What does it mean to love each other as Christians? Is it an action or a feeling? Is it practical or spiritual?
One Sunday morning I sat near a woman who kept putting her fingers up to her eyes while she sniffled. Several thoughts crossed my mind as I sat there. I wondered if she had been touched by the testimony of one of the speakers, by the pastor’s sermon, or something else. As I continued to listen to her sniffle as well as to my pastor’s sermon on Jesus and the woman at the well, my mind reflected on what love truly is. (I’ll get back to the woman at church in a minute!)
There are several Greek words for love. In the Bible two are used predominantly: Agape and phileo. To put it very succinctly, agape love is what we are to show to all people, starting first with fellow Christians that the world will know we are Christians (John 13:35). Phileo is what we show only to the body of Christ and is friendship love in which we have things in common.
Agape love is not based on feelings nor does it merely give to others what they want or think they need. Did God so love the world that He gave us a Superhero? No. Did God so love the world that He gave us a conquering King? No. Did He so love the world that He made us all rich and powerful and gave us all mansions on the beach? No. God so loved us that He gave us His only begotten Son who veiled His Kingly glory and majesty and came down to earth where He was a misunderstood, rejected suffering servant who died on the cross and then rose again from the grave on the third day. Was that what the world thought it needed? No. Was it what it needed whether they knew it or not? Yes.
You see, agape carries the meaning of “regarding” a person. To regard someone means to look intently at that person, to watch them closely. No, not in a spooky way or like a stalker. To agape love someone is not just to feel warm fuzzies, but to reach out in a real way to meet the real need of that person whether they know what that need is or not.
I used to work for a ministry where people would call in for prayer. Many times people thought they knew exactly what they needed and stated it clearly. However, as my spirit listened to the Holy Spirit while the people listed their petitions, I often heard something quite different from the Spirit of God and thus, would pray accordingly. On one such occasion, a woman was praying for her and her husband’s finances, that they would be secure and have enough, even more than enough. In her mind, her greatest need was more money which meant more security, but to God her greatest need was to quit serving money. She was very shaken at the end of the prayer, for the Spirit’s direction concerning this was more than accurate. She had been serving money in fear, instead of serving God in faith. Indeed, the piercing gaze of agape sees beyond and beneath the hidden layers of wants and distractions (“I need money,” “I need a husband,” “I need a job,” or “I need a car”) to the root issues of the heart.
While serving on a short term teen performing arts mission’s trip with Youth with a Mission in the U.S., I and my group performed to music at a mall in Salt Lake City, Utah. While there, everyone also enjoyed eating and talking and goofing off. As we shopped around, I felt drawn to a young lady who worked in one of the stores. Now, I was an extremely shy kid who was severely homesick the first full week I was away from home with YWAM. But, as the Spirit drew me into the store, I felt compelled to speak with her. As I did so, I found out she had been raised Mormon but wanted nothing to do with them and had left her family. It was then that I opened up to her about the real Jesus compared to the Mormon Jesus, information that she had never heard before that day. I then asked if I could pray with her. She said no, and I could tell she was embarrassed because customers were in the store. I’ve always felt sad that she refused prayer. But really, what she needed she had received from a quiet kid who barely could put a sentence together. She heard about the true Jesus, the Son of the living God who was not the Mormon brother of Lucifer. Though she may not have even been thinking about it, she needed the truth that day, and the Holy Spirit knew that!
Agape love is not only for deep heart issues though, but is for all issues at all times. The woman putting her hand up to her eyes during the church service wherein I was reflecting on God’s great love, did not need me to pray for her nor did she need the gospel preached to her or for me to give her money. What she needed was more simple than that. She needed a kleenex! First John 3:17-19 explains this love in part as providing for the practical need of believers. “Whoever has this world’s goods and see his brother in need and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and truth. And by this we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him.” Truly the perceptive eyes of agape love see even the simplicity of a need at hand and not just the complexity. However, it still takes the searching eyes of love to see the need of another no matter how complex or how simple, and then a willing heart to put the answer to that need to action.
Next time you’re in church or attending your small group or talking with someone in a store or are at home or work, remember to love by hearing beyond what is said and look beneath what is done and allow the Holy Spirit to lovingly meet the deepest needs through your obedient agape love.
**Used and Edited with permission of Ameristella.wordpress.com