Rewind. Pause. Push Play. Aaron says, “Love is validating someone’s existence.”
February 10, 2011
Rewind: Do you want to change the world? Maybe you just want to change your world – your family life, what you’re used to, your friendships, or your expectations. No matter what it is you’re looking to do, big or small, the truth is that you simply can’t do it without love. I’m sure you’ve all heard it a million times before: Love is patient, love is kind… but have you ever paid close attention to what Paul says just a little bit earlier in his letter to the Corinthians? 1 Corinthians 13:1 says, “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.” Did you get that? Even if you do something great, something truly amazing, if you do it without love, it’s just noise – it doesn’t really mean anything. Whether you want to be an architect, an engineer, a professor, an athlete, a mom, a dad, a rock star, or a friend, if you don’t know what it means to love, how it looks to love, or how it feels to love, well, then, it just won’t matter that much.
Alright, so you have to have love, but what does that even mean? How do you go about defining love? Last week, you may remember, Aaron used stories to paint pictures of what love looks like and how love feels, but what about what love means? That’s a tricky question to answer because love is just so big. But, in an effort to establish a more concrete definition, last night Aaron looked to 1 John chapter 4 where in the space of 21 verses, John uses the word love 28 times.
As you may or may not know, there are four different Greek words for love, each with their own meaning and Biblical application. You’ve got storge (stor-gay), meaning a natural affection for someone; similar to the immediate, effortless bond between parent and child. Then there’s philia, meaning brotherly love, or friendship. There’s also eros, meaning a passionate, romantic, or sensual love. And then there’s agape – this is the word that John uses all 28 times in chapter 4. Agape is a God-sourced love; it is a self-sacrificing, self-surrendering, and unconditional type of love. It’s the kind of love that we need most, but don’t always want. It’s the kind of love that moved God to send His only Son to die on our behalf.
Especially with Valentine’s Day looming near, the word love gets thrown around quite a lot, but its meaning isn’t usually connected with agape. The love that most of us are familiar with says, “If you are intrinsically lovable, I can love you,” but what if you’re not lovable right now? What if you cut someone off, or step on their toe, or say the wrong thing? What then? It’s not always easy to love people, and it’s even harder to love people well, but agape says, “no matter what, I will love you.”
So how do you go about showing agape to people? Well, Aaron says it’s as simple, and as complex, as validating someone’s existence. Notice people; learn their names; actively listen to their stories; take an interest; say something kind; share a smile. When you validate someone’s existence, you are recognizing that they are there, that they matter, and you are letting them know you care that they’re there. Jesus did this all the time. He went to the outcasts – the widows, the tax collectors, the sick, the broken – and He spoke to them; He cared for them. He validated their existence. Every time you fail to validate a person’s existence, and this is something we all fail at a lot of the time, you become less than the person God has called you to be. The flip side, of course, is that the more you truly love someone else, the more love you feel in your own life. When you pour out God’s love, you make room for God to continue pouring more and more love in, which of course leads you to pour more love out, which makes room for God to pour more in, which leads…
“Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed His love among us: He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” 1 John 4:8-11
“If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing… Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails…. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13: 2-3, 6-8, 13
Push Play: Go out and agape. I’m not sure that there’s a whole lot more I can say on this topic, because unfortunately, there’s only so much you can learn about love from books and talks. It would be really great if we could fully understand love as God intends it while sitting still, because then it would be easy, but as one of my favorite songs, “The Road to Jericho Is Lined With Starving People” by This Providence, puts it, “If lovin’ were easy, it wouldn’t be love.” So, whether it’s striking up a conversation with your waitress, as Aaron suggested yesterday, or smiling at the homeless man on the corner, or treating someone who tries your patience with grace and kindness, go do something. Start practicing agape right now.