Summary: This message looks at the biblical Standard, Test, Example and Application of AGAPE love.
WHAT IS LOVE?
George Matheson was only fifteen when he was told that he was losing what little eyesight he had. Instead of giving up, Matheson immediately continued with his plans to enroll in the University of Glasgow, and his determination lead to his graduation at age nineteen. But as he pursued graduate studies in theology for Christian ministry he finally lost his sight. His sisters joined ranks beside him, learning Greek and Hebrew to assist him in his studies. He pressed faithfully on.
But his spirit collapsed when his fiancée, unwilling to be married to a blind man, broke their engagement and returned his ring. He never married, and the pain of that rejection never totally left him. Years later, as a well-loved preacher in Scotland, his sister came to him announcing her engagement. He rejoiced with her, but his mind went back to his own heartache. He consoled himself in thinking of God’s love which is never limited, never conditional, never withdrawn, and never uncertain. Out of this experience he wrote the hymn, O Love That Wilt Not Let Me Go.
O love that will not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in thee;
I give thee back the life I owe,
That in thine ocean depths it flow
May richer, fuller be.
Human love is very uncertain and I am sure all of us here today have experienced rejection at some point in our lives. Like George Matheson we need to learn to lean on and trust God’s perfect love. His love is our hope and our goal. Being a Christian means that we learn to love like Jesus.
1 John 4:7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.
So how do you learn to love like Jesus? To do that you first have to understand what love is:
1. The Standard of Love (vs. 7a)
John gives us the basics of the Christian life here in this passage when he says LOVE ONE ANOTHER. God’s standard for us is that we are to love one another.
That sounds easy enough doesn’t it? As long as we have positive feelings for and get along with the people around us then we are doing fine. That is not really what it says. To understand what it means to love one another you have to understand what the word LOVE really means. There are three words in Greek which are translated as LOVE.
The first is word is PHILEO. This means brotherly love or friendship. This is the first level of love. You get to know someone, you enjoy being around them. Eventually you form a close friendship. In this church I am sure that there are people here that you LOVE hanging around with and are friends with.
The second word is EROS. This is the word for romantic love. This is the second level. Imagine a boy and a girl who have been friends for a long time. One day the guy says to the girl “I like you”. She says “I know, I like you too”. He says, “No, I mean I REALLY LIKE you”. She finally gets the message. He has moved from PHILEO love to EROS love.
The third word is AGAPE and this is the deepest level of love. This means sacrificial love. Imagine again that boy and girl. Eventually they get married and at first everything is perfect. However, one day they have a bad fight. At that point she does not love him as a friend and certainly not romantically. AGAPE love is not an emotion but a decision. It is an act of the will. Reaching out in AGAPE love draws them back together to work through their problems and eventually the relationship is restored.
John 13:34 A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.
Emotions are neutral. We feel what we feel. Emotions are neither good or bad. When Jesus commanded us to love one another He used the word AGAPE. This means that love is not an emotion but a choice. I could tell you right now “BE HAPPY” but you can’t just turn happiness on and off because it is an emotion. The love that John is talking about here is this deepest level of AGAPE love. We are commanded to love one another sacrificially.