“Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.” – 1 Peter 4:8
The New Testament was originally written in Ancient Greek. It is a very old language which developed over many, many centuries. So, in many ways, the language is far richer than the English language. I want to show one example, and the example I want to give is the word ‘love’. In English, ‘love’ can be applied to parents, friends, a spouse, our children and so on. English has just one word to express this emotion. The ancient-graeco world used four words for love, each one applies to different relationships and circumstances. Although there are four words for ‘love’ in Greek, only two appear in the New Testament. However, all four are used in the Greek translation of the Old Testament—called the Septuagint (LXX).
Here are the 4 words:
- ἔρως – ‘Érōs.’
- Eros is a sexual kind of love. This is where we get the term erotic from. This word is not used in the New Testament.
- φιλία – ‘Philia’.
- Philia is a brotherly love or a love of friendship. The opposite word to this is ‘Phobia’, which is used in the English language to mean a fear of something. This is the one of two words for love found in the New Testament.
- στοργή – ‘Storgē’.
- This is a love shared inside the family home. A love a child or parent might have for one another. This word is not used in the New Testament.
- ἀγάπη – ‘Agápē’.
- This is the greatest kind of love. An unconditional love. A love that God has for his people.
I want to talk about the fourth word: Agápē. This form of love is not dependant upon a mutual interest between two parties. Agápē is a decision made by one person to love another regardless of their current relationship. When Jesus calls us to love our enemies, he tells us to ‘Agápē’ them—to love them regardless of their treatment of us. Agápē is unconditional.
The love with which God loves us is not a love that is earned, it’s the choice of the one who chooses to love. It is a reflection of the lover’s character, not the result of the loved one’s worthiness to be loved. God’s love for us is not dependent upon our performance to earn his love – indeed we cannot earn his love. He loves us out of his grace (the love and mercy given to us by God because God desires us to have it, not because of anything we have done to earn it).
God has perfectly displayed his love for us through the sacrificial atonement of Jesus on the cross. Jesus took the penalty we deserve for our sin and was punished in our place. He was innocent and was punished to set the guilty free. By his love for us, he displayed the beautiful character of God.
God does not love us because we’ve done something to deserve it. We’ve done everything not to deserve it. He loves us because it’s his character. According to the Bible, a refusal of his love is foolishness and is not what’s good for us. There is a terrible end to that story. However, we cling to the knowledge of God’s grace an mercy, that by repenting of our sins and trusting in the death and resurrection of Jesus, we receive eternal life.
The Lord calls us to reflect the love we have been shown by loving others in the same manner. Our church is imperfect, but we want to put the love of God on display for the world by glorifying him as we seek to love and serve others. As Psalm 147:11 says, “the LORD takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love.”