Summary: The magnificence of love as defined by the advent, life and death of Jesus, challenges Christians to rise above the mediocrity of love as defined by the world to seek the highest good of everyone.
Have you ever loved someone? Have you ever been loved by someone? These two questions address the two greatest needs of the human race: to love and to be loved. Without love, we die . . .
“The Walking Dead” describes the life in which love is markedly absent. “Alive Forevermore” describes the life in which love has taken root and sprouted into full bloom, as conveyed by the lyrics of the song “For You Alone”:
“Take thou this rose, this little tender rose, the fairest flower in all God’s garden fair, and let it be, while yet its crimson glows, an emblem of the love I proudly bear.
Take thou this heart, the heart that loves thee well, and let it flame before thy shrine, my own; take thou my heart, for oh, your dear eyes tell, God fashioned it for you, for you alone.”
Tell about your first love . . . the love you had (have) for your spouse . . . first child . . . family . . . best friend . . . church . . . career . . . flower garden . . . favorite hobby . . . song . . . ministry . . . sport . . . holiday . . . vacation spot . . . place to eat . . . food . . . outfit . . . thing to do in the afternoon . . . anything else that comes to mind, about which, we have said or heard others say, “I just love him or her . . . this or that . . . to go here or there . . .” Point is:
Love is a much used word in English - to talk about a place, person, or thing that has become so consistent a part of our life that we want, even covet, such to be “our thing” on a regular basis; we want someone to be in our company and we in theirs as often as possible.
Don’t you just love it!? Love is by far the greatest of all emotions, feelings, thoughts, actions! So, what’s love got to do with being distinctly Christian? Everything! Then along comes Jesus, preaching the greatest sermon ever preached, and in it, He tells us to love everybody, even our enemies – Matthew 5:43-48 . . .
Did Jesus tell us to love our enemies in the same way as we do our loved ones, family and close friends? Count me among those who say “absolutely not”.
To love enemies in the same way as we love those we are in a very close relationship with would neither be possible or right. It would be wrong for me to love, in that way, anyone who would do me or my family or my friends harm!
This is where an understanding of Greek must be brought into any discussion of New Testament concepts. In the Greek, unlike English, there are shades of meaning, and therefore different words for each and every concept. In the Greek there are four different words for the English word love, and the word used by Jesus to tell us to love unconditionally was quite different from the way we love our nearest and dearest.
The Greek word used to describe one’s affection for one’s family . . . one’s romantic relationship . . . that “tie that binds” our hearts together . . . that regard we have for our friends and neighbors? These concepts in the original language are represented by words that are different from “agape” – the word Jesus used to say that we are to love everybody unconditionally, even our enemies.
It helps me to understand Christian love for our enemies by remembering the song sung by the heavenly host which appeared to the shepherds when Jesus was born: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will to all people.”
Our Lord’s coming into this world was for the express purpose of bringing to the world invincible peace and good will. “Agape” means to do just that!
Agape seeks the highest good of all, no matter what “they” say about us . . . how despicably “they” treat us . . . the extent to which “they” hate us . . . the demonic strategy “they” employ to destroy Christianity.
“Agape” (seeking invincible peace and good will for all) is unconquerable!
There is no basis for making use of this text to support pacifism. or to allow law breakers, disturbers of the peace, and warmongers to go unchecked. Just as parents ought never to let their children do as they please, public servants must hold offenders accountable for harmful actions borne of ill will not goodwill.
“True love” at times must be “tough love”! Discipline in various forms is often required to protect not only society but also to protect an offender from himself or herself . . . preserve the peace.