"We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has the world's goods, and beholds his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth. We shall know by this that we are of the truth, and shall assure our heart before Him, in whatever our heart condemns us; for God is greater than our heart, and knows all things, Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; and whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do the things that are pleasing in His sight. And this is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as He commanded us. And the one who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. And we know by this that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us." 1 John 3:16-22
In the Greek language their are four types of love. There is Eros which refers to sexual love. Then, there is Storge which refers to family love; the love between a parent and child. The third kind of love is Philia which speaks of brotherly love and affection. And, the fourth kind of love is Agape love. Agape love is described as a love that loves without changing. In the Enduring Word commentary, we find this description -- "Agape love gives and loves because it wants to; it does not demand or expect repayment from the love given - it gives because it loves, it does not love in order to receive". Wow!
It really sums up all that God has done for us. He loves us unconditionally. He allows us to choose whether or not we will follow Him.... and then continues to love us even if we choose NOT to follow. He sent His only son into this world to save us and to do so by giving up His very own life. The perfect example of a love the gives and does not expect repayment, huh?
"...in whatever our heart condemns us; for God is greater than our heart..." I love this truth written in this passage of scripture. I find it so very comforting. No matter how I feel in my heart -- no matter the untruths I have allowed to creep in and eat away at my self-confidence and affect how I feel about myself and all around me -- God's love is greater than all of that. God still loves me and God is still with me. It does not affect my Christianity. God knows that even as Christians the things around us are going to creep in from time to time and He is there to help us combat all of that. He helps us to put it aside and to listen no more. He provides us the truth and shows us His love throughout it all.
As we look at the way God loves us, we can see how He wants us to love our fellow man. We should be willing to lay aside what we are doing and things that are important to us in order to help others. To be there for them and show them the love of God. Even as we look out for our own interests -- our family, our well-being -- we should be looking out for the interests of others.
It is important that we share His love with others. We must be willing to show them God's love and His mercy. We must be willing to help them and, at times, put their needs before ours. After all, if we cannot love others, how can we ever love God and be committed to Him in all that we do? How can we ever convince the world that we are Christians and that God exists if we are not willing to help someone else in their time of need? It all goes hand in hand.
This morning as we were singing the closing song at the end of our worship service four teeenage girls came forward to visit with our pastor. After they had spoken for a moment, large smiles broke out on the faces of all four girls and they began jumping up and down. As we soon found out, these girls were all close friends that went to school together. Three of them had invited the fourth to church with them several months ago. Since that time, this friend had become active in our youth group and had renewed a commitment to the Lord that had fallen by the wayside since she had first accepted Christ into her life several years ago. Today she was coming forward in church to publicly state her commitment to the Lord and to join our church. As she did this she was supportedly wholeheartedly by her dear friends that loved her.
When someone joins our church we have a short responsive reading that our congregation says together welcoming them and committing to support them in their walk with the Lord. As we completed this, these friends all clapped and smiled and rejoiced together. The joy I saw on these young faces was spectacular! It was truly beautiful and brings tears to my eyes even as I type these words.
To me, this was a beautiful example of showing God's love to others. These girls know what it means to love with God's love. They know how to share God's love with their friends and the people they encounter in their daily life. I know God was smiling as He looked down and watched today.
I pray we all will show this same kind of love each day. I pray we can show daily what it means to know the Lord, what it means to be a true friend, what it means to love unconditionally.