Love is the greatest thing in the world, the greatest privilege and power known to man. Its practice in word and deed changed the course of history as the first-century Christians demonstrated a quality of life never before witnessed on this earth.
The Greeks, Romans, Gentiles, and Jews hated one another. The very idea of love and self-sacrifice was foreign to their thinking. When they observed Christians from many nations, with different languages and cultures, actually loving one another and sacrificing to help each other, they responded in amazement, Look how these Christians love one another!
Everybody wants to be loved. Most psychologists agree that our greatest need is to love and be loved. No barrier can withstand the mighty force of love. There are three Greek words translated into the one English word love:
- Eros, which suggests sensual desire; it does not appear in the New Testament.
- Phileo, which is used for friendship or love of one’s friends or relatives; it conveys a sense of loving someone because he is worthy of love.
- Agape, which is God’s love — the purest, deepest kind of love; it is expressed not through mere emotions but as an act of the will.
Agape is God’s supernatural, unconditional love for you revealed supremely through our Lord’s death on the cross for our sins. It is the supernatural love he wants to produce in you and through you to others, by his Holy Spirit.
Agape love is given because of the character of the person loving rather than because of the worthiness of the object of that love. Sometimes it is love “in spite of” rather than “because of.”
God underscores the importance of this kind of love through the inspired writing of the apostle Paul recorded in 1 Corinthians 13. In this beautiful and remarkable passage of Scripture, Paul writes that, apart from love, anything that you might do for God or others is of no value. Consider these words:
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 (1 Corinthians 13:1-3).
In other words, no matter what you do for God and for others, it is of no eternal value unless you are motivated by God’s love.