The Meaning of Love
|The Author and Finisher of Our Faith|
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Lesson Eight..... LOVE .. The Many Facets (Click Here For Previous Lessons)
LOVE ... one of the most important words in the Bible! ... Yet we toss it around so casually.
The Triune GOD, the creator of all things demonstrates, embodies, and IS LOVE. In fact, God is the sum total of ALL the types of love.
When I was very young in my walk with the Lord, certain things about love, concerning the commands of Jesus and the writers of the New Testament in particular, would at times intimidate me. I wanted so much to be pleasing to the Lord, and do everything the way I should, and be everything I should be. If I felt the slightest dislike or displeasure of anyone, especially my Christian brothers and sisters, I would immediately feel as if my heart wasn't right, and even at times questioned my own salvation. I tended to be constantly 'judging' myself as to how I FELT about others. My understanding of love was that of "FEELINGS" .. the poetic, romantic, tender, compassionate, affectionate, and well... the 'gushy' to coin an old word, kind of emotion. Needless to say, I failed miserably.
Now, I admit I'm a perfectionist by nature so I'm sure that not all of you can relate to this problem. But, I have to confess, the Book of I John was one book that I tried to avoid when possible, and just 'skimmed' over the more 'meaty' portions concerning the subject of how we're to love each other. Those of you who are acquainted with that epistle know that it deals heavily with the subject of love, and indeed, tells us how we can know that we're born again.
After I began to grow in the Lord and became an avid student of the Word, it naturally became necessary for me to learn more about and to better understand my relationship with God. I was a completely changed person and though I believe it took a relatively long time for me to start to grow up as a Christian, and I had many things to overcome, I still know that my heart was different, and I couldn't recognize that old person I had once been. I've actually had people say to me (after hearing of the things I had done and the kind of person I'd been before I was saved) that they found it hard, if not impossible to believe that my testimony could be true. They thought I was too 'gentle natured' to have been that old person. But God is a God of New Creation, and that's what we are when we're born again!
Still, though, I had the uneasy feeling that I wasn't walking in love like we're commanded to do. I just couldn't 'muster up' a feeling of love for everyone. In fact, some people seemed to be 'thorns' in my side. Have you ever been there?? And the harder I tried, the more I seemed to fail. So, I began to pray and search the Scriptures for an answer. This lesson couldn't begin to address the full scope of the subject because of the complexity of love and of God Himself, but I believe that I found some real answers to build a foundation upon and then grow in love. And I'm excited to finally be able to share it in this series of studies from my website. My prayer is that you'll find some of the answers you may have been looking for as well. And may we all begin to grow more in the love of God and the love for each other in the way we're called to love! I'm still learning DAILY about this, and God is continually showing me where I need to change and grow. Remember, if we aren't growing, we're stagnant, and you know what kind of stuff grows in a stagnated environment. YuK!
By the way, just a note here ... Forgiveness is part of loving, and I'll be going into that subject later on in lessons coming up, so in this first study, let's just examine the basic meanings of love and we can go from there.
I experienced a real freedom when I discovered the different meanings of the word in the original language. I'm not criticizing the translation in the King James version, and actually, most of the other versions I've read use the word 'love' in the same way. But there really is a broad range of the literal meaning of the words translated as simply, "LOVE." In my study I marveled at the opportunity that God has opened up for us in this day and age, just when it's needed most, by raising up biblical scholars and providing us with easy access to their writings in the form of commentaries, word studies, expository dictionaries, etc. I thought to myself that the early Christians must have had to "fly by the seat of their pants" without all this information available, but then I realized that they had opportunities that we don't have, and we have some that they didn't have. God, in His wisdom and perfect timing, gives each generation in each time period exactly what we need to fulfill His great plan for His Kingdom and the bringing together of His ultimate purpose and design for His creation. Nothing is accidental in God's world!
Now, I'll get to the subject at hand!
First of all we ARE commanded to love! Plain and simple, right? Wrong!
How am I supposed to feel love for everyone ... some people are easy to love ... for some we have to work on it ... others we have to STRUGGLE with it ... for some, it's downright IMPOSSIBLE to feel love for ... and then there's our ENEMIES! Well, who could feel love for someone like Hitler, or other terribly evil people? So, what's the answer?
One answer is that, I was NOT commanded to FEEL love in every situation! Not that we don't feel love .. in many ways, for many different persons, in many different situations. God created us with the capacity to FEEL and have emotions, of course! But think about it; it would be absolutely impossible to FEEL love for everyone. We'd be so worn out and drained that we couldn't survive, either mentally or physically. Just because we're born again, and we become new creations in Him doesn't mean that all of a sudden we're able to be perfected instantly and love perfectly. Please forgive me if this is sounding like a 'given' but I felt it important to start with the basics.
I'll be using Strong's reference numbers in case you'd like to research. And remember that a good understanding of the words will help you interpret the meaning within the context of any passage concerning love. If you have a good bible software program (I use Online Bible on CD) you can type in the word, "Love" and do a word search and it will bring up every occurrence of the word, and in my program I can choose to have Strongs numbers added to all text, and since we'll have a complete list of the definitions from this lesson, we can read it the way it was meant when it was originally written. In later lessons we'll be examining passages of scripture that pertain to the different types of love so we can put it all in context. Remember, as always .... "Context Rules!"
So, let's take it from the top!
26 ... AGAPE .... love feast, benevolence, charity, sacrificial, loves regardless of response, delights in giving,, desires only the good of the one loved, not based on the merit of the person loved, loves even the unlovable, used to express God's love, act of will - not necessarily a feeling (closely akin to agapeo) this form of the word in its noun form speaks of God's love and how it has been manifested to us
Focus: Others - God - His Pleasure
5368 ... PHILEO ... companionable, gives and receives friendship, affection for, to be fond of, tender feelings, personal attachment, a matter of sentiment or feeling - a higher and more noble form than eros feelings
Focus :" Our" Happiness
5360 ... PHILADELPHIA ... brotherly love, of the brethren
5362 ... PHILANDROS ... affectionate, fond of man, as in "Wives, love your husbands"
5363 ... PHILANTHROPIA ... kindness, love toward mankind, courteous
5365 ... PHILARGURIA ... avarice, greed, love of money, possessions, riches
5377 ... PHILOTHEOS ... fond of God, pious
5384 ... PHILOS ... dear, fond, friendly
5387 ... PHILOSTORGOS ... cherishing kindred, especially ones parents or children
5091 ... TIMAO ... to honor, prize, value, revere
2309 ... THELO ...
to like, wish, prefer ... (I 'love' Classical Music!)... or ice cream
... yum! (smile)
There you have quite a few meanings of the words that have been translated from the Greek to simply, 'LOVE' in our English language.
In this lesson I'd like to address the command
to love one another in the brotherhood of believers .. our fellow Christians.
Jesus set the stage for us loving each other. Over and over He said that we must love each other. More than once He issued a "New Commandment" ... "that you love (25-agape) one another, even as I have loved you." .. Immediately following He said, "By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love (26-agapao) for one another." In one commentary I read that those two words, though connected are always different in meaning. Agapao as stated above is an act of the will, doing what is right, intentionally, if you will. Agape is of God and only possible in and from God. So we can love each other in a godly way when our hearts are right. We know this because AGAPE love can actually be IN us. Jesus prayed for us this way ... ".. and I have made Thy Name known to them, and will make it known; that the love wherewith Thou didst love Me may be in them, and I in them." So then, how is Agape love in us? Because Jesus said here and elsewhere that He would come into us and abide with us, and He IS Agape love! So, by the Holy Spirit which lives in us as our Lord Jesus lives, we can manifest that love as He sheds His love abroad in our hearts. As stated before, that love does not necessarily always need to be an emotion of the heart, but it's there and real and it manifests itself when we're obedient and do not quench the Spirit. The love that we need to have for one another by CHOICE is Agapao. That is the love that Jesus said would identify us to the world. The very fact that we're obedient and choose to love one another proves that the AGAPE love lives in us .. it manifests itself by our actions of obedience to God's command to love.
That doesn't mean that I will "LIKE"(thelo) everyone and there may be even some people that I dislike because of my own personality or preferences in behavior of the companions I keep. But I will choose to Agapao those same people by a willingness to love them as my brother or sister in Christ, and give them the preferential and considerate treatment that they deserve as a member of my family. When they hurt we must choose compassion and support and hold them up just as we would our 'favorite' brothers or sisters. Fair treatment must be given to all in God's Kingdom. I may be criticized for what I'm saying here, but it's time we got down to the 'nitty gritty' as my Grandma used to say, and start pulling together, despite our differences and personal preferences. I do believe that there wouldn't be so much strife in the Body of Christ if we could learn that it's not a 'social club' and the Body does not exist to cater to our likes and dislikes, nor is it a club for those who naturally enjoy being together. We are sheep to our Shepherd and we must help to 'beget' more sheep and be the light of the world in the midst of the darkness. We need to hold each other up, admonish, teach, help, esteem others over ourselves, and help each other grow.
Of course we'll have those people who God has put into our lives as 'special' to us ... for a purpose. We need close relationships with our brethren and there are so many of us that we couldn't possibly have an intimate relationship with everyone. We all know that we need those who are close to us to show us the brotherly love in a personal way with spiritual support, prayer, friendship and enjoyment. But we can love ALL the brethren with God's love! We must CHOOSE to!
And that means that sister or brother who can sometimes really get 'under my skin' ... constantly trying to keep something going by gossip or troublemaking .. or draining me of my time and energy because they don't have anything better to do .. you know the story. I used to think that I had to put up with all that because it wouldn't be 'love' to not accept it as my lot. But now I know that sometimes love has to take the form of rejection of the wrong things or wrong behavior or even a rebuke. I can't stop loving them or praying for them, but I certainly don't have to continue a close relationship if it's harmful to my family, or myself by taking time from them or the things that God has called me to do. We must be careful that we don't let anyone monopolize our time with foolishness. That's not love acting ... it's lack of wisdom. I had the hardest time learning to simply say, "NO" and sometimes I've done it in such a way that it caused hard feelings, and put a weight of guilt upon myself, when to have been honest from the start would have been easier in the long run and so much kinder, showing the real Agapao love. I've used this example to emphasize the fact that loving in a moral sense for a Christian is not always easy, but in our hearts we desire to love that way, and we can with the love of Jesus! We DO need patience and forgiveness in our natures too, and those things are developed as we choose to love each other.
Then there are those brothers and sisters that are not 'nice' to us. We tend to wear our feelings on our shoulders, don't we? And we really expect more of others most of the time than we're willing to give ourselves. Are we always 'nice' to everyone? I think not. So we need to choose to love those who don't actively show us their love. They are, after all, our brethren, and most likely would be right there should you request help from them, if they possibly could be there for us. Try it and you might see how wrong you were in your judgment of those seemingly distant ones.
There are those who may be obnoxious, loud, impolite, rude, inconsiderate, thoughtless, and the like. These are behavior traits which are not the positive and godly characteristics that we'd like to see in all believers, but there are all 'kinds' as my Grandma would say. And that is not a reason to withhold Agapao love from them. God didn't say we have to be bosom buddies with those people; that is unless God has called you into a ministry to nurture and help those individuals to develop godly ways and grow in the Lord. We should all be willing to do that if the Lord calls us, whether it be teaching, leading, or disciplining those Christians. But we can't give in to guilt feelings just because we don't relate to everyone in an intimate manner. We need to nurture within ourselves an understanding and benevolent attitude toward those who are hard to like, rather than 'nursing' a dislike. And we should always remember that not everyone can like us either. But, again, we can ALL have Agapao love for each other!
There are so very many scriptures that deal with the 'brotherly love' that we should have for each other. Here a few to look up and consider.
Rom. 12:10 .. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love ... (5360)
I Thess 3:12 .. and may the Lord cause you to increase and abound in love toward another ... (26)
I Thess 4:9 .. now as to the love (5360) of the brethren, you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another ..(26)
Heb. 13:1 .. let love of the brethren continue .. (5360)
I Pet. 3:8 .. to sum up, let all be harmonious, sympathetic, love as brethren, (5360) kindhearted, and humble in spirit
These are just a few of the passages dealing with brotherly love. The next lesson will continue in First, Second, and Third John. As I said, that series of epistles really delve into the subject and I don't want to lightly skim over these (like I used to) There is so much I want to get into about the meanings of the words. And I hope that what I've presented so far has made sense to you. I said before that I'm learning daily and I want so much for all of us to get something useful out of these teachings that will help us to stand strong and grow in our walk with God. In these days we live in now, we need that so much!
I'd like to take this opportunity to wish you all a very HAPPY NEW YEAR and a BLESSED 2003 in our LORD!
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Love In Christ,