Understanding the 40 Parables of Jesus Christ: Learn from the greatest teacher Jesus Christ. The gospel taught in stories.

What is love? It's a call to action.

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Guest Post by Ben Byrum


How do you define love? What is love?

As Christians, when looking for answers to big questions like these, we should consult what the Bible has to say on the matter.

Providentially, the Bible provides a passage in 1 Corinthians widely known as the love chapter – 1 Corinthians 13. In 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 in my ESV translation, this word “love” is used 4 times, but is implied throughout.

It would be highly inaccurate for us in today’s world to take our definition(s) of the word love, apply it to these verses, and then think we accurately understand what it means. Indeed, our modern-day definitions of this word totally miss the mark of its original meaning. We misuse love, overuse love, and love has become watered down.

In the original Greek Bible, the Greek word used for love in this passage is "agape."

Agape is a form of personal sacrifice and service, intentionally desiring the absolute best for another person. The late Dallas Willard (an American philosopher and Christian author on spiritual formation) said that agape is to will the good of another. Within Christianity, agape is unconditional love. Agape is the highest form of love and is the kind of love God has for man and of man for God.

The Apostle Paul (the author of 1 Corinthians) gives us an amazing description of agape. The way that he describes agape, it:

1. Is something
2. Is not something
3. Does something

Let’s start with what Paul says agape is. Paul says that agape is 2 things:

Agape is:
- Patient
- Kind

Now let’s look at what it isn’t:

Agape is not:
- Envious
- Boastful
- Arrogant
- Rude
- Insistent on its own way
- Irritable
- Resentful
- Joyful in wrongdoing

Now let’s move to what love does:

Agape Does:
- Rejoice with the truth
- Bear all things
- Believe all things
- Hope all things
- Endure all things
- Never end or never fail

With this understanding of agape in mind, let’s now read the 1 Corinthians 13 passage beginning in verse 1. There are various things one can do, including giving all that we own to the poor, but if we don’t have agape, it means absolutely nothing.

In 2020, when quarantine and racial protests swept our country, social media was a cesspool; however, one thing in particular caught my attention. I kept seeing this certain set of photos circulate across multiple platforms. Essentially, the photos attempted to explain that our country did not need love at all, that Jesus couldn’t change hearts, and that God could essentially leave Himself out of it. People wanted no part of God or love during such a time as that one.  

In 1 John 4:7&8, it says, "Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love." I’ll let you in on a little secret. Do you want to guess the original Greek word used for love in 1 John 4:7&8? Agape!

God is agape.

God is love.

I can’t help but think that those social media posts are wrong and spreading false information about our God because frankly, who is God, then, if He is not love? Who is this Jesus we say we believe in if we are not changed by Him?

In recent years here in America, people have walked into church buildings, schools, concerts, and other public venues and have shot and killed people. Those are actions that are not loving.

Road rage shootings are happening in higher volume in the city where I live. Tensions are continuing to build in Ukraine and Russia and other countries. These are all actions which are not loving.

Agape is not present.

Agape requires us to act for the intentional betterment of people, because that’s what God calls us to do and because that’s how He loves us.

Agape is not passive, but rather, agape forces us off of our seat, forces us off the sidelines and into the action of life.

I’m convinced that love, specifically, agape, is the answer to a lot of things for this reason: you can have an action without love, but you cannot have love without action.

I’ll say it this way – you can have an action without agape, but you cannot have agape without action. Showing others the love of Jesus Christ requires that we abide in Him and it requires action.

Ben Byrum is a devotional writer for Stand Firm magazine, published by Lifeway Christian Resources.

He is also a student of the Truett Seminary Online Certificate Program; a current student at Dallas Theological Seminary’s Houston extension campus; and an aspiring chaplain.

He and his wife of 8 years met at Baylor University and live in Houston, Texas.

Understanding the 40 Parables of Jesus Christ: Learn from the greatest teacher Jesus Christ. The gospel taught in stories.

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