Love – God’s Way (A St. Valentine’s Day Message)

Love is probably the most sought-after and least understood aspect of the human experience. We long for it, we hunger for it, we actually need it, and yet those things are at the very root of our inability to Love God’s Way.

The most famous passage in all of Scripture regarding love is 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a: “Love is patient, love is kind, and it is not envious. Love does not brag; it is not puffed up. It is not rude, it is not self-serving, and it is not easily angered or resentful. It is not glad about injustice, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.”

Nice thoughts; great words; lovely sentiments. You’ve seen them on greeting cards, plaques on the wall, even hundreds of times on Facebook. What do they mean, and who are they for?

The Greek word for “love” in this passage of Scripture is agapē. It does not refer to brotherly love, familial love, or even romantic love. Agapē is unique and quite distinctive from our usual understanding and use of the word “love.”

Agapē is rooted in the very nature and character of God (1 John 4:8, 16b). Agapē is self-sacrificial (see Philippians 2:5-8). The verb form of this word means to love, highly value, honor, greatly esteem, manifest lavish concern for, be faithful towards, to delight in, and to emphasize the importance and value of another.

AGAPĒ EQUALS GIVE

To love God’s way is to give; there is no “take” in love (although there is a “receive” aspect to it which we will discuss in a moment).

  • John 3:16: “For this is the way God loved [agapaō, the verb form of agapē] the world: He gave [abandoned and delivered up for] His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have everlasting life.”
  • Galatians 2:20: “I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So the life I now live in the body, I live because of the faithfulness of the Son of God, who loved [agapaō], me and gave Himself for me.”
  • Ephesians 5:25: “Husbands, love [agapaō] your wives just as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her.”

To “love” someone with any expectation at all of anything coming back in return is NOT love – it is a business deal, not relationship. Quid pro quo (this for that) is not love because it is not sacrificial; it is self-serving and self-seeking. This is not how God has loved us and not how we are to love others.

Jesus emphatically establishes a brand new economy for relationships for all those who are His true disciples (more than just followers). Three times in John 13:34-35, He uses the same words to express His command to them (and to us): “I give you a new commandment – to love one another [agapaō]. Just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. Everyone will know by this that you are my disciples – if you have love for one another.”

As we have discussed in other lessons, repetition in Scripture is a device used to add emphasis to what is being said. Since they did not have exclamation marks, didn’t italicize or use all upper case for words, and didn’t have a way to bold the letters, they used repetition. Repeating something once meant it was highly significant; repeating twice (saying it three times) was like using all upper-case letters AND underlining-italicizing-bolding and adding several exclamation marks!!!

Loving God’s Way cannot be faked, pretended, or counterfeited for long because loving like God loves (even with our human limitations) is about much more than just behavior. To agapaō someone is to have a higher regard for them than you do for yourself (Philippians 2:3-4), to have a passionate desire for God’s best for them, even at great expense or sacrifice to yourself. This is something that happens on a heart level, not just with a bunch of words and some temporary actions.

His Word includes the commands to “love one another, just as I have loved you.” How has He loved us? “And hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly…But God demonstrates his own love for us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us…For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, how much more, since we have been reconciled, will we be saved by his life” (From Romans 5:5-6, 8, 10).

So, when we read that we are to “love your neighbor as you love yourself,” (Mark 12:31a) these words take on a significantly powerful meaning. They are commanded by God in the Old Testament and retaught by Jesus in the New.

When we give to another with the expectation of receiving something in return, we have just dehumanized and objectified that individual. They have now gone from being regarded in our hearts as a fellow image-bearer of God to a resource for us to have our needs met by. Again, that is not relationship; that is using.

In a marriage, this can be an especially easy trap to fall in to. Most people get married because of what needs are being met or what emotions they experience being connected to that other person. That is not a Biblical or a Christian model. To “love another” is to passionately desire God’s best for them, not for you.

Another important idea to hold fast to is the idea that the “one another’s” are our brothers and sisters in Christ. We are to love them first and love them best. It is from a solid “one anothering” love that the Body of Christ is able to love the lost.

One more thing: We are also instructed to love our enemies with the same love we love our fellow believers. This is an even more difficult kind of love. If you read Luke 6:35, you will find that Jesus explains what that love looks like with these instructions: “But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.”

Matthew has a different quote from Jesus along these same lines (5:43-47): “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor’ and ‘hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be like your Father in heaven, since he causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Even the tax collectors do the same, don’t they? And if you only greet your brothers, what more do you do? Even the Gentiles do the same, don’t they?”

Paul picks up this theme in Romans, Chapter 5 (verses 6, 8, and 10), and gives us the baseline for us to love others – even our enemies:

  • “For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. (Verse 6)
  •  But God demonstrates his own love for us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Verse 8)
  • For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, how much more, since we have been reconciled, will we be saved by his life? (Verse 10)

So, let us not forget that, just as God has loved us in Christ, so we are to love others – also in Christ, just as God has loved us. His love is not conditional, and neither should ours be.

 

Happy St. Valentine’s Day

 

To Whom It May Concern:

This is an absolutely beautiful piece, written in a way that gives voice to much of the woundedness – but also the hope – so many of us have suffered at the hand of someone entrusted with loving and caring for us.

No longer silent; no longer afraid; no longer victim; forever redeemed!

AngelaWaddington

I’m writing this to let you know…. I forgive you.

I choose to let the past go. Though I know I’ve said this before, countless times I’m going
to try harder……actually with Gods help I won’t try, I’ll do it this time.
I forgive you for the pain, for the trauma, for the shattered dreams, and wasted years.
For
Innocence
Lost.

I forgive you for breaking my heart, and for causing me to have a twisted view of
Love…..
I’m learning what true love is now.
You disappointed me.
I forgive you.
I forgive you for the lies that
You……
Told……
I forgive you for abusing me.
You hurt me.
For the emotional abuse, I forgive you.
You made me feel ugly.
Dirty….
The wounds run deep, and I may never understand WHY!
That’s okay, you know, not finding the answers.
You took what wasn’t offered. Shattered beauty.
I…
Forgive..

View original post 155 more words

Hello, My Name is Church (Re-Blog)

Hello my name is church,

I’m sure you’ve heard a lot about me. I have no shortage of critics. Perhaps you have heard that I am…

Boring

Shallow

Cheap

A waste of time

You’ve heard that I am full of

Hypocrites

Clowns

Greedy people

The self- righteous

Maybe you have visited me before and discovered

Horrible music

Passionless singing

Dry preaching

Rude congregants

Maybe you needed me and I was

Too busy

Too “righteous”

Too broke

Too blind

Maybe you joined me and found I was

Distant

Demanding

Dull

Preoccupied

Maybe you tried to serve in me but were caught off guard by

Business meetings

Committees

Teams

Bureaucracy

Maybe you left and were surprised that nobody

Called

Cared

Noticed

Invited you back

Perhaps your experience has driven you to

Speak negatively of me

Swear to never come back to me

Proclaim that no one needs me

Believe you’re better off without me

If this is true, I have something to say to you

I’m sorry

I was wrong

I blew it

I made a huge mistake

But remember, I never said my name was

Perfect

Flawless

Complete

Arrived

My name is church. I welcome the

Hypocrite

Dry

Self-righteous

Shallow

I welcome the

Sincere

Passionate

Forgiving

Selfless

I cannot shut my doors to the people who make you

Angry

Uncomfortable

Impatient

Self-conscious

But I would remind you that we couldn’t always worship in the same room. In the Old Testament there was a division between the

Gentile

Jew

Man

Woman

In order for us to all worship in the same room Christ was

Shamed

Beaten

Killed

Resurrected

Which is far worse than being

Bored

Uncomfortable

Embarrassed

Ignored

So why not come back to church and let all of these messed up people

Challenge you

Sharpen you

Strengthen you

Humble you.

I can’t promise you that the people will be great. This is church. It’s not

Heaven

Paradise

Beulah Land

The Celestial city

Come back.

God wants you here

The body needs you here

The world needs your witness here.

You belong here.

Hello, my name is church

I miss you

I love you

I’m sorry

Can’t wait to see you.

The Unappreciated Pastor

 

Hello my name is church,

I’m sure you’ve heard a lot about me. I have no shortage of critics. Perhaps you have heard that I am…

Boring

Shallow

Cheap

A waste of time

 

You’ve heard that I am full of

 

Hypocrites

Clowns

Greedy people

The self- righteous

 

Maybe you have visited me before and discovered

 

Horrible music

Passionless singing

Dry preaching

Rude congregants

 

Maybe you needed me and I was

 

Too busy

Too “righteous”

Too broke

Too blind

 

Maybe you joined me and found I was

 

Distant

Demanding

Dull

Preoccupied

 

Maybe you tried to serve in me but were caught off guard by

 

Business meetings

Committees

Teams

Bureaucracy

 

Maybe you left and were surprised that nobody

 

Called

Cared

Noticed

Invited you back

 

 

Perhaps your experience has driven you to

 

Speak negatively of me

Swear…

View original post 251 more words

Worthy and Deserving are NOT the Same Thing

Overheard:treasure_gold_hoard_prehistoric_tesoro_de_villena

“I just feel so worthless!”

Perhaps the deepest, most pernicious lie many people believe is that they are “worthless”. The WordNet definition of worthless is, “Lacking in usefulness or value”.

Synonyms offered include despicable, ugly, vile, useless, insignificant, pointless (Yes, I see that hand over there!).

Anyone who has carried around the sense of being worthless has felt all of those things, and more.

But, all of them are lies!

While we may be undeserving of any good thing, deserving and worthy are two very different things.

To be deserving means to have earned something and goes to functional value. Worth, on the other hand, is not about “doing” but about “being”, and goes to essence.

Let me give you an example:

Suppose you have a block of gold sitting on the table in front of you. That block of gold, being gold, has an inherent worth no matter what form or shape it is in. If it is melted down and shaped into a doorstop, its worth is still the same, but its functional and aesthetic value has changed.

That same block of gold melted down into a creamery to use with grandma’s fine chine tea service will have a different functional and aesthetic value, but it is still gold and it still is worth what it was before anything was done to alter it.

Now, we can fashion that gold into a magnificent jewelry ensemble, greatly increasing its functional and aesthetic value, or we can leave it in its rawest from and stuff it under a manure pile. The one thing that does not and will not change is its INHERENT WORTH.

In like manner, when we consider each and every human being on planet earth, we find that each and every person – no matter what they have or have not done – is created in God’s image.

This concept of being bearers of the imago dei goes all the way back to the earliest chapters of the Book of Genesis in the Bible. Three times this phrase appears there, and each time it refers to God’s view of mankind, not mankind’s view of himself.

First we see God creating man in His image (Genesis 1:26-27). Then we see that the children borne of the first man and woman are also considered to be “in the image of God” (Genesis 5:1-3, with 1:26-27 revisited).

The third time we see this phrase is highly significant and points to the sanctity of human life – again from God’s perspective – when God’s institutes capital punishment for murder.

Noah and his family have just departed the ark and God gives them the basic laws they are to live by. Two are brand new: first, from this point on you will be eating meat: don’t eat it raw. Second, ““Whoever sheds human blood, by other humans must his blood be shed; for in God’s image God has made humankind.” (Genesis 9:6)

In the New Testament, Jesus’ half-brother James revisits and intensifies how we are to regard one another when he says, “But no human being can subdue the tongue; it is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse people made in God’s image.” (James 3:8-9)

But this is only the beginning of how we are to understand our inherent worth and value.

In Psalm 8, David muses over how it could possibly be that the Divine Creator of all that exists would have regard for mankind, and –even more significantly – would place His creation in the hands of mankind to steward and to manage.

In Matthew 6, Jesus invests quite a few moments commanding His listeners to not be anxious about any need they have because their Heavenly Father knows all of their needs, just as He does the needs of the birds He provides for, and “you are of far more value than they”.

God also provides beautifully for the grass and flowers, even though, once again, mankind is worth far more and will be provided for even more than they.

Later, Jesus says something else that is significant. In Matthew 16:26, He asks, “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?”

As far as Jesus is concerned, one person is of more WORTH more than the created world!

In Luke 12:6-7, Jesus declares, “Are not five sparrows sold for two cents? Yet not one of them is forgotten before God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows.”

The list goes on and on, including how there is rejoicing in heaven when ONE sinner turns from their sinfulness and surrenders to Christ as Savior (Luke 15:7, 10).

This rejoicing comes as a result of the restoration of a lost loved one loved to their rightful and intended place as a future co-inheritor with Jesus and one who will be glorified right along beside Him (Romans 5:1-2, 6, 8, 10; Romans 8:16-17, 28-29).

Remember that block of gold? When we have turned from our ways and surrendered to Him, another change takes place. Our inherent worth is still there, but there is a change in our functional value (2 Corinthians 5:17).

In Ephesians 2:10, we find one of the most beautiful word pictures in all of Scripture that explains: “For we are His masterpiece, created in Christ Jesus to do the good works He determined long ago would be our way of life.”

Thank of a master artisan, like Michelangelo, crafting a magnificent statue out of a clump of marble. It doesn’t start out very pretty at all, but the end result is a magnificent piece of art. That is the way the word poiema (masterpiece) can be best understood.

What this means is that, instead of getting our sense of worth and value from what we do and how flawlessly we do it, we focus on being who He created us to be and allow the “doing” to flow naturally from the “being”, like ripe fruit falls from a tree.

A peach tree does not have to sit out in the orchard and focus all of its attentions on growing peaches – it simply grows peaches because it IS a peach tree…the “doing” flows naturally from the “being”.

God created us worthy of love, worthy of dignity, worthy of His very best –the sacrifice of His Son in our place – and there is nothing that can change that any more than we can change our DNA from human to any other creature.

Our inherent worth is just as much a part of us as our humanity and it cannot be taken from us. And even if there are those in our life who now deny or have denied us that dignity and worth, it does NOT change the fact that we are inherently worthy of it.

There is more that I will say about this in a future post, but please hold on to the truth that, while we are deserving of no good thing (it cannot be earned), we are fully worthy of God’s BEST (we were created that way!

Soli Deo Gloria