Meditations for Troubled Times
“I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:5-13)
“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal…So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:1, 13)
In our Sunday School class on the Apostles’ Creed, we were given the upward progression of what believing or trusting in people and things comprised, the ultimate being “I believe in God the Father Almighty.”
In my early young adult years, there was a large Bible study for young people led by Dad Ellis that started at Smyrna Presbyterian Church as a means of evangelism to youth inside and outside the church. It was later called the Metro Bible study and expanded from thirty participants to over three hundred. There was good teaching on topics such as dating relationships, witnessing, and leading a holy life, along with music by the Pat Terry group.
One of those lessons was on the different levels of love. I can remember Dan DeHaan as he taught on dating using the illustration of, “I love my girlfriend and I love my dog. I love the Atlanta Falcons, and I love Jesus Christ.” My pastor at that time, Jerry Willman (also one of the early teachers at this Bible study), explained to some of his college and career young adults that agape love is “that which seeks the will of God in another person.” Some of you know the four Greek words used for love in the Scriptures: Eros (romantic or sensual love), Philia (brotherly love), Storge (family loyalty), and Agape (sacrificial love).
In our two passages above, the word agape is used, but just as the word baptism in the Scriptures has a greater definition than just everyday cleansing or washing, so Paul and Jesus want us to come face-to-face with the love only believers can do. Agape does have the meaning of sacrificial love, but it also goes beyond that in revealing to us what the motivation is for love, that being an eternal perspective in our relationship with both God and man. Agape love is the priority in Galatians 5:22, and it is the foundation for the fruit of the Spirit, namely to seek God’s will for our lives and for those to whom we demonstrate love.
So how do you compare to this standard of seeking God’s will in loving those in your life? Here are some further verses to consider as often our desires, thoughts, and actions are contrary to God’s love:
- John 14:15: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”
- Galatians 6:1: “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.”
- 2 Corinthians 5:13-14: “For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died;”
What will you put on in order to love God’s way? “And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” (Colossians 3:14)
-Tim Verner, Ruling Elder