What is love? Is it an emotion? Is it an action? We hear the word tossed around a lot in our culture, but do we really know the depths of what love really should look like?
Though we use it to mean very different things, we only have the one word for love. "I love ice cream" and "I love my mom" we all know have very different definitions.
This happens in the church more times than we want to admit. We neglect to understand the true meanings behind the words God has given us.
The phrase "Love your neighbor" rings in our ears. It is the second greatest commandment after all. But what does that mean - Love your neighbor? I guess if they're nice and we get along and he returns my lawnmower I guess I amfriends with him. And if I am friends with them, I guess that is a kind of love right?
The Greek language, which is one of the primary languages spoken at the time the Bible was written, has more than one word for love. The word that is used when we refer to a love in a friendship is phileo. It's a kind, compassionate love in a social or moral sense.
Think about your BFF. You would do nearly anything for that friend, wouldn't you? If they called at 1 A.M. needing a ride home or bail money, you're there without question. You know each other so intimately that when their words say they are ok but you know the look in their eyes says I am falling apart. That's love. That's phileo love.
A whole different word is used when God speaks of love. God calls us to love on a much deeper level than that of just a friendship or even the love we have for a spouse. God calls us to love on a level equal to his love for us. That is called agape love - a sacrificial love not only shown to friends and family, but the difference is that this is a love we are to show to the stranger and, believe it or not, to our enemies.
WHOA! You mean I am really suppose to love my enemies? But they are want nothing more than to hurt me. How am I suppose to love them?
Well, God loved us so much that he sent his son to die for us, to die for those who not only followed his commands, but also for those people that have turned away from him. What is an even greater example of how deep agape love goes is Christ shed his blood even for those that mocked him, beat him, tortured him and ultimately put him on the cross. Now that's love. And that is the love God has called, actually commanded, us to have.
So many have forgotten this message though. I see it every day. I see how so many people that claim to be Christians have turned away those that don't fall in line with their particular beliefs or are so far outside what they think a Christian should look like. I'm here to tell you, this is not agape love and if this is you, you have fallen far short of what God intended.
Agape love is unconditional. Period! End of story! When you start putting conditions on who you show love too, you are no better than the pharisees that put Christ on the cross.
I will tell you this too - if you turn someone away from the church either by your actions or by your attitude, you don't know God and and you have failed to listen to the Holy Spirit. You have failed to allow God to live in you.
1 John 4:16 "And we have come to know and trust the love that God has for us . . . God is Love and the one who abides in love, abides in God and God abides in him." and 1 John 4:8 "Anyone who does not love (agape love) does not know God because God is love."
As much as this is a statement on many within the church, it is also a reminder for all Christians when we face those who oppose us. God calls us to love those who persecute us, whether that is because of our faith or simply for who we are. Trust me, I have seen enough hate and bigotry directed at me by so called Christians. I know the pain and the emotional toll it takes.
Many times it is something we must do even when our hearts and minds are telling us differently. Loving each other is a conscious act. It doesn't come naturally at first. With time and practice it will become second nature. We must choose to follow God's heart and not our own.
The more we live in love, the more we practice love, the closer we become to being true lights in a dark world. As Christians, aka followers of Christ, we shouldn't be and can not be the ones adding to the darkness.
If we just say we love and then turn around and shut the church door on someone, we are just a facade or as Christ called it a white washed tomb, void of life and living without God in us.
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