At the heart of the Christian message is a small word with big implications; that word is “love”. In the Greek language of the original New Testament the Word is “agape”. This is not sensual love. It is not affectionate love. It is selfless love.
The Love of Christ for us When we speak about Jesus Christ, out of love for us, coming into the world to save sinners, we are speaking of agape love. The motivation for Jesus Christ coming to lay down his life that we might have life was selfless love. Let us ponder upon two scriptures that reinforce this point:
- God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Rom 5:8). This tells us of God’s love towards those who had nothing to offer to gain his love. This is self-giving love.
- This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins (1 John 4:10). This love is a love which meet us at our point of need. It deals with our sins. Without the love operating to effect salvation we remain miserably stricken in our sins and therefore destined for destruction.
This love of God provides the motivation for our love. John puts it like this: “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. (1 John 3:16-18). So our love is to be a love which operates with the love of Christ as the model.
Such love is fleshed out by Paul in 1 Corinthians 13:1-8a. Read those verses and ponder whether or not you are loving in a way which follows after the model of Christ. Such love is not selfish seeking glory for itself. Rather, it reflects Christ-like attitudes in the way it humbly operates desiring the best for others.
Preferring Others Before Ourselves
This can all sound and appear idyllic and we think that is just what we want. However, the problem comes that we are imperfect beings living in an imperfect world and dealing with imperfect people. Nevertheless, although there are many impediments to us showing true love we must not miss the call that, as a church, we are to display true love to one another. We are to show Christ-like love among us
But what does such love look like? In the practicalities of living together in a church it means that we are relentlessly thinking what is best for my brother and sister. In his 1 Corinthians description a part of love is not to be self-seeking (see 1 Cor. 13:5b). We often conclude that church life is acceptable to me when things are operating in the way I want them operate. So when the timing of the services are what suits me, the hymns and songs are what I want, the tea/coffee is just how I like it and the temperature/ventilation of the room/building accords with my preference then all is fine.
Have you ever thought of what it might be to approach these issues in an agape love kind of way? If such was the case you would be wanting not what you want, but what others wants. So, for example, as regard to the hymns you may prefer older type hymns. But you know that there are those in church who prefer the newer hymns which have more contemporary tunes. Your delight should come not when the older hymns are being sung, but when the church is singing the more modern hymns. This is because you have agape love in your heart. When that is the case you rejoice and are content when others are being pleased. This principle applies in many issues. We are not talking here about compromising truth, but about the practicalities of living together as a community of people.
Bearing the Burdens of Others
Moreover, this selfless love is always on the look out to help others. I am not in church thinking what people can do for me. I am thinking what I can do for others. This is what Christ our Lord’s love looks like. Paul says to the Galatians that we are to carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfil the law of Christ (Gal. 6:2). The best ways to consider the use of “law” here is as the principle according to which Christ lived. It was that self less burden-bearing principle which was expressed most fully in Him carrying our sins to Calvary. That same principle should be seen in our lives as we live together as a community of believers.
Let us think then of some of the implications of this. Are you a Christ-like burden bearer? Are you looking out for those in the fellowship you can help? They may just need someone to talk to. They may need some practical help. Remember that if you are a Christian you are Christ’s one. And you prove you are Christ’s one by living in a loving way after the manner of Christ our Lord.
The love of Christ is the model for our love and the stimulus for our love. He truly loved in a selfless way. We should love in a similarly selfless way.
(Taken from the Feltham Evangelical Church newsletter of May 2014)