Galatians 5:22, 23—But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.
The dictionary defines love as a profoundly tender, passionate affection for another person; a feeling of warm personal attachment or deep affection, as for a parent, child, or friend. It also means to have a profoundly tender, passionate affection for. Love is given the characteristics of a noun and a verb, meaning love is not just a thing, it’s an action as well. If it is an action that one performs, it is also a choice. You see, there is no action man can perform that cannot be chosen to start or stop. So, love is not involuntary, as many would claim. Therefore, the question remains…what is the kind of love we should choose to give? To answer that, we must go to the Scriptures.
The Greek word for “love” in the above context is agape. In the New Testament, agape was frequently used to mean the unconditional, self-sacrificing, love of God for humans through Jesus, which they ought also to reciprocate toward God and among themselves. In early Christianity, agape also signified a Eucharistic (referring to the Last Supper or Holy Communion) love feast shared by members of the community. Agape is not to be confused with eros (romantic/sexual love), storge (natural affection, much like parental feeling toward a child), or philia (friendly/brotherly love). These are other Greek versions of the English word love.
So, what is unconditional love? The full breadth of love is found in I Corinthians 13, where agape is described at length. The responsibility of agape is never more evident than in these 13 verses.
I Corinthians 13:1-13—Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing. Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away. When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known. And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
How did God show agape to us? Two verses come immediately to mind: John 3:16—For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life, and Romans 5:8—But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. How can God show this kind of selfless love to us? God is love (I John 4:8). So, how are we able to love this way? Because His love is in us.
- Love is patient—Love never gives up
- Love overlooks petty human frailty and finds the heart
- It bides its time
- It waits for necessary change, but doesn’t nag during the process
- Love is kind—Love cares more for others than for self
- Love does not act out of spite; it acts out of compassion
- Love does not envy—Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have
- Love doesn’t covet
- Love does not parade itself—Love doesn’t strut
- Love is not arrogant
- It does not look for an audience
- Love doesn’t have to tell you its loving
- Love is not puffed up—Love doesn’t have a swelled head
- Love has no ego; it doesn’t need recognition to exist
- Love does not behave rudely—Love doesn’t force itself on others
- Love is a gentleman
- It does not overstep its bounds
- Love does not seek its own—Love isn’t always “me first”
- Love is unselfish
- It delights in pleasing others
- Love is not provoked—Love doesn’t fly off the handle
- Love never reacts in anger
- It’s never defensive
- Love thinks no evil—Love doesn’t keep score of the sins of others
- Love wants the best for everyone
- Love does not rejoice in iniquity—Love doesn’t revel when others grovel
- Love never takes pleasure in the pain of others
- Love rejoices in the truth—Love takes pleasure in the flowering of truth
- Love never gossips or backbites
- Love bears all things—Love puts up with anything
- Love has no limit
- It doesn’t run out
- Love believes all things—Love trusts God always
- Love takes God at His word
- It knows the promises of God will come true
- Love hopes all things—Love always looks for the best
- Love gives the benefit of the doubt
- Love endures all things—Love never looks back, but keeps going to the end
- Love perseveres
- Love never fails—Love never dies
- Love can’t be killed
Love makes the world go around. Love created man. Love redeemed man. Love gets us to Heaven. Love builds relationships on earth. Love is the most important commodity on the planet—more important than faith or hope. Love is at the root of God’s will for all mankind. The two greatest commandments, according to Jesus Himself, are that we love God and love people. Matthew 22:36-40—“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” Everything else feeds off that. It’s the life flow of God. If we allow ourselves to be fully immersed in the love of Christ, we then (and only then) have the capacity to love as He does.
Think of the five most important people in your lives. Then think of how you love them. Think of how they love you. Do you or anyone else in this group of five ever hit the mark on all sixteen characteristics of true love? We have some work to do.
Challenge: Take the first two points from I Corinthians 13 and work on them (with spouse, children, family, friends, co-workers, etc.) for one week
1. Love is patient—seek to be patient with your loved ones no matter how strenuous the situation is or becomes
2. Love is kind—seek to be kind to your loved ones in all situations, whether kindness is given to you or not