m sure if we would heed this word, the Body of Christ would be a safer place for us all.
Let’s look at this word LOVE: I say, ‘I love my husband, Pat, my kids, my cat, chocolate, the ocean and warm weather.’ Our English word “love” gets used for an affection for almost anyone or anything.
However, the Greeks used several words to distinguish ‘love’ from the many different kinds of affection or desires. Here are the most common four:
- Eros: lowest form – meaning: to desire, to have/to take possession – sexual/spiritual connotation – in Greek mythology, gods’ intercourse with humans produced heroes from eros. Never used in NT. In English = LUST.
- Stergos: the natural familial love between parents and children, siblings, relatives, used in Rom 12:10
- Phileo: friendship affection – brotherly love, mutual affection, conditional reciprocating affection
- Agapeo: Highest form of love, the Godkind of Love – unconditional, unmerited, based on the perspective and choice of the lover: Agape always chooses to value the recipient worthy of favor regardless of their actions This Godkind of Love counts you and me as precious and valuable, always worthy of His favor.
My grandmother expressed it well when she would tell me, “I don’t always like what you do, but I always love you.”
The scriptures above that we read at the beginning all use the word “agape:” Jesus command is to agape God, ourselves, and others. (I warned you the challenge was only going to get harder.)
Agape Love: IS NOT an emotion or feeling or reaction to someone else’s actions. Agape loves the unlovely, doesn’t just tolerate them, but lays its life down for them, even for enemies. Think of the hardest person to get along with or even your worst enemy, someone who let you down when you needed them most, someone who abandoned you, someone who abused you, or an unfaithful one who betrayed you, an ex-friend, ex-lover, an ex-husband. We hear so much about forgiveness but do we go on to obey the command to love as well. Could you agape any of these?
Before I was saved, I thought love was some kind of passionate feelings, infatuation, romantic, music & roses, etc. Then I read I Cor. 13:4-8 Let’s look at the characteristics as “is and isn’t.”
I Corinthians 13: 4-8 says LOVE IS:
- Is patient
- Is kind
- Rejoices with truth
- Bears all things,
- Believes all things, has faith in others
- Hopes all things, expects the best from others
- Endures all things, hangs in there
- Is not envious or jealous
- Is not boastful
- Is not arrogant or conceded
- Is not unbecoming
- Is not self seeking
- Is not provoked
- Is not bitter
- Is not vindictive
LOVE never fails, is never a waste of time, is never in vain.
NO WONDER I FAILED AT LOVE – I DIDN’T KNOW WHAT IT WAS AT ALL. I NEEDED AN UPGRADE TO THIS KIND OF LOVE.
I John 4:16 says God is love. We could easily put God’s name in front of each of these characteristics. Try reading it that way -This is how God loves you. This is how Jesus loves you. You might be thinking, “Easy for Him – since HE is God.” But I have to remind myself that He would not command us to do something if He didn’t know that we would be able to obey. Considering this in my study, the Holy Spirit directed me to John 21:15-17.
This is the episode of Jesus meeting the disciples after His resurrection on the shores of Gallilee and his conversation with Peter. This is the way it reads in the Greek: In the first two exchanges, Jesus asks Peter: “Do you agape Me?” Peter answers: “Lord, You know I phileo You.” Did you catch that? Peter downgraded his love to phileo – He knew he lacked what it took to agape. And he knew Jesus knew it too.
But in the third exchange Jesus asked “Do you phileo Me?” Why did Jesus downgrade or lower the bar, His expectation of Peter? Peter needed an UPGRADE to agape. “Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you phileo Me?” Have you ever insisted on deminishing yourself to someone who wanted to raise you up and finally had them agree with you? That is such a grievious experience. But Peter was only confessing what Jesus had to have known was the best he believed he could do. Jesus knew what the new birth was going to put into Peter, a living seed that could bear supernatural fruit.
READ Galatians 5:13-25 The fruit of a tree is the evidence of its core: Apple tree or Lemon tree
An apple tree comes from the seed at the core of an apple. It’s destined to bear apples. When we receive Jesus we receive the Holy Spirit and we are born again. Our DNA is changed to bear the fruit of the Spirit because He is at our core. The fruit of the Spirit is agape love. So if it is already in us, why doesn’t this love come natural? Like a tree, whether we bear fruit or not depends upon on one thing.
In the late 80’s we lived in San Diego, planting a new church. We often drove out into the Borrego desert which during those years was in drought. The desert was dry and desolate with miles of sand but no plants. The year after moving back to Denver, we visited San Diego and on the way drove through the Borrego. The drought had broken and the rains had come. The desert looked like a forest with desert plants 10-12 feet tall, blossoming and bearing fruit. Where did all this foliage come from? No one had sown seed over these hundreds of miles of desert. The seed was from former foliage that had laid dorment in the sand until the rains came and caused it to spout, grow, and bear fruit.
Peter said, “for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable, but imperishable, that is, through the living and abiding word of God.” (I Pet. 1:23) When we are born again, we recieve the Holy Spirit like a seed. He resides in us promising such great potential. When we surrender to the Spirit to fills us, we are baptized into Him, He waters us and causes us to bear fruit. That surrender means we walk after the Spirit, letting Him lead us and be in control of us which results in the Fruit of the Spirit. The first fruit of the Spirit is LOVE. The seed of AGAPE is in us and destined to bear fruit through us.
Peter obviously recieved the upgraded love for he writes in I Peter 1:8 “…though you have not seen Him, you agape love Him…” When did Peter discover this?
The first 2 chapters of Acts tells us when and how it happened.
- In Acts 1:5, Jesus promised to ‘baptize’ us with the Holy Spirit – He promised to send the Rain the seed of the new birth needed.
- Acts 1:8, and you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you…(the power of walking in the Spirit is one of the most supernatural witnesses a believer can possess)
- 2:1-4, They were all filled with the Holy Spirit
- 2:14, Peter was filled with the UPGRADED AGAPE Love and boldly began to proclaim , “It shall be in the last days that I will pour forth My Spirit upon all Mankind, vs. 33 Jesus having received from the Father, the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured forth this which you both see and hear…vs. 39 for the promise is for you and your children and for all who are many generations off, as many as the Lord our God shall call to Himself.”
Though we receive the Holy Spirit when we are born-again, we don’t regularly experience His power to do the impossible until we have been baptized in the Spirit and begin to use the prayer language He gives us that enables us to really live in the Spirit, and bear the fruit of AGAPE! To remind us of this, Jude wrote:
“…Beloved, build yourselves up on your most holy faith; praying in the Holy Spirit; keep yourselves in the agape love of God…” Jude 20-21
Jesus Wants to give you this same upgraded love so you will have the power to LOVE supernaturally:
- Those who want this power to walk after the Spirit and live the supernatural love life of a Christian must start by trusting Jesus as Savior and Lord.
- Give Him control (make Him your Lord) and ask Him to baptize you in His Spirit, letting Him be the source and guide of all your LIFE. In return, He will give you the ability to pray beyond your own understanding in a prayer language only God understands. I Cor. 14:2, 14-15.
- Many of us have received this upgrade already but haven’t been kept in the love of God because we are not praying in the Spirit like we should. Would you join me in committing to pray in the Spirit more? Even intercede daily, Romans 8:26; Jude 20-21.