December 3, 2023 | Doug Sauder
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“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.”—1 Corinthians 13:1–3 (NIV)
To really grasp how profound this Scripture is, we must ask what kind of love is the apostle Paul talking about? Sadly, English lacks real depth. Hence, the word love is forced to bear the weight of various meanings. Saying we love Rocky Road ice cream and we love our spouse mean very different things.
The New Testament is written in Greek. The Greek language uses four different words for love: Eros love is used to describe erotic love, storge is the love we have for our family, phileo describes friendship or brotherly love, and agape love is no ordinary kind of love. This love is self-sacrificing and utterly devoted to the good of others—it’s unmerited and undeserved. It’s not based on feelings, but on action.
We reading Romans 5:8 (NIV), we see the ultimate example of agape love: “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Not only is God’s love action oriented, He is the very definition of love (1 John 4:8). This is why a loveless Christian confuses the watching world. Mahatma Gandhi once said, “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” Such a sad accusation made against the Church must break the heart of God.
I would bet my last dollar we’ve all met a Christian devoid of love. Before becoming a believer, my experience with a loveless Christian drove me far from God. Unfortunately, it took nearly three decades before I desired a relationship with Jesus. This person was more concerned about winning theological arguments than displaying a Christ-like character. He was intelligent and faithful, but completely lacking in love. Without love, being in his presence was like listening to the shrill sound of a clanging cymbal. He simply was unable to create the beautiful music that living out the gospel message can produce.
It wasn’t until I met a Christian who displayed the loving character of God to me that I wanted to get to know Jesus for myself. Never underestimate the power of agape love! This person was willing to meet me in my brokenness and share the truth of God’s Word with compassion and grace. She loved me equally on my bad days as she did on my good days. Her treatment of me radically changed my perspective of God. To say I am eternally grateful is an understatement. Because her love toward me was in such direct contrast to the loveless Christian, this Scripture is deeply personal to me. She’s the one who led me to Christ.
How we live out our Christian faith has an enormous impact on those around us. Many unbelievers will “read us” before they decide to read the Bible. I often pray and strive to have the same impact on someone else’s life as this woman has had on mine. If we love like Jesus, we will change the world.
Pause: Has a bad experience with a loveless Christian shaped your impression of God? Have you ever been more concerned about being right than acting Christ-like?
Practice: Display God’s agape love towards someone today with an act of kindness.
Pray: Dear Lord, please help me demonstrate Your agape love to a lost and broken world. Only Your love transforms hearts and minds. Amen.
Deb Marsalisi is an author, public speaker, mentor and Fire Inspector. She began her writing journey to make peace with her challenging past. It has provided her with an outlet for creative self-expression, and a healthy new perspective on life.
Through God’s amazing grace, she has learned to rejoice in life’s ups and downs, struggles and victories understanding they’ve been given so she can help and inspire others on their own journey of restoration. Her passion is to support others in emotional and spiritual habits that are truly life-changing. She spends her free time loving, encouraging and mentoring young women to grow in their relationship with Jesus. And she also enjoys cooking amazing meals for her friends and family.