In the New Testament, there are two Greek words used to describe love: “agape” and “phileo.” While “phileo” (brotherly or familial love) is important, we’re focusing on “agape” love today. This type of love is not just a feeling but a love that takes action. To better understand agape love, let’s use an example. Consider a scenario in which your loved one says to you, “I don’t feel like you love me the way you used to.” What are they saying? Essentially, the person is telling you that there are actions you used to take out of love that you no longer do. What they are saying is you only show phileo love and not agape love. Agape love is a love in motion, a love that acts. If you don’t do things that express your love, then you have effectively transitioned from agape to phileo. It means that you don’t show love through your actions as you once did. As Christians, it’s essential to understand the significance of agape love.
The Obligation to Love
“Little children, yet a little while I am with you. Ye shall seek me: and as I said unto the Jews, Whither I go, ye cannot come; so now I say to you. A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples if ye have love one to another.”
– John 13:33-34
In John 13, Jesus introduces a new commandment to his disciples: love. He emphasizes that this love is the defining characteristic of his followers. We are not just supposed to attend church or participate in religious activities. According to this passage, we are ordered to love each other. This means that agape love is not a recommendation but a requirement for those who seek to follow in Christ’s footsteps. If we want to be like Jesus, we must perfect the act of love in our lives.
Let’s take a look at our next passage and see what else we can learn.
“Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour. Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law.”
– Romans 13:7-8
Agape love is not only commanded in the Bible but it is also considered to be something deserved. This means that even if you don’t have a personal connection with someone, you still have a duty to love them. This is because every person, regardless of their background or actions, is made in the image of God and therefore holds inherent value.
The Bible makes it clear that love is not only ordered but is owed to others. God desires for us to love others, and our default response as Christians should always be to extend love to those around us.
The Importance of Forbearing Love
Let’s see what else we can learn, this time from Ephesians.
“I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”
– Ephesians 4:1-3
Here the concept of forbearing love is introduced. Forbearing means “to tolerate,” and it’s an important aspect of love in the Christian life. When others bother or irritate us, we are called to tolerate them and extend love to them anyways.
Forbearing love is an essential component of the Christian walk. You’ll notice that forbearing isn’t a positive experience for us. When others test our patience, we are called to tolerate them and extend love, even when it’s difficult. By doing so, we demonstrate our commitment to living in a way that is worthy of the title, “Christian.”
Additionally, the passage emphasizes the need for us to walk worthy of the vocation to which we have been called. As Christians, we are called to be transformed into the likeness of Christ. If we want to live in a manner that is consistent with this calling, we must also love one another.
The Encouragement of Love
Our passage continues in verse 14
“That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.”
– Ephesians 4:14-16
Ephesians 4 highlights the importance of love in the church. The passage states that we should speak the truth in love, and the goal of this truth-speaking is to build each other up, not tear each other down. When we see areas in which someone needs improvement, we should approach them with love and offer our encouragement and support.
It’s crucial to remember that none of us are perfect, and it’s easy to fall into the trap of criticizing others. When we see something happen in the church, we shouldn’t say, “Oh, I saw that person over there do such and such.” This does not build up the church or honor God, it is only done to boost our own pride. Instead, we should seek to construct one another in love by speaking the truth in a way that lifts others up.
Lastly, the passage highlights the endurance of love. Love endures even when things are difficult, and it’s this type of love that we should strive to cultivate in the church. By speaking the truth in love, building each other up, and demonstrating endurance, we can create a church that honors and glorifies God.
As we have seen today, the Bible stresses the importance of agape love in the Christian life. This type of love is not just a feeling but an action, and it is both a requirement and a debt owed to others. By having forbearing love, speaking the truth in love, and demonstrating endurance, we can live in a way that is worthy of the title of “Christian.” So let’s build each other up in love and honor and glorify God. Through prayer and dedication to this purpose, we all can exhibit agape love in our lives.