Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. 1 John 4:7-8
When we think of words to describe God we typically think of all-powerful, all-mighty, creator, infinite, all knowing, etc. God is often described in words that are removed and almost cold. Our visuals relating to God are things like thunder and lightening, and a booming voice from on high. However, there is one simple word that describes God: love.
God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them. 1 John 4:16
The problem is that it is difficult to think of God in terms of love. Especially in our society, we tend to think of love in passionate, romantic, and even sexual terms.
There are three words in ancient biblical Greek to describe love: philla, eros, and agape. Philla is a dispassionate type of brotherly, virtuous love. Eros is passionate, sensual love. Agape is soulful, sacrificial love.
God is perfect agape—100% refined, pure love. Pure love is unconditional. It does not condition giving love based on receiving love. Pure love does not have to get in order to give. It focuses on the other person and not “me.” When pure love is met with hate it does not retract—it reaches out with more love. Some people think that love is returned with love and hate is returned with hate. Pure love returns hate with love. We’re blessed that God is 100% pure love.
“You have heard that it is said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what rewards do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew 5:43-48
As humans, we put conditions on love. We tend to express love when we know it will be expressed back to us. We have trouble saying the “L” word before someone first says it to us. Love is a game of chicken—who blinks first by blurting out, “I love you.”
Fortunately for us, God has no conditions attached to his agape. He pours out his love for us no matter what we do, no matter how we respond to him. He calls us to love him not out of paying him back for his love. He calls us to love him in terms of loving all others. God knows that in love we will find the harmony of lasting happiness, peace, and fulfillment.
As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. Colossians 3:12-14