We are continuing Dr. R.C. Sproul’s identification of the characteristics that should be evident in the Christian’s life and heart when Agape love is present through the Holy Spirit. We began consideration of these characteristics last week by noting that:
- Agape love gives us the desire in our hearts to worship God;
- Agape love believes and trusts God’s Word; and
- Agape love recognizes God’s absolute right to govern us.
What does Scripture say?
Let us now consider several additional characteristics of Agape love.
- Agape love enables us to desire justice for others.
David, in Psalms 82:3-4 says:
“Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”
The prophet Micah says that God has told us what we are to do in Micah 6:8:
“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.”
Of course, we know that Jesus was asked “who is my neighbor” in Luke 10:29 and in response, the parable of the Good Samaritan was given, telling us that all persons are our neighbors. Agape love enables us to want, and to work for, justice and mercy for persons we come in contact with, whether physically or through hearing of their difficulties. They are our neighbors and Agape love encourages our participation with them.
- Agape love encourages us to be content in any situation.
Paul said that he was content in whatever the circumstance presented in Philippians 4:11-12. Paul exhibited this contentment when he and Silas were in prison and, after being beaten and put in chains, they were praying and singing praises to God, so loudly that the other prisoners heard them. Acts 16.
Paul understood that contentment is possible when we remember that God is sovereign and that He is in control of the events and circumstances that confront us. Therefore, through His sovereignty, we know that He will use the situation for His purposes and for His glory. We often may not know why certain things happen, but we know the One who has ordained and permitted those things for His reasons and for our ultimate benefit. We, therefore, can be content in His provision and grace.
In 1 Peter 1:6 the demand for contentment sounds impossible when Peter says:
“In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials….”
Rejoicing while suffering — this is evidence of Agape love because only the Holy Spirit can enable us to do so.
- Agape love enables us to resist the sin of bitterness.
Paul says in Ephesians 4:31:
“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.”
The writer of Hebrews 12:15 warns:
“See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no ‘root of bitterness’ springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled….”
James 3:14 warns that bitter envy and selfish ambition do not come from heaven but rather are earthly, unspiritual and of the devil. James then says:
“For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.”
Jonathan Edwards describes the response to bitterness in Charity and Its Fruits as follows:
An envious Christian, a malicious Christian, a cold and hard-hearted Christian, is the greatest absurdity and contradiction. It is as if one should speak of dark brightness, or a false truth!
Simply put, bitterness, gossip, resentment … none of this has any place in a heart that is filled with Agape love. Using Christ as our Guide, we see no evidence of this response when He was lied about by false witnesses, rejected and abandoned by His own disciples, accused by the hypocrites in the Synagogue, or when He heard cries for His crucifixion from the very people who within that same week were clamoring for Him to become their leader. Another example of Jesus’ Agape love was His response when He was nailed to the cross and people were “wagging their heads” at Him. Mark 15:29. Rather than bitterness, Jesus’ prayer was
“Father forgive them, for they know not what they do!”
There are times that we forget that the Agape love in our heart through the Holy Spirit is simply another way of saying God’s love is within us. The Third Person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, has the same power and strength as the other Persons in the Trinity and it is this Spirit that has the power to enable us to love as only God can love. The Holy Spirit can impart God’s love to us because He is God … and He has provided this same love to all those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. Think about the awesomeness of Agape love that is available to us, and then let us commit ourselves to putting that love in practice as we go through our lives, day by day.
How does this apply to my daily life?
Let’s get practical – What can we do to exercise each of these characteristics?
Dr. Sproul suggests using what he calls the Judgment of Charity. The Judgment of Charity is simply the practice of giving others the benefit of the doubt, believing them to have acted in love and not hate, responding in love and not as an enemy. Charity makes it a practice to consider other’s communication in the best light, or the best case scenario, even when that person’s actions or words have wounded us.
Rather than thinking of some negative ulterior motive for why they acted the way they did, the Christian exercising this fruit of the Spirit views the actions of others through the lens of Agape love. In so doing we are following the example of Jesus in our relationship with Him.
How often have we hurt our Savior by failing to honor our commitments, by failing to obey His commands, by failing to serve Him to the utmost of our abilities even when we have promised to do so? Yet, despite knowing our failings, He went to the cross for us, took our shame and punishment, and paid the price of our sin.
The evidence of the fruit of Agape love in our heart is the Spirit’s enabling us to love God and others as Christ loved us. It is a love that honors God and His Word. It is a love that serves others without demanding anything in return. It is a love that enables the Christian to love the unlovely, precisely because the Christian is also aware that she is a sinner and is repugnant to our Holy God, BUT FOR the righteousness of Christ that she has been given through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Praise the Lord for His wonderful mercy and grace and for Agape Love.
Damaris sings How Deep the Father’s Love for Us on her The Heart of God album. It is a beautiful song that touches my heart each time I hear it. Let the words speak to you as you consider Agape Love and your response to the Spirit as He leads you into a new appreciation of God’s Love! Praise His Holy Name!
Agape love – it truly is way more than casseroles and cards!
Next week we will begin our look at the fruit of the Spirit – Joy.
Blessings to you and I pray that you will continue to walk with me as we learn about the fruit of the Holy Spirit and as we mature in our transformation into Christian believers who speak and act as Jesus did and who share in the passions that Jesus had for the lost sheep and for the worship of His Father, the Almighty God.