Real Agape LoveBy Dan Vis
March 02, 2020
Note: This week's memo was originally published in The Moral Machinery. There I identify agape love as one of four spiritual faculties highlighted in the Bible. Given that this month's featured class is Made in Heaven, it seemed a good idea to repost this article, and shine a bit of a spotlight on true love. Enjoy!
While the world today, generally focuses on love as an emotion, the Bible describes love as a spiritual principle that guides and directs the life. Note first, that it is clearly connected with the heart of man: "Now the end [goal] of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart" (I Timothy 1:5Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned:). This makes sense, when we remember that the Law of God is in essence a set of moral principles defining true love. All the commandments are "briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself" (Romans 13:9For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.).
Knowing that biblical love (Agape) is not so much a feeling, as a principle, helps us to understand its function. Like conscience and memory, love prompts the mind to do things that are loving and kind to others around us. It inspires us to manifest genuine interest, compassion, and concern. Paul described it this way:
I Thessalonians 4:9-10
9 But as touching brotherly love ye need not that I write unto you: for ye yourselves are taught of God to love one another. 10 And indeed ye do it toward all the brethren which are in all Macedonia: but we beseech you, brethren, that ye increase more and more;
In other words, God is constantly sending impulses to do the loving or caring thing in specific situations. This is no doubt what Paul meant when he said "the love of Christ constraineth us" (II Corinthians 5:14For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead:). When the Spirit comes into our life, it awakens within us impressions to act with genuine Agape love. "The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us" (Romans 5:5And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.). Our part is to yield to those impressions, and to "increase more and more."
“God is constantly sending impulses to do the loving or caring thing in specific situations. Our part is to yield to those impressions, and to increase more and more.”
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With every prompting, however, comes a choice. We can honor the impression, and do what is best for the other person. Or we can put self first, and pursue our own interests and needs. These subtle decisions are made hundreds of times a day, and the choices we make reveal something about the condition of our character. It also influences how we view people.
Suppose for example, you are a young man, and your wife has just had her first baby. It is 3:00 in the morning, and the baby begins to cry. You glance over at your wife, who is sleeping angelically. The thought comes to your mind: "She must be exhausted from taking care of the baby. I should let her get some rest. Maybe I should go check the baby, and try and put it back to sleep."
But then quick on its heels comes another thought: "This bed is so warm and comfortable. I need my rest. I have to go out and work all day. My wife stays home--she should take care of the baby. What does she do at home all day, anyway?" In a matter of seconds your wife has been transformed from sweet and angelic to lazy and probably dishonest--laying there just pretending to be asleep! And that entire change took place without her even blinking an eye.
Of course, the real change took place in you. Your perception of your wife changed dramatically the moment you decided to reject the impression to do what was loving. This is not to say, we should always help every person in every situation. Judgment has to evaluate each impression. There are biblical guidelines that govern when and how we are to help people. But the point is, any time we betray some heaven sent prompting to care for another person, our perception of that person becomes distorted just that little bit. It has to do with the problem of rationalization we have talked about before. We justify and excuse our selfish behavior, thereby blinding ourselves to the reality of the situation. "But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves" (James 1:22But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.). Sin causes us to lose our ability to see people clearly.
“Any time we betray some heaven sent prompting to care for another person, our perception of that person becomes distorted just that little bit. We justify and excuse our selfish behavior, thereby blinding ourselves.”
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This is the source of most interpersonal conflict. Each person magnifies the faults of the other, and minimizes their own. Both might admit they didn’t handle every thing exactly right, but the bulk of the responsibility lies with the other person. Jesus described this situation in the Sermon on the Mount: "why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? . . . Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye" (Matthew 7:3,5And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? . . . Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye.). In most cases, if either one would simply humble themselves, and sincerely confess their wrongs, the other would respond in kind. Most problems could be resolved in five minutes if we just refused to let pride get in the way!
But pride is a deadly sin, and all too common. It can creep into any relationship: husband, wife, brother, sister, parent, child, co-worker, church member, acquaintance or friend. Even total strangers. Reject the moving of the Holy Spirit to show genuine love to a person, and the mind gets busy transforming them into something unworthy of love. They are morphed from a living, breathing person, to an obstacle, or a means to an end. They become little more than objects. Over time, our inclination to show love to anyone diminishes.
True love, in contrast, sees others through the eyes of Christ. As precious, and valuable. As having tremendous potential. Tremendous worth. It inspires us to take an interest in people, to take note of what is important to them, and to search for ways to be a blessing to them. Every act of service, is an investment of treasure in that person. Which only deepens our love for them, for "where your treasure is, there will your heart be also" (Matthew 6:21For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.). By responding to the impressions of the Holy Spirit, we remain free to see people as they truly are: a valuable son or daughter of God. I suspect this is why Jesus said:
Matthew 5:39,44But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. . . . But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;
Resist not evil . . . Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven.
To respond angrily, is to lose our ability to see them through eyes of Christ. Blindness settles over us. Love becomes crippled.
The goal is to respond to the constraining power of love consistently. To resist love of self. No matter how fierce the battle, to immerse every choice in the power of the Gospel. Paul describes what this life looks like, and concludes that it is the essence of being like Christ:
3 Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. 4 Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. 5 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:
Like our physical eyes and ears, love is a sense organ that enables us to look at people, and listen to them, in new ways. It teaches us how to care for them, as Christ would. It is the secret to filling our lives with loving relationships.
An entire book could be written on the topic of Agape love. But it really does boil down to relationships. If you want to experience a more Spirit-filled life, examine your relationships. Is there conflict? Frustration? Resentment? Distance? Apathy? Begin reconnecting with people. Reconcile damaged relationships, and pick up neglected ones. Meet new people. And in all your interpersonal interactions, learn to listen to the still small voice of the Holy Spirit, prompting you how to love. It is another vital spiritual faculty. It is how Christ lived His life among men.
CommentsDid the information in this article resonate with you? Did you glean new insights into what it means to have a character of love? What stood out most? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
|Posted by Dan Vis on 03/20/20|
|You are very welcome Nena! It is amazing how much God values people, and that does drive His interactions with man. The more we can discern the value in others, the more our actions will become similar. Good post!|
|Posted by Dan Vis on 03/05/20|
|So glad to hear this was both helpful and timely. And I like your prayer. It's one thing glean an insight, another to cultivate it to the point it bears fruit. All the best Zee!|
|Posted by Zee on 03/05/20|
|This message spoke straight to my situation. Thanks Dan. Like many have said, so timely! To God be the glory. I pray that the good seed that has been sown in my heart, may the Lord ensure it's growth until it bears fruit.|
|Posted by Dan Vis on 02/12/19|
|It is a different way of looking at love Valerie (that it is sensory) and I like the conclusion you drew (that it is strengthened through obedience). That is exactly how the other 3 spiritual faculties work as well. Good observation! And thanks for your testimony about how God works in our heart. Reminds me of Romans 5:5And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.. :)|
|Posted by Valerie Wise Burrell on 02/11/19|
|"..love is a sense organ..." I never thought of love in that way. It means that love is a part of my being that has to be supported through obedience to the Holy Spirit. That really makes me think differently. However, I have had instances of responding to people who had been unkind to me from that place of love which is for me, more natural. When I have done that, I acted from genuine love without being driven by self-interest. I know that only comes from God. II Corinthians 5:14For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead:.|
|Posted by Emma Assogoma Gbenedio on 02/11/19|
|This really goes beyond flowers and chocolate. It takes a connection with the Holy Spirit to listen to His promptings...|
|Posted by Floride Leonce on 03/28/18|
|Thank you for another great and vital lesson, Dan! May the Holy Spirit help us to really see others through God's eyes and love them the way we ought to.
|Posted by Dan Vis on 03/26/18|
|Thanks Carole! So true--we definitely need the Spirit's guidance and strength. :)|
|Posted by Dan Vis on 03/26/18|
|Great comments everyone! Yes Dan, one way to betray the impression is to procrastinate, and yes Darci, sometimes the self-deception takes place in how we view ourselves. John, I like how you link this to the difference between knowing and doing truth. Good parallel!
Meshell, so good to hear from you! Thanks for sharing your testimony. And please do call your friend! :)
Leslie, that's a powerful prayer! Help us all to pray it more consistently.
I like how you linked Romans 5:5And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. to your story Joyce. You definitely shine new light on the verse!
|Posted by Joyce Augustinis on 03/26/18|
|Romans 5:5And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. really made me think today because I forgot to do 2 things this morning that my husband had asked me to do. So when I remembered and it was too late, then I was ashamed that I had forgotten to think of him. You can probably apply that verse in other ways, but that was the way I saw it just now.|
|Posted by Leslie Caza on 03/26/18|
|CONVICTED. His grace is sufficient. Am I willing? Lord, make me willing to be willing.|
|Posted by John Gilmore on 03/26/18|
|The connections here, between agape and being led by the Holy Spirit, seem to me to parallel the connections between knowing and obeying the truth, as in John 7:17If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself., Luke 11:52Woe unto you, lawyers! for ye have taken away the key of knowledge: ye entered not in yourselves, and them that were entering in ye hindered. and II Thessalonians 2:9-129 Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, 10 And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. 11 And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: 12 That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness..|
|Posted by Danetta on 12/07/16|
|Hi Dan, is it possible to purchase the laws of life study guides in e-copies?|
|Posted by Dan Vis on 11/28/16|
|Praise God Shirley! Certainly learning to have a heart more like Christ is relevant to all of us, isn't it? It's our greatest need and constant challenge...|
|Posted by Dan Vis on 11/28/16|
|Delene, it is at RightlyTrained.org. I've done several series there. You'll have to search for it though. We do have links to the videos in our Laws of Life class, but it's not up at the moment. And if you are a partner, you can access those study guides as well. I personally like the study guides...|
|Posted by Delene Drescher on 11/28/16|
|@Alwaysgrowing and Dan,
Where have you been watching thT series?
ThNk you for sharing that quote.
|Posted by Diane Castanon on 11/28/16|
|I have your book, Moral Machinery, and started reading it. It is beautiful! Thank you for including this chapter as today's reading.
God bless you! :)
|Posted by Dan Vis on 11/28/16|
|Praise God Delene, Marsha. I usually post our "Memo" articles a few days early, and then announce them Monday morning. I'm really enjoying putting these articles together. Glad you are enjoying them...|
|Posted by Marsha on 11/28/16|
|The Lord leads in your choice of articles to share.....this is so spot on Dan. I'm walking the relationship path even now, this message is sooooo timly!|
|Posted by Delene Drescher on 11/27/16|
|I was having a struggle just a couple of hours ago and the Lord just made things so clear to me. Amazing love of His.
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