About Jesus  -  Steve Sweetman

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The Language Of Love


Some Greek scholars say that in the first century Roman world there were up to nine Greek words that denoted various expressions of love.  The Greek word "agape" was the least used of these words, probably because it represented sacrificing one's self for the benefit of another.  As in every generation, much of the Roman world ignored agape.  Reciprocal love (Greek "philos" - I'll love you as you love me) was commonplace.  Of course, any expression of the Greek word "eros" (erotic love) was, and always is, a favoured form of love.      


Although you can find many expressions of love in the Bible, agape is the only expression of love the Bible teaches.  In Biblical terms, agape, or, sacrificing self for the benefit of another, should form the basis for all expressions of love.  Any expression of love separated and apart from agape is humanistic and self serving, and doesn't constitute Biblical love.      


This humanistic, self serving, expression of love permeates the history of man.  It's a primary theme in western pop culture.  It's one of the most used words in the lyrics of popular songs.  It's a major subliminal message in much of the world of advertising.  Images of eroticism that were once confined to a few magazines are now openly displayed before our eyes on all fronts.  You see it in movies, on TV, on the internet, and, is even hinted at in the way some women news anchors present themselves on television. 


Love apart from agape has influenced our language of love.  A hastily uttered "love ya" in many cases has become a hollow and routine replacement for the meaningfully, heart felt, "I love you".  The over-emphasis of the word love in its association with reciprocal and erotic love has dumbed us down to the point that we no longer understand that love requires sacrifice.      


Unlike the Greek language, our one English word love fails to express the varying aspects of love.  We love cars, food, dogs, family, and God.  Without the addition of any descriptive words, you'd think one's love for cars equates to the same love one has for a husband or wife,  and, maybe for some, this is the case. 


This all reminds me of Jesus' conversation with Peter in John 21:15 and following.  Jesus asked Peter; "Do you love me?"  Jesus had one reason for asking Peter this question.  If Peter loved Jesus, Peter was to feed Jesus' sheep.  In other words, words of love are to be expressed in some kind of selfless action. 


In John 14:15 the Apostle John recorded Jesus
telling His disciples that if they loved Him, they should obey His commands.  Again, words of love are to be expressed in some kind of selfless action.  John repeated this sentiment in 1 John 3:18 where he told his readers that they must not love in word alone but in action and truth. 


Love in action is easy to understand.  Love demonstrated within the boundaries of truth is less understood and is often ignored.  Such love is guided by, and founded upon, Biblical truth.  If you step beyond the boundaries of God's truth as you attempt to love, you no longer demonstrate Biblical love.  Love expressed within the boundaries of Biblical truth rules out much of what our culture calls love these days.


The Apostle Paul expressed agape in 2 Corinthians 12:5 when he told the Corinthian believers the following.  "I will gladly spend for you everything I have and expend myself as well."  Paul was not only willing to sacrifice all he had for these believers; he was willing to sacrifice himself, even as they were rejecting him as he wrote these words. 


Paul did not compromise God's truth as he sacrificed himself for those Jesus gave him to care for.  Like John, his expression of love was bound by God's truth.  Paul's words of admonishment and correction, sometimes harsh in nature, expressed John's admonition that love must be based in truth.  The very nature of agape demands we speak the truth, no matter the consequences.      


Saying "I love you" is relatively easy.  Living "I love you" as defined in Biblical terms isn't so easy, but it's our Biblical mandate.  In John 15:9 Jesus told His disciples that His Father loved Him and that He loved His disciples.  He then told them, and that includes us as well, to continue in this love, to continue in agape, or, to continue to sacrifice self for the benefit of others. 


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