The apostle Luke tells us a Samaritan village rejected Jesus on his way to Jerusalem. John and his brother James asked Jesus, “Lord, do You want us to call down fire from heaven to destroy these people who have rejected You?”
Jesus turned toward them and rebuked them: “You just don’t get it. You don’t know what manner of spirit you are of, for the Son of Man came not to destroy people’s lives but to save them.” (Luke 9:54-55)
In English, we only have one word for love, which renders us inefficient in describing it. In his book, Repenting of Religion, Gregory Boyd describes the four words in Greek for love. Storge is affection for something, like your pet. Eros describes romantic or sexual love. Phileo is friendship. And now we come to agape.
Agape is universal and unconditional, it is a commitment one makes, a stance one takes toward another. Agape love can be present when there is no affection, no romantic interest, and even when the other is your enemy rather than your friend. Agape love is most fundamentally the kind of love God had for us while we were yet sinners and the kind of love we are commanded to have toward all others. Gregory Boyd, Repenting of Religion*
We cannot judge while loving unconditionally, and it’s definitely not our job to judge anyone outside the realm of believers. We have done that for far too long. We have rationalized judging as loving, and by doing so have prevented far too many from seeing Christ and walking into the Father’s embrace. People can only see Him when they see His love through us.
Why would my Savior express the words of my Father to love my neighbor, love each other, and love my enemies if it wasn’t important?
But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? But you are called to something higher. (Matthew 5:44-48)
My goal is to live in the Spirit, live in the overflowing agape love my Father fills me with in order to shower it onto others so they, too, can experience the freedom of God’s grace. Agape love isn’t simply a feeling; it is action, it is acceptance, it is putting others above myself.
Do I live there all the time? No, I don’t because I am human and am not perfect. Yet I frequently take a holy vacation in that place and recognize the difference when I listen to my lesser self vs. hearing and acting on the Spirit’s prompting. The Spirit reminds me of the words of Jesus telling me to love.
As God ascribed worth to me when I was still a sinner, as He loved me unconditionally and filled me with His love and eternal grace, He drew me to Himself. I am to pay this forward, and assign worth to all people, and this may cost me greatly. I may be called a heretic, but I will continue to insist God’s agape love and grace are immeasurable, unfathomable and breathtaking.
And I will continue to pray that every person, friend or foe, has a complete change of mind and heart which allows them to experience the depth and breadth of God’s outrageous love and indulgent grace.