August 22, 2012

1 John 4:7-8 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.

If any Bible passage could convince us that our concept of love is deficient, this should do the job. Along with 1 Corinthians 13, this makes it abundantly clear that most of the time, what we mean by “love” is pretty far from agape. I have thought for a long time that the different words for love were a major reason for God choosing Greek as the language of the New Testament. Japanese usage of ai (love) is most often equivalent to the Greek storge, which simply means “like, have an affinity for.” A pet dog is “beloved dog,” and a car you take good care of is “beloved car.” Lest English speakers start looking down on the Japanese, I should hasten to say that the hippie motto of my youth, “Make love, not war,” is equally removed from what John is talking about here. As I generally point out in weddings I perform, if we were to define God in terms of what we usually call love (after all, it says right here that “God is love”) then we would come out with a very distorted image of God. Sadly, a lot of people do exactly that. We have to come at this from both sides in order to understand love and understand God. When John 3:16 tells us that “God loved the world so much that He gave His only Son,” that tells us something both about God and about love. The thing is, agape is unconditional, and we experience so little unconditional love that we have trouble grasping, or trusting, it. Even with our very distorted ideas of both love and God, we have to start with the basic affirmation that “God loves me,” and grow from there. The more we do grow in our grasp of love and of God, the better we are able to love Him and to let his love flow through us to those around us. That is pretty important, considering that the First Commandment is to love God and the Second is to love our neighbor!

Once again I am deeply, humbly aware of how blessed I am to have been raised in a family that genuinely loved God and sought to allow His love to flow through them. Daily my heart aches for the many around me who have no grasp at all of God or of agape love. I cannot convince them with words, so I have to demonstrate God’s love to them, by His grace and the power of His Spirit. I need periodic reminders of that, because I am very much a man of words. I must not let my love stop with words! Yesterday’s passage dealt with that very directly. I am to love first and explain later. I have always appreciated the saying, “People won’t care how much you know until they know how much you care,” even if I haven’t always lived it out. I need to seek God’s help in living it out, because it’s obvious I can’t do it in my own strength.

Father, thank You for the amazing privilege of being a channel of Your love. Keep me from distorting or hindering the flow of that love in any way. May Your love through me indeed open eyes and lift them to You, so that many may be brought from darkness to light, from death to life, for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!

About jgarrott

Born and raised in Japan of missionary parents. Have been here as an adult missionary since 1981.
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