“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
In the base text written in Greek this love is called agape, which means unconditional love. Long ago while being in the cross God loved us. Who we were was not a big deal to God then! It was also not because of our good deeds that He loved us. While we were sinners, God loved us unconditionally and without measure.
Till now we have all heard many sermons about a God of judgement. But is God fully like this?
While different religions teach about gods who love people on the basis of their good works, the bible alone teaches that God doesn’t love humans on the basis of their works or on their present state. This God loves unconditional, in the past, present and forevermore. Then what happens after a person becomes a child of God? Then also, God doesn’t love us based on our good or bad acts. God just simply loves us, that’s all. Then is this love of God a license to sin? Not at all, indeed, this love compels us to enter into a holy life. Who is able to neglect the commands of the Lord who loves like this? Or how many days a person can do these commands out of fear? But if we do it out of love, it becomes an impulse in us.
• Love versus fear
“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” (1 John 4:18)
Now look at this part the verse, “But perfect love drives out fear”. Many a times, it is fear that depraves us from doing anything and makes us unfruitful. The above verse clearly tells that love will purge out the fear, whatever the fear might be. While fear depraves us from doing anything, love makes us ready for the great commission (or gospel)
• Love and God’s care
How does a loving father care his children? He will fight for them till death, right? An enemy can touch the children only after overpowering such a father. This is same with God’s care. The protection that God gives us is that much huge. By making us walk in this care, God prepares us for the eternal glory. For instance, Matthew 18:11 tells, “See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven.” Here ‘the little ones’ and ‘their’ denotes the children of God.
• Love and persecution
“If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.” (John 15:19)
This verse makes it clear that, if one follows the path of Christ and stands for the commands of God, that person is likely to lose some things. Sometimes, they are also likely to be persecuted by others with word or actions. However, we need to realize that when we are being persecuted, we are becoming conformed to Christ. Also realize that Jesus is holding our hands. Now about the things that are lost, a person will later understand that those were simply junk.
“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39)
• Love and life
This love makes us to respond to it,
“Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.” (1 John 4:20)
“But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:44-45)
In fact, love for God and love for people are closely intertwined. Those who love God will love people. Those who don’t love God can’t truly love other people. A child of God should not only love brothers and sister, but also love an enemy. It is really a hard thing, but Jesus’ grace will lead a disciple to it. In the bible, God’s love, brotherly love, love for an enemy and marital love have the same word, ‘agape’. ‘Agape’ denotes love which is unconditional and deep. God alone is the author of this kind of love; the truth is that this love flows from God to His children.
• From ‘phileo’ to ‘agape’
In the new testament there is also another word which has the meaning of love; It is ‘phileo’. ‘Phileo’ is used to describe ‘brotherly love’. This love is not as strong as ‘agape’.
Now let us look into John 21:15-17, “When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon son of John, do you love [agape] me more than these?’ ‘Yes, Lord,’ he said, ‘you know that I love [phileo] you.’ Jesus said, ‘Feed my lambs.’ Again, Jesus said, ‘Simon son of John, do you love [agape] me? He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love [phileo] you.” Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.’ The third time he said to him, ‘Simon son of John, do you love [phileo] me?’ Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, ‘Do you love [phileo] me?’ He said, ‘Lord, you know all things; you know that I love [phileo] you.’”
Here Jesus Christ is inviting Peter to come from ‘phileo’ into ‘agape’. Likewise, Jesus Christ is inviting any disciple into ‘agape’ from ‘phileo’.
Now that we have understood all the things, let us come from ‘phileo’ to ‘agape’. Let us ask Jesus Christ to lead us into ‘agape’ while praying. Let us also ask our Lord to pour into us His love. When Jesus leads us into it, let us step forward and follow Him.
May God help everyone to do these. Amen.
Roshan Benzy George