In English it is a four letter word. However, those four letters embrace almost a catalogue of meanings. Today’s blog concludes the 5 imperatives of 1 Corinthians 16:13-14. The word in the Greek is agape and mostly translated love. In the Language of the New Testament love can come under four heading. Eros, Storge, Phileo and Agape express the range of emotional relationships which come under the umbrella of the English ‘love. ‘Let all that you do be done in love’ 1 Corinthians 16:14 NRSV
A man can love his wife and car in the same breath, we can love God or a pet frog or other things too numerous to mention. The English word for love suffers from 'word abuse'. In turn, it produces confusion of understanding. How easier it would have been to have a range of words, as in Greek, to expound 'love'. So, when Paul expresses this final imperative what word was chosen from the Greek language? Agape! This expresses the highest and most noble insight into expressing love. Whilst it can embrace emotion the word defines love as independent to it. Such love causes the person to rise above personal preferences for the sake of another’s welfare, even as the inconvenience of the one showing agape.
When you read the epistle to the Corinthians it is evident that love was selective, lacking or misunderstood. That is why Paul went to lengths to compile that beautiful piece of love in chapter 13. Agape isn’t bounded by family, cultural or moral fences. It is an open expression of the agape shown to us through Christ and Calvary. This is why such love is costly, behind it and overshadowing it is the cross. It is so easy to get all enthusiastic about following Jesus, who doesn’t need what He offers. Trouble is the Lord puts a two letter word in from of our enthusiastic excitement. “If” is the word of choice and at the same time a sifter of the heart. For “if” points the individual to a cross, personalised and nonnegotiable! Any person who calls Jesus Lord and Saviour has shared in the crucifixion of Christ according to Romans 6. Then the holy Spirit takes that person to the ‘discipleship fitting room’ for the cross the person has been chosen to wear.
How does that relate to agape love in our lives? Primarily in subordinating personal comfort, preference and wisdom to the Master’s honour. This is more than bible reading and worship, important and essential though they be. Love for Christ confronts the personal cross in regards to relationships. In a sense there is often a wrestling match unseen by others except Heaven and the Devil’s realm, which is our Gethsemane. ‘Let all that you do be done in love’ sounds so spiritual and easy, that is until God calls upon you to do something distasteful.
Think about some of the scenarios possible. ‘Love your enemies,’ but they hate me! Pray for them, feed them, treat them with respect even though they are unrepentant. Justice they will face but we are not the judge, we are disciples. This applies to those with whom we disagree morally and with whom we may debate quite strongly. Fear of contagion may arouse disgust but Christ Jesus calls us to help them if they have needs we can meet. That isn’t condoning, it isn’t even liking the person. It is our obedience to Christ and the price expresses the cross placed upon us. It is allowing the Lord to call them to account at His time and place. It offers us an opportunity to witness to our Lord and Saviour.
Apply this principle of love and personal cross to your own scene and enjoyable relationships. Not always easy is it! Putting oneself ‘out’ for the sake of another can be costly and inconvenient. Why bother? It is the right thing. It is what the Lord delights in. It makes agape a reality (even though it may suffer a little from ungraciousness in the initial stages). It often metamorphoses into a blessing.
Paul concludes these five imperatives on the theme of love because without it the previous four won’t impress God. They will be without substance. They will be the sound of gongs and cymbals (Ch. 13).
In conclusion may I be permitted to rearrange just a little these five imperatives?
‘Let all that you do be done in love.’ This will require you to ‘keep alert, stand firm in your faith, be courageous, and be strong!’
©Ray Hawkins29 Jan. 2017.