Monday, April 22, 2013

Agape Now: The Mission of Love

I'm starting a new series called Agape Now. In the New Testament, agape is the fatherly love of God for humans and their reciprocal love for God. The term also extends to the love of one's fellow humans. But the word agape also means "wide open" and so I want to live my life wide open to the love of God, to love God wide open to whatever he desire, and to be wide open to love others.

Jonathan Edwards said, "if you would be in the way to the world of love, see that you live a life of love — of love to God, and love to men." By the "world of love," Edwards was referring to heaven but telling us we shouldn't wait until we get there to live like it. That is our mission. To make know the wonders of God's love and so live a life of love that others would see and believe.

Paul addressed the church in Corinth that was consumed by what they thought they believed correctly and how they professed their faith. But Paul told them they were missing it big time. Paul basically told the Corinthians that all they were doing was meaningless (1 Cor 13:1-4) without a "life of love." They were being motivated by the wrong things, the wrong ideas, the wrong thinking. So then the question we need to ask is what motivates us for mission?

Great understanding of doctrine and the ability to communicate it well doesn't cut it (1 Cor 13:1). 

Great faith to move mountains, to heal the sick, deliver the captive, isn't sufficient (1 Cor 13:2). 

Great works of social justice, even to the point of death, won't do the job (1 Cor 13:3).

As The Message puts it, "no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love." What good is a "bankrupt" belief system? How can that motivate mission? That doesn't sound like a mission our loving God who wants to make his love known to all would give his people to live out, does it?

Rather, Paul told us to pursue the "more excellent way" (1 Cor 12:31b), to "follow the way of love" (1 Cor 14:1) and "do everything in love." (1 Cor 16:14).  The Good News is that through Christ's resurrection "God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us." (Romans 5:5). Yes, our sins are forgiven but that only frees us to love as we must. Our mission moves us beyond preaching repentance for sins now into a living a life of love - for God is love (1 John 4:8).  

Jesus prays before his death for us who believe, “Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.” (John 17:25-26). In Christ, his love should be at work in us, if we say we know him for the Apostle John warns, "Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love." Love is not optional but a requirement for every believer in the God who is love, works in love, sends in love, directs us in love and empowers in love.

What would change in our world if we who know the love of Christ lived a life of love? I don't know about you, but I'd like to find out. This isn't some sappy, romanticized emotion but rather the life-altering, culture penetrating, society transforming power of God. I pray to be found in the way to the world of love, as it is in heaven so now here on earth (Matthew 6:10). Making his love known is our mission.

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