The Wide, Long, High, and Deep of Agape Love | February 6th, 2017
February, known as the month of love, has its own special day for celebration which we call Valentine’s Day. It became associated with romantic love during the 14th century when it was all about courtly love, emphasizing knightly chivalry.
During the 18th century, it evolved into an occasion to express love through flowers, candy, and greeting cards, or “valentines,” which has continued till now with the addition of jewelry – my favorite, especially if it is vintage! Romantic love is fun, but it can also be fleeting – sometimes long gone even before you have finished the box of chocolates!
There is another kind of love, however, that goes much deeper. It is the Greek word agape, translated as “love” in the New Testament of the Bible. It is defined as the highest form of love that is unconditional, self-sacrificing, and an act of the will. It is not merely an emotion, but an action. It is a love that originates from God whose very nature is love.
Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 1 John 4:8
To get a better understanding of the meaning of agape love, there is a beautiful description in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a:
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.
If agape love is an action, what do each of these descriptors look like when we put them into practice? And what are the ways God models them for us?
Some of these may sound absolutely impossible for you to exhibit toward others. That is why, when you accept Christ to come into your life, you are given the Holy Spirit to help you. It can never happen by your own striving, but only by the strength and power of the Holy Spirit working through your yielded heart to love others in this incomprehensible way that God loves us.
Love is patient.
You have even-tempered perseverance through difficult circumstances. You are able to accept or tolerate obstacles that arise without complaining or becoming annoyed. God is so patient with us. We should be thankful because it is often His patience that leads us to our salvation in Christ.
Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Romans 12:12
The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. 2 Peter 3:9
Love is kind.
You have a tender concern in your heart and in your actions. You are helpful and compassionate toward those in need. God has unlimited compassion on us, showing incredible kindness by forgiving us for our sin, no matter how much we have grieved Him.
Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:32
O give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; For His lovingkindness is everlasting. 1 Chronicles 16:34
Love does not envy.
You are content and do not harbor resentment toward a person who has something desirable, whether it be their possessions, qualities, characteristics, triumphs, or anything else. Instead, you rejoice at their success and blessings. God delights in us, His creation whom He loves, and takes pleasure in rejoicing along with us.
For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing. James 3:16
The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing. Zephaniah 3:17
Love does not boast.
You do not talk about your achievements, abilities, or possessions with excessive pride, giving self-praise. Instead, you give words of encouragement for others who are in need of being uplifted. And if you must boast, boast in the Lord in His never-ending kindness, mercy, and power!
Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. 1 Thessalonians 5:11
This is what the Lord says: “Let not the wise boast of their wisdom or the strong boast of their strength or the rich boast of their riches, but let the one who boasts boast about this: that they have the understanding to know me, that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,” declares the LORD. Jeremiah 9:23-24
Love is not proud.
You do not value yourself as better than everyone else with unreasonable self-esteem. Instead, you have genuine humility. When you are in total awe of God’s greatness, you will have humility. The rewards are spiritual riches, honor with both God and man, and eternal life in the world to come!
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Philippians 2:3
The reward for humility and fear of the LORD is riches and honor and life. Proverbs 22:4
Love does not dishonor others.
You do not seek to be offensive or rude. Instead, you are polite with good manners, treating others as God’s much-loved creations with the utmost respect. You are serving God when you treat others with respect. He will honor you with everlasting life!
Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Romans 12:10
Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me. John 12:26
Love is not self-seeking.
You are not selfish. You do not put your own interests first. Instead, you think of others and seek to serve, expecting nothing in return. You are even prepared to sacrifice. Jesus provided us the perfect example when He humbled Himself by coming to earth as a servant without sin and gave His life for us.
You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. Galatians 5:13
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross! Philippians 2:5-8
Love is not easily angered.
You do not have a short fuse, ready to explode in a fit of rage when someone says or does something that irritates you. Instead, you control your anger and take your time to respond in a loving way. God shows us the meaning of being slow to anger when He holds back His wrath toward those who refuse his grace and are unrepentant because of His great mercy and love. And when we finally do repent, He pardons our every sin, though we are so undeserving!
A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but the slow to anger calms a dispute. Proverbs 15:18
The LORD is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love. Psalm 145:8
Love keeps no record of wrongs.
You do not keep track of a person’s wrongdoings, harboring bitterness or plotting revenge because of it. Instead, you forgive the offense just as God has forgiven you.
For his unfailing love toward those who fear him is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth. He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west. Psalm 103:11-12
Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the LORD forgave you. Colossians 3:13
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
You delight in what is right and good, treasuring the truth with God’s perspective on good and evil. You put aside that which is offensive and displeasing to God and delight in that which reflects Christ, the truth found in His Word.
Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. Psalm 1:1-2
The perverse in heart are an abomination to the LORD, but the blameless in their walk are His delight. Proverbs 11:20
Love always protects.
Stemming from the Latin verb protectus, the word protect means “covered.” Your love for others covers all wrongs and can lead them toward a relationship with Christ. God covered our sins with His shed blood, forgiving us completely so we could be saved to spend eternity with Him.
My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins. James 5:19-20
Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. 1 Peter 4:8
In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that He lavished on us. Ephesians 1:7-8a
Love always trusts.
You assume the best about the other person, giving them the benefit of the doubt. You seek to find the good that can be believed in them. God gives each one of us special gifts and strengths to do good for others so we can show them His love. As a follower of Christ, He has chosen you, not to be idle or simply seek enjoyment in life, but to bear fruit, doing good for others so that they may be drawn to Him. And you will be blessed because of it!
“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit–fruit that will last–and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.” John 15:16
Love always hopes.
You see the potential of others, showing confidence in them with a hopeful attitude. God gives us a reason to hope because of His death on the cross so that we can have eternal life if we believe in Him. This hope is founded on truth and love and will never disappoint. His love in us is the source that puts our love for others into action.
Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. Hebrews 11:1
And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us. Romans 5:5
Love always perseveres.
You do not give up, even in the tough times. You are committed to loving others even when it is not easy. God is faithful to love us no matter what we do. Because of His mercy toward us, His love never changes.
“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I loved you.” John 15:12
For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations. Psalm 100:5
Love never fails.
Your love for others is constant. It is unconditional and it never ends. That is exactly how God’s love is for us. It is a reliable love that never fails. We can always depend on His love for us no matter what we do or where we are. It is everlasting!
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39
And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Ephesians 3:18-19
When you hear the word “love” you will now most likely have a completely different perspective on its meaning. This wide, long, high, and deep agape love will be a good, lifelong challenge for you to demonstrate toward others.
Know that you always have the Holy Spirit to help you. It is that kind of love that will draw others toward Christ so they may come to know Him and spend eternity with the One who loves us with a love that is far beyond our comprehension!
Sparkler #1: Prayer
Pray for the Holy Spirit to reveal to you the areas of agape love where you need His help demonstrating it each day.
Sparkler #2: Action
Memorize 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 so you will have the description of agape love planted firmly in your mind. Then, regularly practice loving others with each characteristic of agape love.
Sparkler #3: Challenge
Ask someone who is close to you to keep you accountable for loving them with agape love – and for a lot of grace when you do not.
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