The Bible tells us that “God is love” (1 Jn. 4:8,16). But what sort of love is He made of? Warm fuzzy feelings? Love that quits loving when it is not reciprocated? Is His love conditional – “I’ll love you if you love me”? Does He promise to love me only if I’m good, if I don’t sleep with my boyfriend or girlfriend before marriage, or if I’m pretty? Does He expect me to say my prayers, go to church, and read my Bible before He will love me back? What does the love of God look like? How does it behave? How can I describe it?
The young women listened attentively as I explained that the Greek language has several different words that English translates simply as “love.” Those words describe different kinds of love. The word that Paul uses to describe love in 1 Corinthians 13 is agape. This word refers to unconditional love. It means that God loves without conditions, irrespective of our reaction or response. It is love “God style,” not love American style, or Western style. It is a love that is willing to be rejected and still love on. It is a love that loves the unlovely. It is a love that lays down its life for its friends. Human beings are incapable of loving this way. In order to do this, we need the Holy Spirit in our lives.
Other Greek words describe the kinds of love that we experience. For example, there’s phileo, which pictures friendship love. And there’s eros, the “feeling too big for words” sort of love, the love we feel for a boyfriend or girlfriend or spouse. But rarely do we experience agape love.
Imagine what it would be like if we could love others as God loves us. Why, that would revolutionize the world! Yet this is exactly what God requires of us. When we become His children, the Holy Spirit enters our hearts and begins to grow His “fruit,” one of which is love – agape love (Gal. 5:22). The Holy Spirit within us then enables us to love God with all our hearts, souls, minds, and strength, and to love our neighbor as much as we love our selfish selves. God does not tell us to do anything that He does not enable us to do! He Himself is the enabling of all of His commands.
So how do we respond to this news? How does the love of God get into our hearts in the first place? Well, not without an invitation! “Love has good manners” (1 Cor. 13:5). The love of God comes into our hearts when we invite Jesus by His Spirit to come into our lives.
Just Between Us Magazine