During the time I am away, I will reposting older entries from the icrucified blog. The following post was an entry from July 21, 2008
We completed our last post with a working definition for “love” agape-style, a wild-eyed-nostrils-flared-ears-pinned-to-the-side-of-your-head-all-out-sprint-with-no-holds-barred kind of love. This is the kind of love our God, our Jesus, has called us to. Once more, let’s examine at a glance what this love looks like in a practical sense.
Rejoices with Truth
|Love is not or does not…
Delight in Evil
Now, with a rough sketch to work from, let us begin to examine external and internal evidence of this love. We’ll begin asking the first question of ourselves. Is THIS LOVE (see above descriptions) evidenced and realized in my life? More specifically, is this type of love attainable? I mean, really…can we do it? There are well-intentioned, Jesus-believing, Christian professing “saints” that say “no;” on this side of heaven, we are unable to love in or with this capacity. Some “saints” might be generous enough in their belief to say that it is possible to embrace and embody this love, but highly improbable that anyone actually will. I contend that both of these responses are rationalizations and do not support what the Bible (OT, NT, Jesus, and apostolic teaching) purports. We ARE supposed to love in (and with) this capacity, but enough with conjecture…we need scriptural evidence.
I don’t intend for this “evidence” to be exhaustive, but I do believe it will support my “are supposed to love” assertion. Should any reader of this post have debate with my claim, I welcome any evidence or contrary opinion to this discussion; however for this case, I am keeping my supporting text to a minimum. Moving on…
We are supposed to love “Agape Style.” Jesus said so:
34 “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34-35
Lest we think this command is relegated to only those “brothers & sisters” in the faith…Jesus extends the “Agape Style” love outside of the circle:
44 But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Matthew 5:44-46
So there is no misunderstanding toward the directness of Jesus’ command, He makes it absolutely clear in this directive:
9 “Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. 10 “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments, and abide in His love. 11 “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full. 12 “This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. 17 “This I command you, that you love one another. John 15:9-12, 17
All of the above uses of the word “love” are agapao or agape which is defined within the context of our “practical” (or “what it looks like”) definition we have outlined in this, and the last, post. Try as I might, I am unable to consider the possibility that Jesus expects our love to be other than “perfect love,” agape-style love… I do believe and agree that it is a difficult way of love…near impossible; especially so if embarked upon under the power of self (more on this later). On the other end of our argument of “near impossibility” is Jesus’ qualification for His commandment to love agape-style.
4 “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you, unless you abide in Me. 5 “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me, and I in him, he bears much fruit; for apart from Me you can do nothing. John 15:4-5
20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: 23 I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. 26 I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.” John 17:20-23, 26
…The Spirit of Jesus in us, the believer. The Spirit of God, the Father, in us…the believer, so that “the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.” (John 17:26) We are (as His followers) supposed to love with this complete and perfect love…agape love…God love; “the love you (God the Father) have for me (Jesus the Son of God) may be in them (us, believers, disciples of Jesus) and that I myself may be in them.”
Why do we fail at this style of love? Why is it that we continue to rationalize, excuse, and/or justify our reasons for failure in loving as Jesus loved…as Jesus commands us to love? I don’t know the answer for everyone, but I believe some iteration of my position could be applied to most everyone. I believe that our failure to love agape-style begins with the perpetuation of self (remember our working definition stated, love is not self-seeking or proud). We tell ourselves that “we are imperfect” and that “God, knows my heart.” These are true statements. We are imperfect and God does know our heart. It is for these reasons that He sent Himself to (1) die for our imperfections and cleanse/replace our deceitful hearts (2) fill and renew our very soul with His OWN HOLY SPIRIT. The fact that we are still comfortable to “claim imperfection and limit the power of God’s Holy Spirit in us indicates one of two possibilities (1) our “heart” has not been changed or (2) we do not believe God’s claims and promises are true. The conclusion of our reasoning, “I am in Him and He is in me, yet I am incapable of loving like Him” is an illogical and false statement. If HE is in me, I am capable of and empowered to love as He loves/loved. If I think otherwise, I profess God’s words to be false.
Now, lest I be misunderstood, allow me to add a little perspective. Personally, I do not have this agape-style love mastered (Philippians 3:12-16). I know this love is true and available to me, and therefore, it is the standard to which we should live by and strive for. Holding ourselves accountable to the evidence of agape-style love (Jesus love), “dying daily to self,” and submitting to the power of God’s Spirit in us will move us incrementally closer each day to being the people that God has destined us to be. I have an example and evidence for this claim from the life of Jesus’ friend Peter.
15 So when they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love (Agapeo) Me more than these?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love (Phileo) You.” He said to him, “Tend My lambs.” 16 He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love (Agapeo) Me?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love (Phileo) You.” He said to him, “Shepherd My sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love (Phileo) Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love (Phileo) Me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love (Phileo) You.” Jesus said to him, “Tend My sheep. John 21:15-17
I realize there has been much written and taught with regard to this passage of scripture and it is not my intent to get into the exposition or exegesis of this discourse at this time. Suffice it to say that there is a dialogue between Peter and Jesus that is similar to the dialogue that occurs between us (me) and Jesus. Jesus says, Peter do you Agape Me? Peter answers with our rationale; “Lord, I Phileo You.”
Translation: Lord, I am incapable of loving perfectly. I am imperfect and therefore cannot love you with the standard you set and in the fashion you ask me. I can; however, love you with an imperfect human love. Human love is a love born out of convenience. Human love allows for my failures as well as my best interests (as determined by me). Human love considers the feelings of my “self.”
We must consider where Peter’s heart was (and is) at this time. I think we can surmise that he (Peter) had recently been angered with Jesus, felt betrayed by Jesus, was frustrated by Jesus, and misunderstood Jesus along with a number of other emotions and feelings. When I consider these elements I think; “yeah, phileo love matches up with what Peter was capable of giving to Jesus.” Phileo (human love) makes allowances for the things that Agape (LOVE) is not:
Love is not or does not…
- Easily Angered
- Keep Wrong-doings
- Delight in Evil
If you are reading this, I’m reasonably sure you know more of this story and I hope you know (or at least have an idea) where I’m going next. The end of John’s Gospel account of Jesus’ life does not complete the story. The life of the apostles continues with the Book of Acts. The promised baptism with fire of Jesus’ Holy Spirit comes and empowers the apostles for service and filling them with God’s Spirit and Love (Agape). Through the next years and continuing saga of the early church we see the followers of Jesus growing in grace and practice of agape love. Do they get it right every single time? I don’t think so; however, I see them living in submission to one another falling back on agape love rather than leaning into phileo love. I think this is evidenced very clearly in one of the last recorded letters from Peter here:
3 His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4 Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. 5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. 8 For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins. 10 Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, 11 and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
These are some incredible claims that Peter is making, and I believe if he were given the same questions asked by Jesus earlier, he would answer “of course I AGAPE You, Jesus!” And this, without the least hesitation. Look at the incredible claims Peter makes in vss 3-4. “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.” And then… “Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.” Absolutely mind-boggling!
Next, Peter goes on to describe the process which follows the promise and empowerment of God’s Love (Agape). This next piece is important; agape love doesn’t just happen. We are willing (or not willing) partners with God in the process. I know there are people that would disagree with this doctrinally, but for the life of me I cannot understand these next directions from Peter in any other way. He writes and directs as follows:
For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
These are instructions directed toward us, providing insight on our responsibility for the nurture of the faith, hope, and love that God has given and put into us. If we are reluctant to practice these instructions, the alternative is implied in the last sentence…we will be ineffective and unproductive “followers” of Jesus and limited in our knowledge of Him (check out the thoughts from this post).
So…this post turned out much longer than I originally planned and I’m not really done yet, but I think I’ll continue in the next go around. What is the summary for today? We are supposed to love with God-style (AGAPE) love. We cannot rationalize our own inability to love in this fashion. God has given us all we need to accomplish it. Claiming to be His follower without acknowledging His promises makes Him to be a liar. This, I think, is very dangerous thinking. Consider the words of this exceedingly long post and weigh in with your own thoughts if you want. The discussion is not over. More thoughts are on the way…