Is love optional? Yes, I get to decide whether to love or not. So do you. I often am not loving. I can be mean and cruel. I have no defense. “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”
There is good news in that the Word of God and Jesus offers an understanding of the source, character, requirement and value of love, based on the nature and actions of God our Father. Jesus sums up God’s goal (command) for us as one of loving God and our neighbors.
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. “The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ ~Jesus | Matthew 22:37
I must confess that I am not the best at this. I am challenged many days. Let’s dig in. There is much to learn on how to love.
The Greek word here is ἀγάπη agape. The Greek word agape is often translated “love” in the New Testament.
How is “agape love” different from other types of love? The essence of agape love is goodwill, benevolence, and willful delight in the object of love. Unlike our English word love, agape is not used in the New Testament to refer to romantic or sexual love.
It does not refer to close friendship or brotherly love”, for which the Greek word philia is used. Agape love involves faithfulness, commitment, and an act of the will. It is distinguished from the other types of love by its lofty moral nature and strong character. Agape love is beautifully described in 1 Corinthians 13 (see below).
Is love optional?
This is where I have to get clear with what it means to be a servant in the Kingdom of God. Jesus is King (in complete charge) and Jesus has given me a command. This is not like at work where you can minimize a weakness or even just ignore it. Jesus compels me to love. I must break through.
God is love! God is in a good mood! Love is the main thing that demonstrates our relationship with God and Jesus. Loving is not optional.
If I don’t love, I don’t know God. This is absolute and not relative. There is no questioning it at all. Again, Jesus is clear. If I don’t love, I don’t know God at all.
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. | 1 John 4:7–8 (NASB)
How do we define love?
What does it look like? The Apostle Paul gave it a shot in 1 Corinthians 13. It is the classic definition. Mainly he defines it by saying what it isn’t.
Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away. | 1 Corinthians 13:4–8 (NASB)
Much has been written on these verses. I tend to think they speak for themself.
The real question is, how can I love? It doesn’t seem to be in my grasp.
Here is key!
But the fruit of the Spirit is love … 5:22 (NASB)
Hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. Romans 5:5 (NASB)
God has given us the power to love through His Holy Spirit. So even thought I can’t do it on my own, God is good to give me the power of His Holy Spirit who enables what I can’t do by myself sometimes.