Give Yourself to Others …

Posts Tagged ‘agape

Like many people, I’ve probably read 1 Corinthians 13, a thousand times.  The description of “love” by Paul, is beautifully inspiring.  I often read it when I perform weddings.

On a side note, the old King James Version translation of agape as “charity” is probably a better translation than “love.”  But that’s a topic for another time.

What I’ve missed in the thousands of times I’ve read 1 Cor 13 are the first three verses (this is from The Message):

13 If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate.

2 If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing.

3-7 If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.

Am I the only one who missed this?

I can be the smartest person in the world.  I can understand everything … even the greatest mysteries about God … I may have so much faith that I can perform miracles … I can be the most generous person in the world.

And if all of this is true, but I’m not loving others, the way Jesus loved me, then it’s all pointless.

If we are not loving towards one another, we’ve missed the whole point from Jesus.

Think about that, the next time you argue about doctrine!

When I was younger  — I’ve passed the 60 mark — I actively engaged in what I now label as the “endless doctrinal debates.”

I won’t say they are useless, but they do get pretty close.  As I read the Text, especially the gospels, Jesus pretty steadfastly chastises the Pharisees and Sadducees for their pre-occupation with and arguments about Jewish doctrine.  Just because the issues may have changed — and not all of them have — I’m skeptical Jesus’ view would change.

Jesus seemed pre-occupied with forgiveness and charity ….

Even when individuals were obviously guilty, Jesus overlooked their guilt and showed them love.  And with his parables, he often only hinted at a better way … rarely “laying down the law.”

I cannot say I’ve done an exhaustive review to confirm the following point, but I’m pretty it’s accurate:  most of the doctrinal issues Christians argue about are based upon statements by someone other than Jesus — perhaps the writings of the Apostles, or Luke.  Rarely, if ever, do we argue over things Jesus said.

As I’ve noted before, the only time in the Text, where Jesus describes his own words as “commands” are in John 13 and John 15.  Both times, he says he’s giving them a new command, to love another the way He loved us.

Oh, how I wish we would be pre-occupied with doing that.

Follow this link to a story about how love manifests itself in modern society. It’s a story of a couple who provide free housing to families at the Texas Medical Center in Houston, Texas. I wish there were more stories around like this one.

You just need to watch this.  It’s sad, inspiring and will bring tears.

This is a touchy subject, in my opinion.  I say that because I hear so many believing people saying things that suggest God has changed circumstances around them for their benefit.  Does this ring a bell with you?

Does God control all circumstances?  (not could he control, but does he actually control).

Does nothing happen in the world without God’s authority and approval?

How do I know if God wants me to do this or that?

Does God want me to take the new job?

Does God want me to buy a new car?

Does God want me to buy a new house?  A new suit?  A new blouse?  A new cell phone?

God, please send me a new roommate?  God, please send me the right person to be my wife?  … my husband?

How do we know what God’s will is for our lives?

In 1978, I was living in Houston, Texas, and I was offered a job in Washington, DC.  It was a good job and I ultimately accepted the new position and moved.  However, when the offer was made, I asked for a couple of weeks to consider it.  I was 28, and the question on my mind was:  Does God want me to take this new job?

I pretty much agonized over the decision.  I spoke with people at the church where I worshipped.  I talked with my wife.  I spoke with people in the industry.  But it was not clear to me if God wanted me to take the job.  I was praying every day.  But I wasn’t getting an answer that was clear to me.  And my two weeks was running out.

I wish I could completely recall exactly how I reached my conclusion/decision.  I don’t.  But I do recall my conclusion.

In general terms, God doesn’t care what job I have.  What he cares about is whether I can be God’s man in my job?  And clearly, there are jobs where it would be harder to be God’s man than in other jobs.  But the job is not the issue.  I am.

In my circumstances, no matter what they are or how they change, am I being the person God wants me to be?

I don’t believe God changes the circumstances to benefit me.  He changes me to cope with the circumstances.

God will not cause someone to do something against their own will in order to suit you or me.  He seeks people who want to conform their will to His.

In John 13, towards the end of the chapter, Jesus is talking to the 12 about his impending death and says, “Where I am going you can’t come, but you will follow later.”  Peter responds, “Why can’t I follow you now?  I would lay down my life for you!”

And Jesus asks, “Peter, would you really lay down your life for me?”

In any and every circumstance, that is the question:  Will you really lay down your life for God?

Okay, here’s where I am:  what does it mean to love?

I mean, let’s face it, love is so overused — used to mean so many different things — that it has become almost meaningless.  Can anyone dispute that?

In the New Testament, as well as the Greek language, there are several words which we translate as “love” in English.  Specifically, they are:

eros — the root word for erotic.  Obviously, a reference to the physical aspects of infatuation, sexual arousal, etc.

phileo — “brotherly love.”  This is the beginning of Philadelphia (the city of brotherly love) and philanthropy.  It is also used to describe the affection between friends.  So there is this sense of reciprocated care between two people.

agape — this is the word Jesus used in John 13 and 15, which I talked about last time.  He used it in a lot of other places as well.  It’s the word Paul used in 1 Corinthians 13.  The King James Version translated it “charity” in 1 Cor 13.  One of the best definitions I’ve run across is from Bill Clark:  giving yourself to others for their good, expecting nothing in return.”  I think you could also say “requiring nothing in return.”

That’s the way Jesus loved us.

Another point — note the different standards for love when Jesus cites the Old Testament:  Love your neighbor as yourself; compared to Jesus’ new command in John 13:  Love one another as I have loved you.

Have you ever taken note of people who seem to really dislike themselves?  Treat themselves pretty poorly?  Well, if we stick with the love your neighbor as yourself standard, if you’re one of the folks who don’t think much of themselves, you might treat others as poorly as your treat yourself.

However, then consider how the standard changes if you move to Jesus’ new command in John 13: Love one another as I have loved you. Wow, what a difference.  Now, it’s not how I treat myself that becomes the baseline, it’s how Jesus treated me.  While I don’t like the “advertising” connotations of “what would Jesus do”, it is the right question.

How do I love you the way Jesus loves you?

That is a standard to try to live by.

That’s what really matters!

I was doing my periodic perusing around the internet today, when I recalled a web site I’d visited a long time ago:

I hope you’ll check it out — and even if you don’t visit it, I hope you think about the idea of random acts of kindness.

It’s unremarkable for anyone to return a compliment or kind jesture, but it’s another thing when that kind act just comes out of the blue and the “actor” doesn’t ask for anything in return.

To most of us, our friends are those people who give back to us, the same kind of caring, sharing, consideration, assistance … that we give them.  After all, “what are friends for.”

Agape — the kind of love that Jesus showed towards us — is when we go out of our way to do the unexpected and unexpectedly require nothing in return for it.

Isn’t that a great headline? Intended to get your attention and lead to the obvious question: What is it that Jesus didn’t have in mind?

My answer is: I don’t think when you look at most “churches” that you find what Jesus had in mind when he used the word, ekklesia (which has commonly translated, church).

The word, church, is actually derived for a German word, kirche, which refers to cathedrals. While ekklesia, in the original Greek, refers to an assembly. Nothing special about the assembly, except that it seems to refer to a group that assembles for some purpose — as opposed to an unruly mob or crowd. For example, when the citizens of Athens assembled to vote, they were an “ekklesia.”

In modern English, I’d suggest that a better word is association or fellowship.

If you read the New Testament text and take special note of Jesus’ comments about the Pharisees, it seems that if you replace Pharisees with “organized religion”, most of Jesus’ condemnation of the Pharisees seems to apply.

In addition, many people seem to think the only path to God is thru one church or another. And Jesus said quite the opposite. The path to God is thru Jesus, and Jesus alone. And the assembling of Jesus’ disciples together seems only natural, given their common relationship with God.

I think Jesus would speak as harshly about modern churches as he spoke about the Pharisees and the Jewish leaders. Do you think differently?

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For the past several months, my wife, Linda and I have been mentoring young married couples as well as a few engaged couples. In the next few months, I expect to have the opportunity to officiate at a wedding. So, I’ve been reflecting some on marriage.

If you start with the premise that Christians should be loving others the way Jesus loved us, then how can love in marriage be something special or different?

That’s the question I’ve been contemplating.

It’s my nature to try to find the most fundamental principle — the principle upon which all others are based. And I’ve found one I think worth pursuing:

There are three different Greek words which are translated as “love” in the New Testament:

  • eros — from which the word, erotic, comes. It’s a reference to romantic love. It is a kind of love that makes you feel good.
  • phileo — which is the word at the beginning of Philadelphia (the city of brotherly love). And that’s what phileo is are reference to: the love of a brother or a friend. It’s a kind of love that is reciprocated.
  • agape — this is the word which I’ve defined as “giving yourself to others for their good, expecting or requiring nothing in return.” This is the type of love Jesus has towards us.

Agape is our obligation towards every other human being.

Phileo is not an obligation, but certainly represents our relationship with others who reciprocate our care, concern, friendship.

Eros is the special feelings we have towards certain others — something none of us understand, but most us of recognize.

The light bulb that came on as I reflected on these matters is that marriage is where all three forms of love come together in a single relationship.

I won’t pretend I’ve completely explored all the implications of this premise, but so far, I like what I think!!

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