Agape love goes the distance

[Love] always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. ‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭13:7‬-8‬‬

Agape love always protects. There are a few obvious ways in which this is true, such as when a husband protects his wife or a mother protects her child. But what about our love for the rest of the world? How does protection apply then? There are many people in the world that need protection. Of course God is the ultimate protector, but just as he does with so many other things, I believe he often uses believers to accomplish his work in this area. Think of persecuted believers all around the world. Many of them are being imprisoned, beaten and even killed because of their love for Jesus. If we are able to protect them, we must do so. What about widows and orphans? People who through no fault of their own have been left to fend for themselves. There are many ways we can step in and protect them. And we should always seek to protect the basic God-given human rights of anyone we see suffering injustices. But let’s not forget the scariest thing that could happen to someone – an eternity in hell, separated from God. The only protection from that is the blood of Jesus, but we can help by sharing the gospel. By declaring Christ’s finished work on the cross “to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)  By proclaiming God’s offer of forgiveness of sins and eternal life to anyone who believes. 

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. – Romans‬ ‭10:9‬

Agape love always trusts…always hopes. First and foremost we must trust in God and his plan for us and for others. He is always true to his Word and he will never let us down. But if we are going to show this kind of love to other people, we have to be able to trust them, too. We have to be able to hope for the best in them. That’s a little harder. Other people are not perfect and they are bound to let us down. But if we don’t try to give people the benefit of the doubt; if we are always expecting them to let us down, it will be much harder for us to show them agape love. We need to look past people’s outer facade and into their hearts like God does. Then we will see that the agape love we have to give, thanks to the agape love we have received, has the power to change people. 

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! – 2 Corinthians‬ ‭5:17‬

Agape love always perseveres. This is key. We need to keep on loving. Even in the face of ridicule and persecution. Even if we find ourselves growing tired of it. Even if we do not receive love in return and we feel like we have none left to give. We must remember that our supply comes from the Holy Spirit. If we are looking to other people for refills, we may indeed feel like we’ve run out. But if we daily seek God and allow the Holy Spirit to work through us, then our supply of agape love to give will be endless. 

Agape love never fails. Even when other people do. Even when we do. True agape love will always serve its purpose. God’s purpose!

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. -‭‭ John‬ ‭3:16-17‬

Tell them the truth!

Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. – ‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭13:6‬

Loving someone doesn’t mean standing by and allowing a sinful pattern in their life to go unchecked. Especially someone that claims to be a Christian. Earlier in his letter to the church at Corinth, Paul admonished the believers for bragging about how gracious they were being by allowing a fellow believer to continue in his sin. He told them that they should have been “filled with grief” over his sinful choices (1 Corinthians 5:2). He makes it clear that they are doing their brother no good by allowing his sin to go unchecked. He basically tells them that if this man will not acknowledge his sin, they need to send him away and allow him to learn the hard way. It is not loving to withhold the truth from someone that is allowing their sinful nature to reign in their life. It is not loving to watch another believer grieve the Holy Spirit to the point that they no longer hear the still small voice showing them the way out of the temptation.

…but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. – James‬ ‭1:14-15‬

..But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. – ‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭10:13‬‬‬

If our motivation is genuine concern for someone’s relationship with Jesus, their abundant life in him and their testimony to the world – then the loving thing to do is to tell them the truth about their sinful choices. We shouldn’t use someone’s sin as an excuse to boast about our own graciousness. God’s love for us doesn’t mean he allows our sin to continue without consequences. God’s grace may mean he’s patient and forgiving, but he still requires repentance.

Be careful then, dear brothers and sisters. Make sure that your own hearts are not evil and unbelieving, turning you away from the living God. You must warn each other every day, while it is still “today,” so that none of you will be deceived by sin and hardened against God. – ‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭3:12-13‬

I believe there are a couple of important things to remember regarding being honest with someone about their sin. First of all, our most important message to people who do not yet know Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior is the gospel! That we all sin, and no matter how big or how often – sin is sin and it separates us from God for all of eternity. But that the good news of the gospel is God’s offer of forgiveness. That Jesus Christ paid the price for our sins and through him alone can we be saved. That Jesus loves the despite their sin and he wants to set them free. And although we should never condone sin, it is futile to expect unsaved people to lives as though they are saved. They are still “darkened in their understanding” (Ephesians 4:18) and blinded to the truth of God’s Word. They could care less what our standards are. The first thing they need to understand is what happened at the cross, and attacking them for their sin is not likely to get them there. Agape love points the lost to Jesus.

Secondly, it is important to acknowledge that the Bible makes a distinction in this regard when we are dealing with a fellow believer. When we see a brother or sister in Christ living in a pattern of unrepentant sin, we must tell them the truth. But there is a right way and a wrong way to do so. We must “speak the truth in love.” (Ephesians 4:15) We must remember that we are not immune to our own sinful choices and that it is God’s love that leads us to repentance. Agape love reminds an unrepentant believer of the truth of God’s Word and does not allow them to remain comfortable in their sin. Agape love encourages them to seek The Lord and supports them when they are, but refuses to enable them when they are not. Agape love is big enough to remember that no matter how important my relationship with someone may be, their relationship with God is far more important.

But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear. – ‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭59:2‬