What is love?
Songs, poems, books and movies have tried to answer that question with varying degrees of success. Yet, overall, I’d say our culture still seems to have a very distorted view of the concept. We talk of love at first sight, falling “in” and “out” of love, self-love and free love but, in general, our world falls far short of understanding the true meaning of love.
Television and movies portray love as a feeling, a wonderful boost of emotion that can come and go. When the object of our love no longer brings us joy, we are justified, encouraged even, to thank it and let it go, Marie-Kondo style. We all know love is far more complicated than that.
One thing is certain. Humans were created for relationships. These past few months of world-wide quarantine have only served to highlight the importance of relationship and community. Even introverts like myself are finding we don’t do so well without human interaction. The simple truth is, we need people, yet because of the fallen nature of this world, relationships are messy.
In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, he deals with a lot of messy. Corinth was a wealthy port city that prided itself on its intellectual pursuits while practicing all types of promiscuous and self-serving behavior. The church was not immune to problems of disunity, pride and dissention. Even something as good as the spiritual gifts God gives his believers had turned into a reason for conflict. The differences God had purposely created within the church body to make it strong had instead become a source of polarization and boasting. Does any of this sound familiar?
Paul encourages the Corinthian church to consider “a more excellent way.” All the spiritual gifting in the world is useless if the actions they generate are not motivated in love. He spends a good portion of chapter 13 defining what love looks like—what it is and what it is not.
These characteristics, listed in verses 4-7, are a portrait of God’s love–what the Greeks called AGAPE. John tells us that unless we know God, we can’t know this AGAPE type of love—the soul-satisfying, sacrificial, all-inclusive, scandalous love that defines God’s essence.
“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.”1 John 4:7-8 (NIV)
AGAPE is the timeless love the Father, Son and Spirit share. It’s the type of love God invites us into through the blood of the Son. It’s the type of love that defines not only God, but also His followers.
This summer our Equip Her writers will be tackling each characteristic of this AGAPE love as we make our way through 1 Corinthians 13: 4-7. Join us each week as we flesh out the topic of What Love Is. Our prayer is that through this study we will each have a clearer view of who our God is and will allow His AGAPE love to flow through us in all our relationships, whether they be in our homes, our neighborhoods or the greater community.
In the words of Jesus:
“This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other.”John 13: 35 (MSG)
Join us as we consider “a more excellent way.”