Hesed/Agape – The Real Truth About Real Love
We’ve spent quite a bit of time over the last few weeks discussing the brokenness of relationships and the lusts and selfishness of porneia and pride that destroys them. It’s time we shifted to what God’s Word has to say about love.
Don’t miss this—God’s love is a commitment, a choice, and an act of the will. Feelings aside, we choose to love and, as a matter of Biblical principles, that’s exactly what we’re called to do in every relationship…spouse, family member, friends or enemies. We make the choice to commit to what’s best for them regardless of their actions or responses to us. We choose to guide our emotions, walking in Truth rather than just follow, be guided by, or be a slave to our feelings.
Love is also an intentional investment in others. We willingly submit and intentionally give of ourselves for their sake. We may not feel like it, but we are always called, as disciples of Christ, to love—so we have to invest in others whether they choose to do so in us or not. Can anyone say “Cookie Jar?” (see https://loveandlordship.com/blog/the-cookie-jar-a-satire-on-love/).
You may understand these principles, even if they are difficult to grasp, but this next one can be difficult to accept. Yet it is directly from God’s Word and we need to pay attention to it so we can more fully understand His love and live it out in our lives and relationships.
The Full-Orbed Love of God – A Tale of Two Loves
God’s Love as Compassion
God’s love is a full-orbed love. Let me explain using the example of two men in Scripture. With the first we find a love based on compassion that prompts the perfect response from Jesus. In Mark 1:40-42 we read, “And a leper came to Jesus, begging Him and falling on his knees before Him, and saying, ‘If You are willing, You can make me clean.’ Moved with compassion, Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him, and said to him, ‘I am willing; be cleansed.’ Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cleansed.” (Bold text mine and added for emphasis)
Here we see Jesus emotionally moved to compassion to the point that He acted on that compassion and did what any of us would expect Him to do—He healed Him. You don’t even have to be a believer to like this guy. He heals people and restores their life and livelihood that leprosy, in this case, had stolen from him. What a great guy and what an act of love!
The Greek word, splanchnizomai, means to be moved with compassion or pity. This word and related words is used 12 other times in the New Testament and every single time it translates as someone being moved with emotion to the point of doing something favorable for the other person.
I’m no Greek scholar, but I think it’s very clear that Jesus’ act of love was an act of compassion motivated by how He felt for the leper. I’ve never run across anyone who has a problem with what Jesus did for this guy. How loving and wonderful He was in His perfect love for the leper.
Before we move to the next man that Jesus encountered, let me give you a question to ponder: “Does God/Jesus always love perfectly?” Your answer may get challenged in your own thinking and that of some of our modern-day churches and culture as we look at the other side of God’s “full-orbed” love.
God’s Love as Painful Truth
In Mark 10, another young man pursues Jesus. “As He was setting out on a journey, a man ran up to Him and knelt before Him, and asked Him, ‘Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments, ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’ And he said to Him, ‘Teacher, I have kept all these things from my youth up.’ Looking at him, Jesus felt a love for him and said to him, ‘One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.’ But at these words he was saddened, and he went away grieving, for he was one who owned much property.” (Mark 10:17-22) (Bold text mine and added for emphasis)
I’ve heard dozens of sermons on the rich young ruler, and one thing I’ve never heard explained with any clarity was the phrase in verse 21: “Looking at him, Jesus felt a love for him.” As I studied and prayed about this, fully believing that Jesus/God always loved perfectly, I asked The Spirit to show me what’s going on here. It’s easy to see Christ’s love for the leper, as it is likely what every one of us would have done had we the power and opportunity to do so. We would have healed him and given him back his life.
The love for the rich young ruler that Jesus displayed is puzzling at best and frustrating at worst. If we’re honest with ourselves as believers, and especially as modern-day church-going believers, we struggle with Jesus’ response to him. Here the Greek word is “agapao,” rooted in “agape” or God’s selfless, sacrificial love. “Agapao” is used 110 times in the New Testament (appearing 47 times in the Gospels) and “agape” appears 106 times in the New Testament (8 times in the Gospels)* and every time it deals with love for others that esteems them above self—whether it is a family member, neighbor, stranger, or enemy. *The NAS New Testament Greek Lexicon
What in the world is God trying to tell us? First of all, I think He is teaching us that love expresses itself perfectly every time. In the case of these two men, one expression is with heartfelt compassion and the other in heart-spoken Truth. But I think there’s a second lesson that The Holy Spirit is trying to teach us through the choice of words used: the deeper word defined as love with the rich young ruler is “agapao” and is stronger than the description of love as compassion. While we must teach and model compassion, sharing truth is the most loving thing we can do and we must present it completely regardless of how those who hear it may respond. Jesus knew the rich young man would reject His loving truth, but the greatest and most perfect act of love was to tell Him the Truth that alone could set Him free.
Some time after I’d prayed and come to this understanding, I was teaching this and sharing these thoughts. There was a couple sitting on the front row and you could see that his wheels were turning. He raised his hand and said, “Greg, I’ve never heard this before, it’s powerful. But I do have one question. You’ve been talking about ‘agape’ love as God’s selfless, sacrificial love that He desires all of us to know in our marriages, families, and in His Church for each other and others. What was Jesus sacrificing in this case?”
Admittedly, I’d never gone that far; I’d just accepted what The Holy Spirit had shown me that I just described above, but this was a great question. I quickly and silently asked The Holy Spirit to guide me as I always try to do. Here are the thoughts that immediately came to my mind. (I have to be careful here because I do believe that this is a legitimate answer from The Spirit, but it may not be the only one and we must be careful how we apply it.) This is simply food for thought…
I looked at the gentleman and then the rest of the attendees and said, “You remember the guy who carried the money bag for Jesus and His apostles?” Several replied, “Judas.” I said, “Correct, and here’s where I think Jesus may have been sacrificing. He could have said, ‘Why don’t you sell 90% or 50% or even 10% and put it in Judas’s money bag? With your wealth we could really expand our ministry and reach many more if you join us and give of your wealth.’”
You see where I believe The Lord was leading me and teaching us? His love always begins in the heart of the individual involved. As we make more and more disciples and build relationship then we expand our outreach and ministry through them. Again, I want to be careful, but I’m not sure what else Jesus was sacrificing if it wasn’t something that could be done for Him and His ministry. Yet He loved the man enough to tell him what he needed to hear even if it meant he would walk away—and he did just that.
What does this mean as we learn about sacrifice and compassion when it comes to God’s love toward us? How do we live in that love with Him and with others?
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Make it a great day and God bless in Christ!
Love and Lordship…Food for Thought – It can be pretty easy to have compassion for and serve our fellow man, even out of our own flesh…as we may be rewarded by others’ applause or esteem. However to tell someone the Truth is always the most loving and best thing we can do…and that’s not always easy.
Love and Lordship…Action Item(s) – 1) Look for ways to act out of unconditional compassion and follow through accordingly; 2) Evaluate areas and relationships where you may be withholding the Truth to keep in good standing with others; 3) Ask The Lord to show you how you can both give compassionately without pride and speak truthfully in love; 4) Ask for His strength for you to consistently love with His full-orbed Love.