The New Year continues to unfold, and our thoughts turn toward “love” as the 14th of February approaches. Not just on Valentine’s Day but every day, we should seek to soar to the heights of a love supreme, the love of God or agape, the highest form of love. This love differs from eros or passion or sensuous love of the flesh and is even beyond philos or love of friends or family. The root of philos is found in the designation of Philadelphia, which is known as the “City of Brotherly Love.” On the other hand, agape, a term that is used exclusively in the New Testament, reveals the uniqueness of God’s love which is so clearly defined in I Corinthians 13, a passage of scripture that is often excerpted or quoted in its entirety at weddings. The Verse of the Day for February 10, 2017 is the opening section of this celebrated expression of God’s love:
1 Corinthians 13:1-3
The Greatest Gift] Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.
This passage makes reference to magnanimous spiritual accomplishments or “great spiritual exploits” related to the ability to speak in tongues, whether a language spoken on earth or the heavenly language of angels or being able to prophesy and demonstrate a depth of spiritual understanding or being able to live a life of self-sacrifice to the ultimate degree. No matter how impressive these endeavors may be, they ultimately do not benefit the individual who performs them if that person’s underlying motivation is not love.
With love, as with any other emotion, there must be a demonstration or manifestation whereby one knows the reality of the emotion in question. Believers speak of the love of God in manifestation which is so clearly demonstrated in one of the most widely recognized verses in the Bible, John 3:16:
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
It has been said that you can give without loving, but you cannot love without giving. Indeed, all love is giving. The essence of love as defined by giving is also seen in these words from John Oxenham:
Love ever lives, outlives, forgives,
And while it stands with open hands it lives.
For this is love’s prerogative:
To give and give and give
The book of I John also elaborates on the love of God:
1 John 3:16
And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God and God in him.
The love of God is “perfected” or made complete or brought to maturity in us when we walk in the steps of Jesus Christ, the ultimate example of perfect love. This demonstration reveals the depth of love that God has for us. May we always remember:
“. . . Just how much God loves us.”
In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation [that is, the atoning sacrifice, and the satisfying offering] for our sins [fulfilling God’s requirement for justice against sin and placating His wrath].
1 John 4:10
Father, expand our mind and widen our comprehension
To recognize your ways to an even greater dimension.
As we call upon your name and bow in humility,
Deepen our understanding, as you give us eyes to see.
Enlighten our souls with the wisdom that comes from above.
You call us your beloved, worthy of your endless love.
When we are tempted, knowing that you love us dispels all fear.
As we seek to please you, open our ears that we might hear
Your word and endeavor to hide it deep within our heart.
Despite past failures, misdeeds, and shortcomings on our part,
Your love is constant and never changes but ever grows,
Unfolding in matchless beauty as a dew-kissed rose.
You say do not love worldly things or pleasures they may bring.
You show us God’s love is to be prized more than anything.
Listen to these heart-strengthening lyrics of “The Love of God” offered by Mercy Me: