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Agape: Streams of Living Water

“Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’”-John 7:38

This past Sunday, we had a missionary come and talk to us, and something he asked the congregation to define was a word we throw around a lot in Christianity: “Agape.” The answers that were given were “Self-Sacrificing love,” and “unconditional love.” I think both of these answers are true, but I still think both are only single facets of a much bigger and much deeper form of love.

As I was driving to the church this morning, I was thinking about just this. You see, I hurt myself yesterday, on purpose. I’m still not fully recovered from gout (I hate talking about it, but I can’t deny it’s still there), and I also agreed to volunteer to be an assistant coach on one of my kid’s baseball teams. When I arrived, I didn’t plan on being too active, but it was our first practice, there were three of us available to coach, and the team has many kids who have never played before. I couldn’t afford to merely stand on the sideline and give advice: there were kids who needed someone to be in the mix, active, and personal. The other coaches and I were doing all we could to make sure our boys knew what they were doing and having fun.

I share all of this to show that love is more than self-sacrificing and more than unconditional: I love my son, and would do almost anything for him, so yes, I sacrificed (not that I am a great person, none of this is meant to toot my own horn). But I knew that it was also about the other kids, it was about my community (And my role in it), but most importantly of all, it was about Jesus being seen in the public arena. Self-sacrificing and unconditional love is nothing in and of itself. It is my love for Christ that drives me to sacrifice myself, for my kin and community, for my friends and enemies, for my family and my church. Christ is the only focal point, and it is that point that allows the love He has to pour out through any who are willing to sacrifice on His behalf. I love Jesus, and because I love Jesus, I can love my wife, my kids, my friends, my enemies, my neighbors, and people across the globe who I’ve never seen, met, or heard of. This is Agape: to love Christ, and so to seek to be like Christ, even if it means everything I have and am is forfeit in the process of loving, serving, and obeying my God, as Christ did at the Cross. And this is the love that all believers should aspire to.

Philippians 2:1-18

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant[lit., slave], being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me.

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