A week ago it was my birthday. I have always enjoyed birthdays, because the idea of celebrating a person once a year really appeals to me. It is such an easy way to show that you love and appreciate someone. On my birthday, it was no exception. My people showered me with gifts and well wishes and I felt the love. My husband always goes a little bit overboard on my birthday – but he delights in my enthusiasm as I enjoy every gift he gives. So last week, it went a little something like this…
“Ahh! I LOVE this mug so much I can’t wait to drink my tea out of it!”
“Wait, what? You got me tea, too? I LOVE TEA!”
“Yarn! I can’t wait to make something from this. I LOVE yarn!”
“Oh my goodness, this crochet hook is so amazing! I LOVE IT!”
You get the idea. I think every gift I opened, I said something about how much I LOVE it. And there is nothing wrong with appreciating tea, yarn, crochet, perfume, colouring books, etc. It’s just sometimes, you need a little perspective. Because in the same enthusiasm that I expressed my love over my new mug, I said this…
“Ohhh! A new Bible! I am so excited about this. I LOVE GOD!”
As soon as the words passed through my lips I cringed. Yes, I do love God. But do I love him the same as my new mug? I think sometimes we overuse the word love. We use the same word to describe how we feel about hobbies, television shows, clothing, buildings, and books that we use to describe how we feel about our loved ones. Can one word really describe everything? The answer is yes. If you look up the word love in the dictionary, it does cover “a great interest or pleasure in something” and “an intense feeling of deep affection.” It still didn’t really sit right with me, so I decided to look at it in a different way – Biblical love.
Where the word love in the English dictionary falls flat, the word love in the Bible doesn’t. Biblical love is much deeper, and more meaningful – agape love. In short, this agape love can only be defined by the nature of God. Because God doesn’t just love, He IS love. Everything that God does, flows from His love. And as Christians, we are to look at this love and try to model it. Love is the very first fruit of the Spirit mentioned.
One of the teachers of religious law was standing there listening to the debate. He realized that Jesus had answered well, so he asked, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” Jesus replied, “The most important commandment is this: ‘Listen, O Israel! The Lord our God is the one and only Lord. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.” Mark 12:28-31
What does Biblical love look like?
1 Corinthians 13:4-7 – It is selfless. Most people are familiar with this passage in the Bible because it is often used in weddings. But if we really looked at all these attributes we would see that when we love with an agape love, we will be putting other people before ourselves. This isn’t an easy thing to put into practice, but it is important.
Romans 12:9 – It is sincere. I didn’t know that I was missing real, sincere Christian love until I started attending my current church. We have a large church, so we have groups of people that meet weekly in homes around the city. These groups are named “life groups” because the people in these groups do life together – they are the people you can share with and depend on. My husband and I have been attending a life group for a year and a half now and every week when we get together, we feel loved. My heart can’t even express how powerful it is to know that we as a group care for each other. We aren’t just friends. We practically help each other when we can. We serve each other. We build each other up. I had only been going to this life group for about a month when my beloved grandmother passed away. Even though they didn’t know me well, they blessed me with a beautiful bouquet of flowers because they knew my heart was broken. It spoke volumes – to me, it wasn’t just a bunch of pretty flowers – it was a testament to how we love each other. REAL, SINCERE, POWERFUL, SPIRIT FILLED LOVE.
Ephesians 4:2 – It is humble. We all make mistakes. But it is so essential to be able to gracious and forgiving, just as Christ is gracious and forgiving to us. Biblical love is not judgmental towards others who are struggling with sin. It is gentle and kind, it is giving corrective and godly guidance. It is acknowledging that you are not better than another because you don’t struggle in the same way.
1 John 4:18-19 – It is without fear. When we experience God’s perfect love, we are able to proceed without fear. I love what the message says here: “God is love. When we take up permanent residence in a life of love, we live in God and God lives in us. This way, love has the run of the house, becomes at home and mature in us, so that we’re free of worry on Judgment Day—our standing in the world is identical with Christ’s. There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life—fear of death, fear of judgment—is one not yet fully formed in love.” In this light, we can be bold in sharing this love with others because God lives in us, and we have nothing to fear.
Proverbs 10:12 – It strengthens relationships. Relationships can be tricky, because we are sinful people. When someone has wronged us, we want justice – and the sooner the better. If we have been hurt, we want to act out in anger. But love. Once when I was a teenager, someone had said something hurtful to me. I wanted to punch them in the face, but fortunately I refrained. At the end of each school day I always downloaded to my Mom (thank the good Lord there was no Facebook when I was a teenager). This particular time she told me to “kill them with kindness.” I had tried many things to get this particular person to stop harassing me, so I decided to give it a try. My motivation was not Biblical love -it was the furthest thing from my mind – but I was kind. Eventually, the person gave up trying to be hurtful. And believe it or not, we actually became friends. Love overcomes all hurt. We just have to be disciplined to show Biblical love even when it is hard.
Now that we have looked at different aspects of Biblical love, let’s look at a different word for a minute. When you are at the doctor and they first diagnose you with something and they use the word “chronic,” everything changes. Because the word chronic means “long lasting and difficult to eradicate” and “constantly recurring.” So, if we put these two words together – chronic and agape love – we would have something amazing. I don’t know about you, but I want Biblical love to be constantly recurring in my life. Imagine what the world would look like if Biblical love was difficult to eradicate. It would be a very different place.
As I sit here, I am drinking my birthday tea out of my birthday mug. I do love them – the tea is delicious and the mug is adorable. I know they are just things – but in a very small way, these things reflect some of the Biblical love that my husband expresses to me. He loves me selflessly (most days, I mean, let’s be real). He loves me sincerely. He could have used his hard earned money to buy himself something because his birthday is coming up soon too. Instead, he chose to shower me with gifts. And if we are being honest, I will do the same for him when his birthday comes around.
More importantly than physical gifts, we should want to grow in God. We should want to want to put this fruit of the Spirit into practice in our lives. We should want to display Biblical love to others around us. And as we live out Biblical love, we will experience great JOY.