For a while, our home church has been looking at what “Love is…”. We have considered how the “agape” love (ἀγάπη agape) of the New Testament is distinct from all other loves. It is the only one that looks for God’s best for others no matter what they are like towards us.
As I consider the next description of agape each week, I keep filtering the new lessons through Paul’s instruction, “Pursue love (agape), and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts”. It encourages me that, no matter how poorly we may express agape as described, we can pursue agape from where we are, knowing that we will get better at it as we go along. In fact, the more we pursue this in our relationships, no matter what comes up, the better we learn how to love.
This morning, with the next description of agape in mind (“it does not insist on its own way,”), everything began to weave into the following passage and increase my hopefulness about what God is teaching us.
Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
What stood out was the elaboration of “pursue agape” as, “keep agapeing one another earnestly, since agape covers a multitude of sins,” and the encouragement to earnestly desire the spiritual gifts as expressed in Peter’s summary about them.
As soon as I read this, it sounded like an expression we learned from a group we call our “Life Model” friends. We have benefited from a booklet they created entitled, The Life Model: Living from the Heart Jesus Gave You. Somewhere in their ministry we came across a principle they call, “staying together in negative emotions”, and have since discovered that it indeed has helped us through a variety of relational difficulties.
I wouldn’t say that is the whole meaning of what Peter describes, but it certainly applies. No matter what “multitude of sins” come into any gathering, if we will “keep agapeing one another earnestly,” we will cover everything going on with the greatest safety-net in the world, and keep growing up in our Lord Jesus Christ.
In other words, if a group of God’s people will stay together in any experience of negative emotions, and keep agapeing one another earnestly as people grapple with difficult feelings, we will learn that it is safe to face such things in a company of people who will not stop agapeing us because they want to see us all growing up in Jesus Christ. The result of this agape-love environment is that people face things inside them that have never experienced God, and their new experiences of God lead them to grow up in Christ as never before.
From all these thoughts I was reminded of this declaration of our Savior, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” As soon as I realized that “love” means “agape”, my mind jumped ahead with joy at the significance. Agape looks for God’s best for others no matter what they are like towards us, so this will be the distinguishing mark of the church Jesus is building.
Jesus is not saying that the world will know we are his disciples because the degree of love we have in the church is slightly greater than the love in the world. What he is saying is that the agape in the church is something the world can’t even experience at all (because man’s highest loves are still self-centered and independent of the agape of God). So, the world that only knows friendship love, family love and sexual love, sees agape love in the church and recognizes that this is the distinctive kind of love God showed us through Jesus’ death on the cross and that means we must be his disciples.
In other words, when people see us pursuing agape, and agapeing one another earnestly so that even a multitude of sins are worked through together in agape-love, they will know we are the same family as Jesus because he is the only one who came into the world with that kind of love from the Father.
Conclusion: pursuing agape, and agapeing one another earnestly, will not only help us find victory in everything we face, but it will be the best evangelism we could ever express to the world. No wonder Satan works so hard to break up relationships among Christians!
I am also trying to read a book called, The Pandora Problem, by Jim Wilder. As he addresses the most difficult relational issues of all (like narcissism, sociopathy, etc), he speaks of how the Old Testament word Chesed (Hebrew: lovingkindness) is parallel to the New Testament word agape (Greek: self-denying good will toward others). He identifies that the world has no answers for this and so it is very common for counsellors to have nothing to do with such difficult people as described.
However, he explains that the church with its Chesed/Agape distinctive is especially suited to providing the environment for broken people to experience transformation. After all, if Jesus’ disciples can love their enemies, then loving broken and messed up people like narcissists is just part of the mix.
All of this encourages me in what I see God doing in our home church. We have already experienced what happens for good when we love one another enough to press through the most difficult relational situations. The more we grow in agape, the more people find deeper unresolved issues coming to the surface, and the more we agape each other in those deeper unresolved issues, the stronger our relationships become.
After years of preaching/teaching in the church, I have learned that it is of little concern whether people remember the points of a sermon, but of great concern whether they are relating to God about what they are learning. If the only thing we remember in this “Love is…” series is that we are to earnestly desire and pursue agape and earnestly desire and seek spiritual gifts to express our agape, we will have what we need to look for God’s answers in anything that is ahead.
As Peter said,
22 Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, 23 since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; (I Peter 1).
Notice that “brotherly love” means, “the affection naturally befitting the relationship between siblings; especially as the affection of those who are now siblings in God’s family”, and “love (agape) one another earnestly” means, “to have a strong, non-sexual affection and love for a person and their good as understood by God’s moral character; especially characterized by a willing forfeiture of rights or privileges in another person’s behalf.”
The exciting thing about this lesson was that I just learned it as I began to share it with my home church this morning! We already have “a sincere brotherly love” for each other in our home church. We like being family, and I think we would all agree that our church family is the best family experience any of us have ever had.
What Peter is saying is that, now that we have that, let’s press on to add agape to the mix so that our brotherly love relationships are covered by the greater love, the one that holds relationships together in everything we go through.
So, yes, Jesus’ disciples will have brotherly love and family affection, which Worldlings can experience in their families and friendships, and evangelical-free churches can have in their cliques and clans. But the thing that really distinguishes us as disciples of Jesus Christ is our agape for one another without favoritism or partiality limiting who benefits from our love.
No wonder Jesus said, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.” Loving with agape love is just like our Father, and so our practice of agape love identifies us as his sons.
This fulfills what Paul exhorts, “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” The love here, of course, is agape love, meaning that God has demonstrated agape to us in the redemptive work of his Son, and now we can imitate that love in the way we treat everyone in our lives.
Okay, enough said. Just wonderful lessons on love that definitely encourage me in my pursuit of agape and my exercise of my spiritual gifts.
Unless otherwise noted, Scriptures are from the English Standard Version (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.)
 You can find the sermon videos in the “Home Church Videos” section of my blog. At the time of writing we had completed part 5 of the series.
 Agape: to love (Christian) v. — to have a strong, non-sexual affection and love for a person and their good as understood by God’s moral character; especially characterized by a willing forfeiture of rights or privileges in another person’s behalf. (Bible Sense Lexicon)
 I Corinthians 14:1
 I Corinthians 13:5
 I Peter 4:8-11
 I should add that, when we have seen people stay together in negative emotions, it has healed wounds and helped us mature, while any time people have left when negative emotions were on the surface, wounds festered and relationships fell apart.
 John 13:35
 Romans 5:6-8
 Many church-folk still have deep unresolved trauma issues simply because they have not yet been part of a church fellowship where agape love has led them to bring them to Christ.
 As per I Corinthians 14:1 and the expansion in I Peter 4:7-11
 Bible Sense Lexicon
 Bible Sense Lexicon
 Matthew 5:44-45 in context of Matthew 5:43-48
 Ephesians 5:1-2