By Sam Greer
Senior Pastor, Red Bank Baptist Church, Chattanooga
What is love? How might love be defined in our world today? According to Neil Genzlinger, there are over 10,000 songs on file at the U.S. Copyright Office in Washington, D.C., that begin with the words “Love is ….” Some of those songs, which attempt to define love, are as follows: “Love is Like a Dizziness,” “Love is Like a Shoogy Shoo,” “Love is Like the Influenza,” “Love is a Sickness Full of Woes,” Love is a Traitor,” “Love is Doggone Mean,” “Love is Good for Anything that Ails You,” “Love is for Suckers,” and “Love is a Losing Game.” From the world’s perspective love is often connected with that which is erotic or romantic.
Biblical love is different. Agape love is an unconditional love. Agape love is a “love based on the deliberate choice of the one who loves” (Dr. Ron Allen). Biblical, agape love is an “unconditional commitment to an imperfect person” (Dr. Chuck Herring). In I Corinthians 13, Paul is explaining agape love to his hearers as he makes a correlation between spirirtual gifts and biblical love. What lasts is not how gifted a Christian is among other believers, but how loving a Christian is to other believers. Paul helps us understand love in three ways.
First, love is essential. The believers in the first century church at Corinth were proud of their giftedness. Some were even sporting a boastful and comeptitive spirit as they compared one another’s gifts and giftedness. Paul hammered home the truth that without agape love, spiritual gifts are obsolete (1 Corinthians 13:1-3). He was arguing that practicing agape love is not just a good idea, or a better way of doing things, but rather agape love is essential. Without the Greatest Commandment, the Great Commission will never happen. The only way we will ever make disciples who make disciples is to first love God, then love others as ourselves. As believers, if why we do what we do is not motivated by love, then what we do will not last.
Second, love explained. Paul used the word “agape” nine times in 1 Corinthians 13. His emphasis is that love is all about action, not feelings. Each description of “agape” in this text is a verb. All of the verbs are in the present tense, meaning that these attitudes and actions are to become habitual because of constant repetition. Some of these characteristics are described positively as something you must do. Others are described negatively as something you mustn’t do (vv. 4-7).
The first step in applying agape love in your life is to accept God’s love for you and toward you. The Bible says that God demonstrated His own love toward us when Jesus died on the cross for our sins (Romans 5:8). Have you accepted God’s love? Do it now!
Third, love is endless. You have heard it said, “all good things must come to an end.” Is this statement true or false? False! Agape love never ends (I Corinthians 13:8). How is it possible that agape love never ends? The Bible tells us that “God is love” (I John 4:8).
Since God is love, then we can conclude that love never ends because God never ends. What’s more, agape love can only be limited by our disobedience to love one another. Agape love may be limited by us, but it lasts beyond us. May we let the world know who Jesus is by our love for one another!