What is This Agape Love? (Part I): It Actually Loves People

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In a recent study, it was determined that Colorado ranks among the worst states in the nation for building healthy romantic relationships. The study’s authors focused on attributes like attachment anxiety (clinginess, worrying a partner will leave) and attachment avoidance (being cold and distant)—both which are considered unhealthy and detrimental in a relationship. Mississippi, Utah, and Wisconsin tied for first place because they had the highest marriage rates and lower rates of people who reported feeling isolated.

Ranked last?  North Dakota.  Colorado was #43.  (Hey, Cindy!  Kentucky was #49!) Why so low?  The researchers said that “secluded, mountainous areas like Colorado tend to attract ‘loners’ and people who avoid a lot of social interaction.

We live in a state where people like to keep to themselves. Their home (or the mountains) is their sanctuary away from the harsh world. Many move to Colorado to escape.  And with Denver being the most isolated metropolitan city in the United States, one understands now why. And with Denver being 94% unchurched, this understanding makes establishing relationships with that demographic all the more challenging.

Last week, we looked at what it was like without love. Whatever good we may say or think or do means nothing if the sacrificial, supernatural agape love is absent.  While we understand that if you say mean things it isn’t love, but saying the right things without love is noise?  Thinking and understanding wrongly isn’t loving (for we aren’t doing our homework to represent truth rightly to others around us), but thinking rightly without love is wrong?  Giving nothing or little of what we have is unloving, sure.  But giving all you have, even your life, without love counts for nothing?

This is what’s so surprising about what Paul says to us.  But now Paul gets in to what love is.  In 1 John 4, we see that “God is love.” Playing off this, John MacArthur rightly says:  “Paul is painting a portrait of love, and Jesus Christ is sitting for the portrait.  He lived out in perfection all of these virtues of love. This beautiful picture of love is a portrait of Him.”

Friends, if you have surrendered to Christ, you have not only received forgiveness of sin, but Christ now dwells in you. Denver, and Colorado, and the world need to see the real thing—the thing they are missing, the thing from which many try to protect themselves.

This is a love that. . .

  1. Loves people (1 Corinthians 13:4-5a).

We saying this is similar to former Packers coach Vince Lombardi coming to his team on the first day of training camp the year after they won the championship by grabbing hold of a football and saying, “Gentlemen, this is a football!”  I basically just told all of you, “Ladies and gentlemen, this is a Bible! And this shows you what love is!”  Unless we are intentional, we will be derailed.

We are called to love people, not just have a sentimental, theoretical type of love.  Keep in mind, every description mentioned in this passage is a verb in the Greek.  It’s not just a ‘patient’ or ‘kind’ feeling, but each are actions.

Paul tells us that, “Love is patient, and kind.”  ‘Patient’ deals with being OK with inconvenienced or being repeatedly taken advantage of.  Kindness deals with an active usefulness in generosity. Jesus continually dealt with those around him who would only love those who were like them or who posed no inconvenience or threat.

At the end of Matthew 5:43-44, Jesus said,

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.

Then as it is now, it’s easy to love those who are like you.  Our enemies (real or perceived) are just as due our patience and kindness just as much as those who are like us.  At the end of Matthew 25:31-46, Jesus is separating the believers (the sheep) from the unbelievers (the goats).  He first speaks to the sheep:

34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you?39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

As you can imagine, the goats were the ones who refused the hungry, thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick, the imprisoned. They insulated themselves from the messiness, the inconvenient, those who may take advantage. Christianity was all about convenience, comfort, safety, and control.

So when Paul said, “Love does not envy or boast,” we see this is a zeal misdirected. The word ‘envy’ comes from the Greek word ‘zeloo,’ which is where we get the word zeal.  It’s a strong desire to either want what others have or, should we not be able to attain it, wishing harm on others.  And should we attain those things, we boast, parading the accomplishments.

When this happens, we become arrogant.  The Corinthian church in chapters 3-4 boasted on all they had. They believed they had arrived, to where Paul reminded them, “What did you have that you did not receive?”  They thought they arrived, but yet in 1 Corinthians 5, they permitted deviant sexual behavior among the members, and in 1 Corinthians 11, they rammed to the front of the line for the Lord’s Supper. They felt they had Jesus, but were puffed up about their position and blind to their sin!  Unrepentant! Their positions made perfect sense to them, but they bore little reflection to Christ and the gospel!

Next, we shall see how this agape love indeed loves truth.

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