There is so much contained in this short verse! I’m excited to meditate on it alongside each of you and share what the Lord has shown me. First off, let’s make sure that we’re on the same page when we use the word “Love” since it’s a central theme in this verse. The Bible uses a different root word for “Love” in this verse (“Agapao”) than the “phileo”-kind of love we’re used to seeing in the world around us.
To illustrate the difference between “phileo” love and “agape” love I would like to share a short story about a young man named Kevin. One day, Kevin decided to try-out for a very popular singing competition. Kevin, who was introduced to the sold-out audience as an “unemployed chicken catcher,” stepped to the microphone and began to interact with the panel of judges. He seemed nervous, making several grammatical errors and speaking slowly with a deep southern drawl. The crowd chuckled softly at his backward personality and unkempt appearance. One of the judges asked, “How many chickens did you catch in a day?” Kevin replied, “Uh – well, I’m not a math – uh – real good at math, but we caught about 60,000 in one night – six of us guys.” The crowd roared with laughter at his choppy, unpolished response. Once the crowd’s laughter had quieted and the awkward introductions were finished, Kevin took a deep breath, plucked the strings on his guitar, and began to sing an incredibly beautiful song. Turns out, Kevin stole the show that night. The crowd was floored by his unexpected talent and his performance went viral on the Internet. The crowd “loved” Kevin and his song.
The love of this world is such a fickle thing! It is often performance-based and emotionally-driven, and can fade just as quickly as it arose. Yet, millions of people desire to be loved and accepted by the world more than anything else in life. The Bible has a specific word for this kind of love called “phileo.”
However, John 15:17 speaks of “Agape” Love. This kind of Love is the highest form of love in existence and only comes from God Himself. (God IS Love [“Agape”]! – I John 4:7-8) His Love is an unconditional Love that never changes or fades. It’s a Love so noble and so strong, that it motivated the God of this universe to robe Himself in a body of flesh and die on our behalf so that each of us might escape our own justly deserved punishment of eternal separation from God in exchange for eternal life in Christ! This is “Agape” Love!
Now, this is where it gets even more amazing! Not only does God Love us individually with this “Agape” Love (meditate on that for a moment), but He also has made a way for this same Love to flow out of His children into the lives of those around us! Verse 17 says that He has commanded us to do these things, so that we Love (“agape”) one another. Pause for a moment to think about what it would look like if each of us spent our days receiving God’s abundant Love for us and in turn allowing that same Love to overflow our own hearts and touch the lives of all those around us. Talk about world-changing!
Here’s one other really important point I want to bring out in this verse: God has given us His commandments and tells us to keep them so that we can participate in His “Agape” Love. Let’s read our verse again, this time from the ESV translation:
“These things I command you, so that you will Love one another.”
As we keep His commandments, we receive His Love for us. As we receive His Love for us, it will flow out of our own lives and touch the world around us. What a beautiful Truth! God wants to impact the world with His Love through the keeping of His commandments!
So, let’s recap what we’ve covered so far as it relates to our first verse about Love (vs. 17): God Loves us with a special kind of Love (“Agape”) that can only be found in and through Him. This Love is the highest, purest form of Love and is of God’s very nature. It is distinguished in Scripture from the love of the world, which is natural in our flesh (“phileo” or “eros”). Further, God commands us to abide in Christ through keeping (“tereo”) His commandments, so that we can receive His “Agape” Love that He has for us and in turn Love those around us with this same Love!
What a high calling we get to live out each and every day! Not only are we able to rest in His perfect, unconditional Love for us, but He has also given us His Love so that we can walk through this life with perfect, unconditional Love for all those He has placed in our lives!
“The fruit of the Spirit is Love…” (Gal. 5:17) As we abide in Christ, the True Vine, and His Spirit abides in us, the fruit of Love will be present in our lives.
Verse 17 serves as a bookend to a section about the LOVE we are expected to receive and give as Christians (vs. 12 – 17). Tomorrow, we’ll look at a contrasting theme: the hatred and persecution of this world.
Questions to Consider for Application:
– Is “Agape” Love present in my life? How has it been manifested recently?
– Where does “Agape” Love come from?
– Since Love is a Fruit of the Spirit, what would its presence or absence indicate in my life?
To be continued in tomorrow’s post
– Brent T