A message for Akron Alliance Fellowship Church, Sunday, February 6, 2022.
For the “Live in Church” audio version of this message, click here.
We’re now in the month of February, and we typically recognize February as the month where there is talk about love because of the onset of Valentine’s Day. It is where people take an interest in the subject of love by extending greetings with cards, candy, flowers, gifts, and perhaps even engagement rings or even getting married before a judge at a City Hall ceremony. Even for those who are not in a relationship, there has been a recent push to celebrate great friendships by promoting “Happy Galantines’ Day.” This additional approach has done wonders for greeting card companies, which experienced a bump in revenue over the last couple of years because of the pandemic.
It’s technically not a holiday, but Valentine’s Day is a big deal to a large number of people. It is very popular for merchants, as well. In a recent article, it was reported that the average American will spend $164.76. Now, that amount is down from 2020 when a record $196.31 was spent, but the pandemic’s impact on this year will still translate to a collective spending, this year, of $21.8 billion dollars on Valentine’s Day gifts for partners, friends, pets, and more.1
Valentine’s Day is a way to express love, but the theme of love is not limited to romance, of course.
If you hang around long enough, you would recognize that today’s definition of love, depending upon the user, can have different meanings. According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, the English word ‘love’ has referred to a “strong affection for one another” since before the 12th century.2 It has grown to include the descriptive words, “passion,” “affection,” and “devotion.”
Let’s approach this now from a Christian perspective. In referring to the Greek language, depending upon the source, there are as many as eight Greek words for love:
Storge – affection
Philia or Phileo – friendship
Eros – sexual, erotic
Ludus – flirtatious, playful, casual, uncommitted
Pragma – committed, long-standing
Philautia – self-love (can be good for self-esteem but bad when it is narcissistic)
Mania – obsessive, possessive, addictive, dependent
Agape – unconditional, divine, selfless3
In the Christian realm, four of these Greek words are most often mentioned in discussion: storge, philia, eros and agape. Interestingly, only two of these are specifically reference in the New Testament.
Eros refers to romantic or sexual love. The English word, “erotic” comes from eros. It is not referenced in the New Testament.
Storge is a familial love that we would see between a mother and her baby or perhaps a brother and sister. It is not specifically in the New Testament, but there are references to storge from an opposite perspective of love. The term astorgoi (unloving) is in 1 Timothy 3:3, and astorgous, which means “no love” in the NIV and “without natural affection” in the KJV, is in Romans 1:31.
1 Timothy 3:3 ESV
…not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money.
Romans 1:31 ESV
…foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.
Philia refers to a friend and friendship.
Romans 12:10 ESV
Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.
Finally, agape, as defined previously, is most often referring to God’s love that he has for the world and how we, as Christians, are challenged to replicate to others. John 3:16 is the epitome of agape love that we often refer to, and there are many different examples of agape love in the New Testament. That is where we will spend much of our time today.
At one time, there was a popular belief that Christians “created” the concept of agape love in an effort to explain the revolutionary concept of God’s love that was much different from the world. In reality, agape was a commonly used Greek word in the Roman Empire, and initially, because it was used in the Roman Empire, Christians did not start off using this word to communicate the magnitude of God’s love.4 Remember, the definition of agape love is unconditional love, love from a divine perspective, and selfless love.
I have often said that words mean things. It’s certainly not a breath-taking statement, but it makes a lot of sense to make sure that we communicate not just God’s Word, but all words, with as much understanding as possible. Paul provides a cautious reminder about how one’s actions about love must meet the words that we use:
1 Corinthians 13:1-3 NLT
1 If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. 3 If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.
Paul continues with what love truly is—and what it needs to be at all times when it comes to our relationships with others:
1 Corinthians 13:4-7 NLT
4 Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud 5 or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. 6 It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. 7 Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.
I love the reference here about how love never loses faith and is always hopeful. When we look at this passage, we should look into our own hearts and minds and see that this love, as described, is how we are to love Jesus. If you have any questions about how God loves you or how you love God, please look carefully at these words and reflect upon them in prayer. God’s love for us is perfect, and we are to strive to love Him as He indeed loves us.
We must strive for His perfection because there are imperfect aspects of love in relationships, and even in our relationship with Jesus. To love requires humility and vulnerability. For those of us who have walls and barriers when it comes to love, you must break them down and eliminate them forever, especially if you want to be the child of God that you are setting out to be. The Holy Spirit can help you in this area, but in many occasions, love requires stepping out on faith. It requires daily prayer, meditation of His Word, and moving forward in His grace.
It is also helpful, for this exercise, to look at agape love by also looking at how Jesus looks at love in a different manner:
Luke 6:32 ESV
“If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them.”
The love described here refers to agape, but the most important point that we need to see here is that the love that sinners expresses is not the same as the selfless, sacrificial love that we associate with Christlike behavior. So, while the definition of agape love has not really changed, it is repurposed when we, as believers, live the agape love of Jesus Christ. We are to practice agape love with our spouses, our family members, our friends, our co-workers, our fellow members within the body of Christ…literally everyone that we come in contact with.
As a believer in Jesus Christ, agape love requires a heart for God. The reason for this is because we must love God and devote ourselves to Him in the same manner that He loves us. A heart for God means living in obedience to His Word and also living as a servant within His Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20):
- Unconditional love
- Selfless love
- Love from a divine perspective
Let’s cover these three things for greater clarity of what agape love representing Jesus Christ represents.
First, unconditional love:
John 3:16 ESV
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
Romans 5:8 ESV
But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
1 John 4:8, 16, 18 ESV
8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.
16 So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.
18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.
God’s love for us is indeed the perfect demonstration of love. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, He abides in (resides with) every believer, and we love Him in recognition of His perfect love for us.
Next, selfless love:
In addition to the description of what love is in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, here are additional verses for consideration:
John 15:13 ESV
Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.
Philippians 2:3-4 ESV
3 Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
Galatians 5:14 ESV
For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
Finally, a look at love from a divine perspective:
1 Peter 4:7-9 NLT
7 The end of the world is coming soon. Therefore, be earnest and disciplined in your prayers. 8 Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins. 9 Cheerfully share your home with those who need a meal or a place to stay.
Zephaniah 3:14-17 NLT
14 Sing, O daughter of Zion;
shout aloud, O Israel!
Be glad and rejoice with all your heart,
O daughter of Jerusalem!
15 For the Lord will remove his hand of judgment
and will disperse the armies of your enemy.
And the Lord himself, the King of Israel,
will live among you!
At last your troubles will be over,
and you will never again fear disaster.
16 On that day the announcement to Jerusalem will be,
“Cheer up, Zion! Don’t be afraid!
17 For the Lord your God is living among you.
He is a mighty savior.
He will take delight in you with gladness.
With his love, he will calm all your fears.
He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.”
Romans 5:3-5 NLT
3 We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. 4 And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. 5 And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.
Jesus Christ loved each one of us before we knew anything about love. His love for us is eternal. It is everlasting. As eternal beings, we can experience His everlasting love today and forever more. What an amazing, spectacular relationship that we have with Jesus Christ! His agape love for us is the ultimate love.
In the spirit of Matthew 5:16, we are to follow Jesus’s example in order to reflect His agape love before others.
Matthew 5:16 ESV
In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
Here’s a good example of this when looking at the encounter Jesus had with the centurion, a Roman officer, and of course, a Gentile:
Luke 7:1-10 NIV
1 When Jesus had finished saying all this to the people who were listening, he entered Capernaum. 2 There a centurion’s servant, whom his master valued highly, was sick and about to die. 3 The centurion heard of Jesus and sent some elders of the Jews to him, asking him to come and heal his servant. 4 When they came to Jesus, they pleaded earnestly with him, “This man deserves to have you do this, 5 because he loves our nation and has built our synagogue.” 6 So Jesus went with them.
He was not far from the house when the centurion sent friends to say to him: “Lord, don’t trouble yourself, for I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. 7 That is why I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you. But say the word, and my servant will be healed. 8 For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”
9 When Jesus heard this, he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd following him, he said, “I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel.” 10 Then the men who had been sent returned to the house and found the servant well.
Look again at verses 4 and 5: When they came to Jesus, they pleaded earnestly with him, “This man deserves to have you do this, because he loves our nation (the Jewish people) and has built our synagogue.” This is another reference in the New Testament of agape love, but the Roman Centurion reflected a godliness in his approach that others readily saw and it was recognized by the Jewish elders.
There’s no other love that crosses racial, ethnic or economic lines than the agape love of the one who loves God and is a servant of Jesus Christ.
- Unconditional love
- Selfless love
- Love from a divine perspective
Jesus reminded us of the importance of this love in communicating with His disciples:
John 13:34-35 NIV
34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
Jesus is referring to agape love, of course, as He refers to His love for His disciples. His love was a divine, unconditional, selfless love, and He demonstrated this when He went to the cross for each one of us. He desires for all believers in Him to love in this manner and to be a witness before others.
The world needs Jesus, and He wants you to shine in it.
Let your light shine.
Copyright © 2022 Melvin Gaines.
1 Buiano, M. (2021, January 31). Article: The Average American Will Spend $165 on Valentine’s Day Gifts This Year. Yahoo! https://www.yahoo.com/lifestyle/average-american-spend-165-valentines-152358370.html
2 Merriam-Webster. (n.d.). Love. In Merriam-Webster.com dictionary. Retrieved January 31, 2022, from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/love
3 Walker, K. (2019, August 15). What is Love? Christianity.com. Retrieved January 31, 2022, from https://www.christianity.com/wiki/christian-terms/what-is-love.html
4 “What are the different types of love mentioned in the Bible?” (n.d.). Retrieved January 31, 2022 from https://www.https://www.gotquestions.org/types-of-love.htmls.