My family had pets for most of my growing up years. We had a few different ones during that time, but the star of the show was an exuberant and energetic dog named Job. Job was a beautiful golden retriever and yellow lab mix and was as friendly as they come. His high energy would send him bounding through the snow one moment and crashing next to the wood-burning stove the next, where he would stick his head under the protective grate and lay there, belly up, without moving, for what seemed like hours.
I have a lot of memories of that dog. And though no one would ever describe me as a hardcore animal lover, experiencing the love of Job when I was a kid compels me to desire a pet for my own kids. Despite the extra work and responsibility that come with owning a pet, they love well. They love unconditionally. In ways, they love better than we do.
God’s love is like that. It’s a better-than-I-can-love kind of love. I love my friends, but I get so wrapped up in all the happenings of my own home that I sometimes forget to check in. I love my kids, but 2020 revealed to me just how impatient with them I can be. I love my husband, but sometimes I am too tired to show him just how much he’s wanted. The love I have to give is imperfect. It can be forgiving and loyal and steadfast but it is imperfect nonetheless, requiring the same forgiveness and loyalty and steadfastness from the ones who love me back.
The word love is used almost 650 times in the Bible. There are references to friendship love (philia), familial love (storge), and romantic love (eros), but those are few. The #1 use of love in the Bible is agape. It is God’s love – the love He has for us and the love He teaches us to have for others. It’s the do-no-harm to your neighbor kind of love. It’s the I’ll-bless-you-and-expect-nothing-in-return kind of love. It’s the I’m-there-for-you-when-it’s-inconvenient and the I’ll-help-you-at-great-sacrifice-to-myself kind of love.
It’s the kind of love that I sometimes feel totally incapable of giving. But I have received it, and it can fill me and pour out of me when I remain focused on the God who is love. When I live in awareness of God, of His character and His presence, then His love takes more control over me. I am more in tune with my friends. I am more patient with my kids. I can pour my energy into my husband. It makes all the difference.
To understand this is to understand something important about who God is and that is this: Everything God does is done with purity of character – holiness. We cannot understand anything about His character if we don’t first realize that it is totally and completely pure. He is untarnished, untainted, and unmarred by sin. His love does not pass through filters of selfishness, conceit, frustration, exhaustion, or irritability before it gets to us. It is perfect and pure, because God is perfect and pure. To know what true agape love looks like is to understand that its source is pure.
As you spend this week thinking about agape love, I implore you to remember that the greatest difference between God and us is purity. Our love passes through filters and His doesn’t. His love is perfect, and He offers it freely.
Abundantly More – Knowing God and Making God Known.
“Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love. God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us.”
1 John 4:7-12 NLT