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February 01, 2017

What Kind Of Love?


“People need loving the most
when they deserve it the least.”
—John Harrigan 


Years ago, a Christian group on a college campus advertised a seminar titled: “Givers, Takers, and Other Kinds of Lovers.” We use the word “love” to mean almost any kind of connection today, but this leads to lots of misunderstanding. Needing someone isn’t loving them, and controlling them by any form of manipulation isn’t in their best interests. Real love is a choice, it’s open and freeing, demanding nothing in return. In Romans 12, Paul dives into what it means to live out love in our daily relationships.

In the Word



• Read Romans 12:9-21 today and pay special attention to verses 9-10:


Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil. Cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.

Sincere. Devoted. Honoring. Paul used these words when talking about true, unselfish love. When you and I interact with other people, are we more focused on getting…or giving? In every healthy friendship, there is a give-and-take. We bear each others’ burdens, walk side by side through the struggles of life, and share who we are.

In their book Relationships, Les and Leslie Parrott write: 

 If you try to find intimacy with another person before achieving a sense of identity on your own, all your relationships become an attempt to complete yourself…The best you can hope for is a false and fleeting sense of emotional closeness.1


There are three Greek words that signify different kinds of love. Eros is sensual, sexual love; phileo is when we love someone because of their notable qualities or they do something to make us feel good; and agape is unconditional love, the kind of love God has for us. The first two include conditions; but agape loves in spite of the negative traits of the other person. Jesus said that loving people who make us feel good is no big deal. Even unbelievers love that way.

But selfless love is very different—and very rare. It reaches out to those who can’t give us anything in return: the ugly, the annoying, the petty, the time-consuming, and anyone else who can be a drain on us. Jesus also said that showing love for the outcasts of society—the hungry and thirsty, strangers, prisoners, and those who are naked (see Matthew 25:34-36)—is a sign that we really get what love is about. Christ calls us to actively care for the unlovely.

Some women, though, have never experienced the joy of true friendship. They feel the pressure to “rescue” anyone who they interact with…to take control, be strong, provide a shoulder to cry on, but never let anyone into their own ups and downs. In contrast, other women “let it all out,” wearing their hearts on their sleeves, without a second thought about the needs and struggles of other people. What about you?

Make it Real 

We don’t naturally love unconditionally. It takes a supernatural transformation of our self-absorbed hearts to produce this kind of radical love for unlovable people. We love, John tells us, because God loved us first.


The life of Christ can only flow out of us if the Spirit has filled us with his truth, grace, and strength. Jesus told his followers, "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him” (John 7:37-38).


Who do you know who best models authentic agape love? Describe this person’s attitude and actions toward the unlovely.

Read John 7:37-39. How does Jesus’ statement here apply to his words in Luke 6 about loving, giving to, and serving those who can’t pay us back?

Who is one person you can love unconditionally today? How will you do it?

Take a moment to read each one of these verses and think about how they apply to your life. Wherever you can do it, insert your name in the verses. Pray these passages over your heart.


• “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:31-32 ).


• “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:7).


Heart to Heart


It’s not enough to try to be “nice Christians.” Authentic love can’t be faked, at least, not for long. To love others with God’s love, we have to experience His love in the depths of our hearts, let it seep into the crevices of our souls to heal our secret hurts and calm our hidden fears.

Then, with a full heart of gratefulness and grace, the love of God can overflow to those around us—even an insensitive husband, a selfish teenager, an annoying friend, poor people we pass by each day, and any other unlovely people in our journey. And in fact, we’ll change our paths so that we come into contact with those who desperately need to experience a taste of God’s amazing love.

John Bunyan wrote one of the bestselling Christian books of all time, Pilgrim’s Progress. He knew a thing or two about the nature of authentic love, and he wrote:


Christians are like the flowers in a garden, that have each of them the dew of Heaven, which, being shaken with the wind, they let fall at each other's roots, whereby they are jointly nourished, and become nourishers of each other.2


Lord, your love for me overwhelms me. I feel like it’s impossible to ever love somebody else like that…but I guess that’s why it’s not up to me! Grow in my heart an unselfish love that truly cares about the people in my life, not just for what they can do for me…but as individuals with needs, hopes, fears, and desires. Give me wisdom in my friendships…

___


1 Les and Leslie Parrott, Relationships, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1998), p. 20.

2 John Bunyan, The Works of John Bunyan: Experimental, Doctrinal, and Practical (London: Blackie & Son, 1850), 570.

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