STOVER: Unconditional love is powerful

Published 4:31 pm Saturday, January 27, 2018

By Larry Stover | Stover lives in Valley Grande and is pastor at Praise Park Ministries Church of the Nazarene

Holy living is the foundation of Biblical Christianity. It is our calling and expected way of living.

I believe it is the sum total of one’s Christian experience. It is a relationship with Jesus Christ that goes beyond a list of “do’s and don’ts” and centers on our obedience, faithfulness and commitment to Him.

Christian behavior is all about a lifestyle with the basic virtue being “love.”

I like to think of the Book of Galatians as a spiritual Emancipation Proclamation.  The Apostle Paul tells his readers that they no longer have to live in spiritual bondage but can be liberated from the captivity of sin through the liberating power of the Holy Spirit.

His daily presence in our lives sets us free to live for Christ. That new guiding power is holy love.

It is the Holy Spirit that gives us these Christ like virtues we call the “Fruit of the Spirit” found in Galatians chapter five.

Verses 22 and 23 read, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”

One of the great concepts that come out of these verses is that they are referred to as “fruit” and not “fruits.”

Many Biblical scholars believe that it is best understood that the Fruit of the Spirit is first of all love and the other eight virtues are a reflection of that love.

That means that all are sustained and motivated by Christian love making it the greatest attribute of the believer.

Love becomes the sign of the Christian, rule of the Christian and practice of the Christian. What makes it so distinct?

The English language has a great deficiency when it comes to understanding the nature of love.

It uses one word to express a wide range of experiences from basic pleasure to high forms of commitment.

I love God, my wife, church, family and apple pie but each is a different kind of love.

New Testament Greek uses several words to define love. “Storge” expresses love and affection in general. “Philos” is all about friendship love. We need more of that. “Eros” defines romantic love. Many Christians cringe today when they hear that word due to its perversion by the porn industry.  Believers need to be romantic too.

Each of these concepts of love is legitimate and is a God-given expression of it.

In holy living these are all healthy and kept in proper context by the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit.

The Greek language adds a fourth kind of love, namely “Agape,” distinguishing it as a holy and divine expression of that virtue.

It is the love directed toward His creation demonstrated by His ultimate act of unconditional love, “while we were yet living in sin and disobedience God sent Jesus Christ to die for our sins.”

C.S. Lewis distinguishes between “need-love and gift-love.” Storge, Philos, and Eros are what he calls “need love” while Agape is “gift-love” or giving love.

We all have needs that need to be met in a positive manner, and we all will be a more rounded person if we practice the art of giving from a heart of unconditional love.

The Bible paints many pictures of this kind of Christian love. In the Great Commandment Jesus told his followers to “love God with their whole heart…and their neighbor as themselves.” It is at the heart of the Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do to you.” If we all treated other people in the same way we would like them to treat us, it would initiate a revolutionary movement in the Christian community.

Our Heavenly Father is often defined by one word, “Love.” It is always used in the context of Agape love and is best defined as “unconditional love.”  The Apostle John wrote in his first letter, “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.”

We used to sing a little chorus entitled, “They will Know We are Christians by our Love.” Our human nature often inclines us to be anything but holy and loving. The power of the presence of the Holy Spirit living in and through us enables us to, not only practice unconditional love but, make it fundamental and foundational in a lifestyle that can be best described as “Simply Beautiful.”