We’ve learned that love has conditions. I’ll love you if you let me hang with the boys this weekend. The world defines love as being based on something. I love you because you’re such a good husband.
There are three words in the New Testament that are used for love: eros, phileo, and agape. Eros is a romantic love where the focus is on personal happiness. Phileo is a brotherly love that we offer most people and is focused on “our” happiness. Agape love has no conditions; is limitless. Agape love is the only love that God commands of us have for each other. It is the love that can be the most difficult to give, because oftentimes there is little return for a fleshy desire.
Paul writes in Galatians 5:14, “For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: “Love [Agape love] your neighbor as yourself.’”
The Greek word for neighbor is geiton and it means “one living in the same land.” The adjective of this word is plesion and it means “near.” It kind of has this urban tone to it, doesn’t it?
So how does this look in our culture? Who is your neighbor? Who is in the same land, who is near?
If we take into consideration the meaning of these two Greek words, it’s not just our family, our neighborhood or street. It’s our city and our county. That’s our neighbor.
I remember a number of years ago hearing someone say, “We have become garage door communities.” We drive up, ignoring our neighbor next door working in the yard, pull our car in the garage and shut the door as quickly as possible, hoping the neighbor is not following shortly behind. When I didn’t have a garage, I shamefully admit that I have acted as if I were on my phone, hoping my neighbor would not bother me before I could get into my house and shut the door behind me. We have adopted this mentality in public as well, avoiding people that want connection and looking the other way when we see a need.
We do this because it’s hard to love, especially people that we don’t truly care for, and we subconsciously think, “There is no return here; there is nothing in it for me.” This is anti-gospel. This mindset is far from the precept of Galatians 5:14. It’s far from Jesus.
We must declare war on this mindset. In 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, Paul reminds you and me that “you do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price.” We belong to him, our time is His time, our possessions, His, our money, His, and our love from His love. I would simply say that we ask God, “My Lord, I want your love to be my love. Guide me God, as I am selfish, conditional, and mostly unwilling. Only because of you and from You, I can love like you.”
Let’s do this!