Love is a word that gets thrown around a lot in today’s culture. For example… I love you, I love those shoes, I love that movie, I love pizza, I love…
I’m definitely guilty of this. “Oh my lanta! I love that!” Is a phrase that often comes out of my mouth, and I could be referring to a multiplicity of topics or items. When I scroll through Facebook I “love” posts more often than I “like” them. Working in a middle school, I see many young relationships start, and within a week’s time or less, they are already throwing around “I love you’s” like chocolates at Hershey Park. All of a sudden… just a few days later those I love you’s and heart-eye emojis suddenly turn to, “I hate him, I don’t know why I ever dated him…” So did they truly love each other? Can you turn love on and off like a hormonal middle schooler? Surely love has varying degrees. Surely I don’t love deep-fried pickles as much as I love my family. Context is everything. So in true Valerie fashion… Let’s consult the dictionary, shall we?
1. An intense feeling of deep affection or fondness
2. A great interest and pleasure in something
3. A person or thing that one loves
4. A sexual passion or desire
And believe it or not… There are even more definitions and parts of speech for love. I think it’s kind of amazing, yet strange, that one word can have so many different connotations and meanings. On “dictionary.com” there are 21 different definitions of love. Yup, you read that right… 21.
In the quest to truly define love I honestly feel like the dictionary is utterly unhelpful. Looking to the world, to celebrities, and social media does not give us a picture of true love. Love has become distorted.
In the Ancient Greek language, there are several different words for different kinds of love. Let’s take a look at four of them:
“Eros” is defined as romantic, passionate love. This is the kind of love felt between two people who are in a romantic relationship.
“Philia” is defined as affectionate love. This is the love that is felt between friends and is purely platonic.
“Storge” is defined as familiar love. This is the love felt between family members like a parent-child relationship or a relationship between siblings.
Lastly… the best kind of love. This love is my favorite and I could literally talk about it all day long. It’s that good! Seriously.
“Agape.” This love is defined as selfless, universal love. Agape love is unconditional love toward every person despite the way you may feel. Agape love is loving someone, showing them compassion and kindness, even when they’ve done the complete opposite to you. Even if they’ve betrayed you, started nasty rumors about you, been rude, or they simply just rub you the wrong way. Agape love looks past the self. This love is big. It’s action-packed and true. This love should shine through in all types of love.
Love is a huge theme in the Bible. Dare I say… the biggest theme? You can find agape from beginning to end, and all through the middle of the Bible. God first exhibits agape love in His very being. 1 John 4:8 says that God is love. Because God is love, love shows through in all of His actions. Rewind with me to the start.
“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” It is extremely difficult, impossible really, for us to picture the perfection that was Eden. However, looking at our earth today we can still see beauty all throughout creation. You might be wondering.. how does beauty in creation have anything to do with love? Picture this: Gray. Gray dirt. Gray grass. Gray water. Gray sky. Only one type of tree, and that’s gray too. Gray flavorless food. Imagine if the only type of food on earth was onions. Imagine the only type of bird to exist was a pigeon. Imagine the only flower was a gray tulip. #boring
I am so thankful that God did not create the world to be a monochromatic, dull, lackluster sphere. God was creative, He was elaborate, He was extravagant, and He was intentional in every detail all because he loves us.
Humans have a rough history that is filled with failure time and time again. Fast forward a smidge from creation and look to Adam and Eve. Adam and Eve had all they could want. They literally lived in a perfect world, but they messed up. They doubted God, disobeyed God, and ate from a tree God had asked them not to eat from, despite the fact they had a plethora of other trees to choose from.
Sin is defined as an immoral act or wrongdoing.
Sin entered the world and as a result it was passed down throughout all of human history.
Sin entered the world and brought its partner, death.
Sin entered the world, but so did grace.
Sin entered the world, but God showed up and poured out love upon Adam and Eve despite their disobedience. When Adam and Eve sinned God didn’t yell at them, stomp His foot and say, “seriously!?” God gave them a consequence for their wrongdoing, but He also wrapped them in boundless love.
Sin requires a consequence and that consequence is death. We see it all throughout the history of the whole entire world. People die, and despite advances in science and medical technology, there is nothing to be done to stop it. By one man’s disobedience, many were made sinners. Hell is what every sinner deserves, myself included; however, despite our sin, God still loves us and has given us a gift.
The gift of God is love. God is love, and Love came down to earth in the form of a man. Love was still fully God, but Love was also fully human. Love lived perfectly. Love’s name is Jesus.
Christ displayed agape love continually and without flaw. Jesus is the perfect example of agape love. He lived it every day, in every word, and every action. Before we look at examples of Jesus’ love, let’s take a look at the Biblical definition of love.
This is my paraphrased version of 1 Corinthians 13, but I strongly encourage you to read the scripture as it is, because I am just a human filled with flaws. If your translation happens to say “charity,” don’t let that confuse you, it’s just an old fashioned word for love.
Early I said that Jesus is love. Therefore, I can replace each “love” from above with Jesus’ name and it will not be contradictory to who Jesus is.
That love is wild. That love is radical. It’s agape.
Jesus lived out that perfect love. Agape love is an unconditional, sacrificial, action-packed love. Agape requires action. It is not possible for agape love to be a passive love.
The woman at the well in John 4 is one of my favorite passages and it’s a great example of how Jesus loved and put His love into action. He did not keep a record of wrongs against her. He knew her past, but He extended kindness to her. He talked to her. She was a Samaritan, (Jews and Samaritans did not get along or associate) and societal outcast. Even the disciples questioned Jesus as to why He was talking to this Samaritan woman. Jesus’ love didn’t know the boundaries society had set upon her. He reached past all of it and showed her perfect love.
Jesus loved His disciples too. The disciples were all dirty little sinners, just like you and me because let’s face it… we’re all sinners. Peter was impulsive, Thomas is known for his moment of doubt, Matthew was a despised tax collector, they lacked faith in the storm, and Judas Iscariot betrayed Jesus. But you know what? Jesus was continually patient with His disciples. They were His students. Jesus was not the kind of teacher to lose His temper and start shouting at the class when they messed up. Jesus is the teacher that straight up tells you the truth, corrects you, yet is gentle and forgiving despite your failures. Each of the disciples were messy in their own ways. Before Jesus died He prepared a meal for His students, His friends, the disciples. At that meal He knew what Judas was about to do. Actually, Jesus knew all about it long before the meal. Yet, Jesus still washed his feet. Back in the day, the washing of feet was a customary and hospitable action that the host would provide for their guests. Only it wasn’t typically the host who did the washing, it was one of the lowliest servants in the household. Jesus, Son of God, lowered Himself to the position of a servant and washed the feet of each disciple… even the one who was about to betray him. The way I see it, that action has agape love written all over it.
Let’s talk about the greatest act of love that has ever been expressed.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.”John 3:16-17
God doesn’t want us to die and be eternally separated from Him by our sin. He sent us a gift of love, an opportunity to be rescued. He doesn’t want to condemn us Hell, he wants to save us.
He offers every single person this beautiful gift that does not need to be earned. In fact, I’ve wronged God, I’ve broken his heart. I’ve sinned and continue to sin every single day because I’m human.
His love reaches past my sin.
His love reaches past my failures.
He takes me as I am in my brokenness.
God cannot look upon sin and God knew I could never reach His standard of goodness on my own. God knew I could never do enough good deeds to earn my salvation. God knew I could never earn eternity with Him. His love is so great, that he gives us the gift of salvation freely because we cannot reach perfection without Him.
If you aren’t saved and you want to accept God’s gracious gift, today could be that day. If you believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God, that He died for you, shed his blood on the cross to pay for your sins… Tell God that. Ask Him to come live in your life, ask Him to forgive you of your sins, to save you, to change you, to help you turn away from sin. If anyone is in Christ they are a new creation! God is reaching out to you, calling you by name, waiting with open arms. He loves you just as you are, but He’s not going to force you to choose Him. If you aren’t saved and you still have questions please reach out to us here at Radiantly Brave.
If you are saved, you know Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior, you have a job to do. Jesus says that if you love me you will keep my commandments. Jesus commands us to love others the way that he loves us. Jesus commands us to go into all the world and preach the gospel, the good news of Jesus.
Are you seeing the connections? If I love Jesus… I’m going to obey him. If I love Jesus I’m going to want to share that love with others. If I love Jesus, I need to live out that unconditional, sacrificial, action-packed, agape love that he lives out in every moment.
Penn Jillette, an atheist once said, “If you believe that there is a heaven and hell and people could be going to hell, or not getting eternal life or whatever, and you think that it’s not really worth telling them this because it would make it socially awkward… How much do you have to hate somebody to believe that everlasting life is possible and not tell them that? If I believed beyond a shadow of a doubt that a truck was coming at you, and you didn’t believe it, and that truck was bearing down on you… There is a certain point where I’d tackle you. And this is more important than that.”
Don’t keep the love God has shown you locked away inside. Don’t keep the love God has given you for just your family and Christian friends. Love boldly, love passionately, love without bounds and Jesus will shine through you. Share what God has done in your life, share the love of Christ, share the gospel!
When I’m in need of a humbling experience or need to see how I’m measuring up Christ’s love, I go back to 1 Corinthians 13 and plug my name in.
Valerie is patient, she suffers long. Valerie is kind. Valerie does not envy, she does not get jealous. Valerie does not boast of herself. Valerie is not puffed up or arrogant. Valerie does not behave in unseemly ways. Valerie is not selfish. Valerie is not easily provoked. Valerie does not think evil. Valerie does not keep a record of wrongs. Valerie does not rejoice in iniquity, but in truth. Valerie bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things. Valerie never fails.
I strive for those sentences to ring true… but more often than I would like they definitely do not. I fail all the time. Agape love is boundless and without Christ I am incapable of loving in the manner that he loved. There is never a point where I am not in need of Christ. I cannot show agape in my own strength. I need to turn to Christ and ask Him to help me to love the way that He loves every single day. I wish I could say I was always patient, kind, free of envy, jealousy, pride, selfishness… but I’m not. I have areas in my life I need to take to Jesus daily.
Striving to love like Jesus is not an easy task. It’s hard. It’s uncomfortable. But we are called to do so. “A new commandment I give unto you, That you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” John 13:34
This means I need to actively be showing others my love for them. I need to reach out to the societal outcast, to those who live and look differently than I do, to the poor, to the broken, to the flawed, to the hurting, to the lost. I need to show love despite my fears, anxiety, awkwardness, and other weaknesses. When I am pushed out of my comfort zone Christ shines, because when I am weak he meets me there and gives me strength. If I am presented with an opportunity to share the gospel, to show love, and compassion I need to lay aside any doubts, fears, or busyness, and rely on God to use the moment He has given me.
I want to challenge you, and myself too, to step out of your routine, to step into uncomfortable. In everything we do, it should be done to the glory of God; so let your light shine in the little opportunities and the big unexpected opportunities. Turn your love from meaningless words to action. Love big. Love radically. Love with boundless, unconditional, sacrificial, agape love.
Valerie loves going on adventures, spending time in nature, and getting lost in the wonders of God’s creation. She works in the 6th grade resource room at the local middle school, co-runs a faith-based youth mentoring program, and is actively involved in Bible camp ministry. Valerie loves mentoring other women, teens and children. She has an obsession with pens and stocking up on beautiful journals. Valerie’s greatest joy is sharing Jesus with others. Her greatest desire is to know Him more deeply and make Him known. You can find her on Instagram @valerieeejayyy