Well friends, it’s another snowy Sunday! I hope you are all safe and warm. By the way, Happy Valentine’s Day! Today we will cover love, the last in our 2 Peter series. I didn’t arrange the schedule this way, but I think it’s pretty neat. In case you missed it, the last post was about brotherly kindness, and you can read it here.
What it Is
What is love? According to the Beatles song, love is all you need. The song The Rose says it may be a river or a flower. Most popular songs today have some aspect of love as their theme. Many TV shows that aren’t romances still have a subplot of love. We are fascinated by it. So what is it?
Let’s start with 2 Peter 1:7 which says, “to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love.” The culmination of the characteristics Peter says we are to grow in is love. The Greek word for the type of love used here is agape.
Strong’s Concordance defines it as benevolence, good will, esteem. Thayer’s Lexicon describes it as “especially of that love of Christians toward Christians which is enjoined and prompted by their religion.” This is the type of love that God has toward us. Agape love is not earned or deserved. It is given unconditionally and not based on reciprocation.
What it Does
Agape love motivates us to take care of each other. Paul teaches in Romans 13:10, “Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” In John 15:12-14, Jesus said, “This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. You are My friends if you do whatever I command you.”
Agape means putting someone else’s needs ahead of your own. It means you value someone so much you are willing to risk yourself for their good. In turn, we cannot say that we love Jesus if we don’t obey Him.
We aren’t just supposed to love our friends, though. Matthew 5:44 says, “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” The agape type of love means that we don’t care about people because of how we relate to them or how good or worthy they are. We can love our enemies because they, too, are created in God’s image and have an eternal soul.
I John 4:17-19 says, “Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. We love Him because He first loved us.” If we have the kind of love for God that we should, a love that means we obey Him, then we have no reason to worry about judgment. That’s because, as we discussed above, to love God is also to obey Him.
The greatest example of love that we have is from God. Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Christ was willing to give His life to save people who took it. God loved us enough to let Him. A Father sacrificed His Son for people He created who had not and would not be obedient, and He knew that. He loves us, not for what we do for Him, but unconditionally.
How we Get It
Let’s take a minute to read, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful sections in the Bible: 1 Corinthians 13:1-17.
Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing. Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Today, when we talk about love we often are referring to the love we have for friends or family. These types of love grow when the object of that love does something for us, and we expect certain things from the people that we love. In contrast, agape love is about the person who loves also performing the actions. Someone demonstrating agape love will have the characteristics of 1 Corinthians 13 whether or not the person they show love to has done anything to earn that love. The components of agape love are not all always simple to do even when the object is someone you love as friend or family.
Agape love is not easy, because it demands a lot of us. We are to work to feel this love toward people we may not even like. This is the same type of love in Ephesians 4:15, which says, “But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ.” God teaches us to love even our enemies. We are to speak the truth with love and work to bring people to God. So what about people living in overt sin? When we come into contact with people who are in ungodly lifestyles, what do we do?
We remember Christ. Jesus, of His own will, stayed on a cross for six hours until death to give the people who put Him there, and who continued to revile Him, a chance at salvation. How then can we turn up our noses at anyone? That doesn’t mean that we are supposed to agree with what they do. Remember that man was created in the image of God. When we look at someone, no matter who, let’s remember that God made that person too, and the only difference in our soul and theirs is that we have been blessed to already be guided to the Father’s will.
So friends, love is the pinnacle of all the characteristics of the list in 2 Peter. Without the preceding elements, we won’t truly have the maturity to achieve full agape love. Of course, this is something we are to grow in. It isn’t like baking a cake with a definite time you can declare it’s finished. It’s more like one of those really really old oak trees in the South that grow for hundreds of years. Let’s work to love those around us with God’s kind of love so that through us people can see God.
May the Lord bless and keep you,