Mark 12:28-31

28And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?”  29Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

Holy Spirit, release your Spirit of wisdom and revelation on us right now that we would have eyes to see and ears to hear what You are saying to us through the living Word.  Amen.

I was looking at the Greek on this passage of scripture this week and God just blew me away with it.  As a quick background, there are four different words for love in the Greek language:

  1. eros – the passionate love that God intends to be shared between a husband and wife
  2. stergo – love between a parent/child, person/pet, people/leader (government leader, etc.)
  3. phileo – love between friends; brotherly love
  4. agapao – selfless love of one person for another (“agape” is the noun form you have probably heard)

Of the four, two are found in the New Testament – phileo and agapao.  I already knew that agape love was the kind of love that God has for us, and I suspected that He was commanding us to love each other with the same love.  My suspicions were right.  What I didn’t suspect was that I had no idea what agape love really was.  I have heard a lot of people talk about it from the pulpit over the years, and I have always taken away the impression that agape love was of course the love that God had for me, that He would always love me no matter what, that He was head over heels in love with me, etc. While those statements are true — God does love us like that — that is not what agape means.  Agape love has nothing to do with emotion or feelings.  Look at the definitions I came across in my study:

Agapao – to love, in a social or moral sense.

Phileo – (a) to be a friend to / fond of an individual or an object; (b) to have affection for; (c) denoting personal attachment, as a matter of sentiment or feeling; (d) to kiss, as a mark of tenderness

But the rest of the definition of phileo is what got me:

“NT:25 (agapao) is wider [than phileo], embracing especially the judgment and the deliberate assent of the will as a matter of principle, duty and propriety … the former [phileo] being chiefly of the heart and the latter [agape] of the head.”

Agape love, the love that God loves us with and commands us to love each other (and Him) with, has nothing to do with feeling or emotion.  This love is a deliberate choice to selflessly love, even when it is inconvenient, when we don’t want to, on the matter of principle and duty.  This love motivates us — and God — to intervene in people’s lives even if it costs us something.  Just ask Jesus.  (Did you know this is also the love that the Bible specifically commands husbands and wives to love each other with?  Makes sense, huh?)

Think about how many times God has bailed you out of a mess… or has loved you enough to let you fall on your face and learn a hard lesson once so you won’t make the same mistake over & over… and has loved you in a real and tangible way so much more than you deserve…  Well 1 John 4:19 says “We love because he first loved us.”  If God has loved you this much, and you truly love Him, how can you help but love other people in a real and tangible way, that makes a difference in their lives?

How much do you love?

Do you love enough that it actually changes you?
Changes your thoughts?
… your actions?
… your life?

Or are you one of the ones that says, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body?  Faith without works is dead.  See James 2.

It brings new meaning to James 1:27, “27Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”

How can we turn a blind eye to the moral and social issues going on all around us if we truly love?  Love is not killing unborn babies.  Love is not people starving and freezing to death in the cold.  Love is not mothers and their children living in and surviving off the garbage dumps of Mozambique. Love is not our friends, strangers, family members, and neighbors spending an eternity in hell because we were self-conscious or too politically correct.

Jesus, open our eyes to real love.  Show us what love looks like and give us grace and forgiveness where we have fallen short.

(Portions from Biblesoft’s New Exhaustive Strong’s Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary. Copyright © 1994, 2003 Biblesoft, Inc. and International Bible Translators, Inc.).