The understanding of God’s immense, unlimited love for us continued this week in the studies. The theme of recent Bible studies is our inability to love in a manner commanded by Christ in John 13. In the text, the intimate setting with the disciples in the Upper Room creates a powerful contrast to the open environment of the temple grounds just a few days earlier. Here, we find Jesus has offered his body and blood at the last supper AND, in a striking reflection of His affection, the Teacher washes the dirty, nasty feet of the eleven disciples, Judas has left. He tells them that his departure is necessary and does not involve them. He concludes the events with a command: love each other.
The form of love used is agapao, the expression of the deep and constant interest of a perfect Being (God) towards an unworthy object, producing reverential love in them towards the Provider (Jesus). This term also produces a practical love towards the partakers of the same, and a desire to help others to seek the Giver (not the movie!). Jesus is commanding the disciples to love each other, John love Peter, Matthew love Thomas, Andrew love James, in the same way that Christ loved them. By this, they will prove that they are his disciples.
By accepting the amazing love of God for you and me, we are then capable of extending love to others in a way that is sacrificial and unconditional. The characteristics of love are captured by Paul in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. During our studies this week, I asked the participants to read the verses in three ways. First, read it as written. Second, replace the word love and it with the word God. And, third, replace the word love and it with the word Jesus. For most men, the understanding of love became more personal and relational. Realizing Jesus loves me in this way moves the action of “love” from a concept to a real attribute or action.
We closed each study with another reading of the text. I changed the word love for the names of the men in each session and read it aloud. The conviction of the text was revealed in the faces: bloodshot eyes and heavy cheeks. Why did the text illicit such an emotional response ? Because we all realize that we are not loving those closest to us, i.e. the disciples in our text, in the manner that Jesus commands. How can that be? How can I desire to feed on God’s love with worship, study, prayer, etc. But yet, not extend the attributes of love to my wife, my children, my parents, etc. Granted, I am not suggesting that we can emulate and replicate all versions of the love listed by Paul. However, am I even striving to reflect those attributes? If not why not? And, how can I ultimately change my motive of loving?
I challenged the study participants to identify the characteristic in 1 Corinthians that felt like a punch to the gut or a slap in the face. And, I encouraged them to confess their action, take it to the cross for redemption. Then, seek His truth and wisdom in Scripture to understand its meaning. Then, commit to reversing the habit, changing the paradigm, altering the pattern. Some may return next week to share their experience. Others may keep it close to the vest and commit to prayer with the Lord. Either way, this is a chance to identify a way in which we are not meeting Jesus’ command!
Often in Bible studies, a man will visit or attends to be fed in truth. This week, I challenge all to feed on His love for us, sacrificial and unconditional. The scope and expanse of his love is reflected by our actions. Get your agenda and your purpose out of the equation. Love because He first loved us….and then share it with others without expectation, condition or pretense. Because love has everything to do with it, unlike Tina Turner’s 1984 song…