(originally written 7/16/06)
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance, against such there is no law.” (Gal. 5:22-23 KJV)
I think it’s interesting that love is the first fruit mentioned. There are several verses throughout the Bible that state that without love there is nothing. “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become [as] sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.” (1 Cor 13:1) Charity in this verse and love in Galatians are translated from the same Greek work agape. Now there are many types of love mentioned in the Bible, each with different words. Phileo is a brotherly love, storge is affection, eros is romantic love, but agape is a self-sacrificing love, a love that is unconditional and selfless. Paul says that without that type of love, all his words amount to nothing more than noise. And immediately after saying that, he goes on to give one of the best biblical descriptions of agape, just in case any of his listeners might not know what he’s talking about.
Agape is long-suffering – perseveres patiently and bravely in enduring misfortunes and troubles.
Agape is kind.
Agape does not envy.
Agape is not boastful.
Agape is not full of pride.
Agape does not act unbecomingly.
Agape is not self-serving.
Agape is not easily angered.
Agape harbors no evil thoughts.
Agape does not rejoice in the face of unrighteousness.
Agape does rejoice in the truth.
Agape bears all, believes all, hopes all, endures all.
Agape NEVER fails.
That’s a tall order, and few people can attain that level of love. I’ve been thinking of the love I give in my life, and I know that, before I was a Christian, the love I had for people was more in the storge or eros category. I grew up moving from place to place, unable to make close friends, and knowing that, even if I did, I would be moving away again anyway. I had no roots. My parents both worked hard, so, emotionally, I tended to be on my own a lot. I knew my parents loved me, because they sacrificed all in order to care for us. We never went hungry, we always had a roof over our heads and clothes on our backs. But, emotionally, there was something missing in my life. I became a loner, unable or unwilling to make friends, and every time I tried, I ended up being hurt. So, I learned to be emotionally self-sufficient (by the way, it’s impossible to do so, but it is possible to fool yourself into thinking you are.). I built my castle walls and guarded my heart from pain…as well as from joy…
Relationships I had with women were shallow and short-lived. I didn’t have my first real relationship until the age of 26. It was the first time I’d been with someone longer than three months, and the first time I truly allowed myself to care about someone. That relationship only lasted a year, but I immediately met someone else. I married her, thinking she was the answer to all I was looking for. But, in all honesty, I didn’t know her at all when we got married. Not only that, but I was looking for things from her that I should have been looking for from God. At that time, though, I wanted nothing to do with God. Needless to say, the marriage didn’t last. We both wanted things from each other that the other wasn’t able to give. It was a self-serving love, each of us putting our happiness above the other’s. We got divorced six and a half years ago.
Since that time, I came to Christ and realized what I’d been looking for was right there with Him. He truly loves me just the way I am, and there’s nothing I can do to make Him love me any more or any less. He accepts me, warts and all. He died so that I wouldn’t have to. He gave His all for me. I still am very guarded about giving my heart away. After all, old habits die hard. But I have developed some very strong friendships, people who I would die for.
“For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Rom 5:7-8) And yes, the word love in that verse is also agape.
Husbands, would you die for your wives? Wives, would you die for your husbands? Would you die for your friend? Most people would say yes. But agape asks this question – “Would you die for an unrighteous person, for a stranger?” Would you give all that you can to help another at the expense of suffering yourself? Jesus said, “Love your enemies.” The word used here is agapao, self-sacrificing love. Would you sacrifice yourself for your enemy? Jesus did.
When I started this blog post, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. Love – agape – is something that can be and has been written about for ages, and yet never fully understood until one actually experiences it.
I thank all those of you who actually read this, and I will close with another verse from 1 Corinthians 13 – “And now abideth faith, hope, charity (agape), these three; but the greatest of these [is] charity (agape).”