Thursday, February 11, 2016

Love is the Greatest Gift

A Peanuts cartoon shows Lucy standing with her arms folded and a stern expression on her face. Charlie Brown pleads, “Lucy, you must be more loving. This world really needs love. You have to let yourself love to make this world a better place.” Lucy angrily whirls around and knocks Charlie Brown to the ground. She screams at him, “Look, you blockhead, the world I love. It's people I can’t stand.”

I don’t know why God loves us the way He does, but I’m just glad He does. God knows us intimately and yet He loves us with an everlasting love. Before God ever created man He knew the outcome. He knew we would rebel against Him but because of His great love for us, He created man anyway because He already had a plan to redeem His creation.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. John 3:16-17

The Son of God volunteered to complete the mission. He willingly decided to leave the splendor and glory of heaven, humble Himself, become human and live a sinless life in order to fulfill the requirements of the law. He was obedient to the point of death on the cross, to satisfy the demands of a holy God, destroy the works of the devil and in the process redeem mankind. Jesus loves us enough to offer His life as a sacrifice for us. Jesus said, Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13 And that’s exactly what He did.

The English language is so limited when it comes to the word love. We use that one word for so many things. I love my wife, spicy food, seafood, cheeseburgers, my job, my house, my truck, beaches, mountains and sunshine. The Greek language is much more specific. Storge means fondness or affection. Eros means erotic love or sexual desire. Fileo means brotherly love. God’s love is agape love. Agape is the kind of love that seeks the other’s highest good. That’s why Jesus was willing to let go of his divine privileges, be born as a human and give His sinless life in exchange for ours on that cross. He put our needs ahead of His rights.

Paul tells us of the importance of love and then defines it. 

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. 

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. 1 Corinthians 13:1-8

Paul wanted us to see that spiritual gifts are great but without love we’re just making a bunch of noise. He lists many good things we can do but without love they’re really not worth anything.

Love is to be the defining characteristic of every Christian.

Jesus said, A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.  By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34-35

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