No Sloppy Agape

Jesus didn’t save us so that we could sit in a pew the rest of our lives, sing songs, get our heads crammed full of Bible verses and doctrines, and then just hang on until he returns.
 
When Jesus first appeared to Paul, he said to him these words: “I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness…I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles.  I am sending you to them” (Acts 26:16-17).  Do you notice this?  “I have appeared to you to appoint you…”  “I will rescue you…to send you.”
 
That goes for us too.  Jesus appeared to us to then appoint us to a high calling. He rescued us to send us out to do good in his name. We are saved to serve. We are blessed to be a blessing.
 
Christianity gave this unique idea to the world: that every life matters, because every life has been shaped and gifted by God to make a difference in this world.
 
1 Peter 4:8-11 is a remarkable paragraph which functions as a sort of tutorial for Christian service. It answers at least 4 questions about serving Christ:
 
What’s the right motivation for serving?
Why should we serve?
Whom should we serve?
And who should do the serving?

Take the first question: what’s the right motivation for serving? Peter answers this question in the first phrase of verse 8: “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly.”
 
The Greek word used here for “love” is yet another idea that Christians gave the world: the word is “agape” (a-gop-ey), which refers to an unconditional love which sacrifices itself for another, regardless of whether its deserved or not. Agape is a word the Greeks and Romans didn’t use a lot, because this sort of love wasn’t practiced a lot.
 
Christianity gave this unique idea to the world: that every life matters, because every life has been shaped and gifted by God to make a difference in this world.

The world’s way of loving is a “because” sort of love. I love you because I feel love for you. I love you because of what I get out of it. I love you because you’re so loveable and beautiful, not to mention you’re nice to me.
 
But that’s not how God loves us. The apostle John said, “We love because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:19). God loved us first, even when that love wasn’t being returned. God’s love is not a “because” sort of love, but a “just because” sort of love. It’s who God is. “God is agape” John said (1 John 4:16). It’s the essence of his being.
 
Because of this, “agape” is self-giving, not self-serving. It doesn’t come with conditions attached to it. And it’s sacrificial in nature, because the one offering it gives, just because. Whether they get anything in return from it or not.
 
For this reason, Christ’s death on the cross for us is the highest expression of “agape” love that we can conceive of. It’s our model. John said, “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the [sacrifice] for our sins.” (1 John 4:10).
 
Most Christians though understandably struggle with this. Most of us are guilty of what I might call sloppy agape.
 
There’s a reason for this. To love someone as God loves us requires the Lord’s helps. It’s not in us by nature. “For the love of Christ controls/compels us,” Paul wrote (2 Cor.5:14), “because we have concluded this: that one has died for all.”
 
And this is how we practice agape love. By asking the Lord to help control us with this love, and by reminding ourselves again and again, or how Jesus showed this same love for me by dying for me on the Cross.
 
The idea being: if my Lord did this for me – when I deserved something much worse – than how dare I not give this away to others.

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