The first fruit we hope to grow as Christians is love. What exactly is love?
There are four types of love in the Greek language.
First is eros. This is a passionate love. It means “intimate love,” but it does not necessarily have a sexual connotation. Along with between man and woman, it can be applied to friendship as good friends know each other intimately. Just ask my BFF…she knows a lot of dirt on me. (But she’s not talking, because I’ve got dirt on her too!)
Next is storge. This is a natural affection, like parents have for children. Even when my kids are being beasts, I feel storge for them because they are my little beasties.
Third is philia. This is brotherly love. (That’s why Philadelphia is the “City of Brotherly Love.”) It can be translated as loyalty. This could be loyalty to friends, family and the neighborhood around you.
The last one is agape. This means unconditional love. This is the one that the Bible refers to most often. God has agape for us.
Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” John 15:13 says, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”
This means that Christ showed us the ultimate form of love when we did not even love him! That is agape if I’ve ever seen it.
According to the New Testament, we are supposed to have unconditional love for others. 1 John 4:7 says, “Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God.”
Now, that’s easy to agree to when you’re sitting in church. It’s easy to love those around you when you are all singing songs and worshiping together. However, in the real world, it’s not so easy! There are some real jerks out there (and there are some real jerks in the church too)! The sad truth is, those jerks need our love more than anyone else. The most difficult people among us need agape the most.
I heard a suggestion one time to read 1 Corinthians 13 but to plug in your own name in the verses. For example:
Al is patient.
Al is kind.
Al does not envy.
Al does not boast.
Al is not proud.
Al is not rude.
Al is not self-seeking.
Al is not easily angered.
Al keeps no record of wrongs.
Al does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
Al always protects, always trust, always hopes, always perseveres.
Can you read that with your name in it and say that you are living up to those verses? I certainly can’t! I have a lot of work to do!
Most of us are not going to be offered the opportunity to die for those around us. So, what are some practical ways we can show agape to others? There are ways big and small to show love to others. You can cook meals for mothers with new babies, or you can visit people in the hospital. You can send cards. You can give gifts. You can do something as simple as let someone in front of you in traffic or in front of you in the line at the grocery store. These are easy ways to show agape to others.
We can perform random good deeds. I am still doing good deeds in honor of my birthday. (It is taking me a while to do 40 of them! 40 is a lot of years, but I wanted to do one good deed for each year I’ve lived.) I think I am enjoying doing good deeds for others more than the recipients are enjoying my deeds. (Of course, my kids are horrified most of the time when they are with me and I do a deed, but I know deep down they are watching and learning.)
There are websites that list random good deeds that you can do. Check out http://voices.yahoo.com/random-acts-kindness-list-20-good-deeds-can-8594645.html or http://www.daretobeanangel.com/tasklist.php These websites list good deeds that you could do. Of course, you can think of your own, but these might just get you started.
Have you ever had a random good deed done for you? I have. It feels so good, and no matter how small it is, it brightens your day! Why not give that gift to others?
Of course, good deeds aren’t the only ways to show love to others, but it’s a start. If we start small, God will grow it into something big. What can you grow? I want to grow more love! -Al