Love Without Strings
Bible Reading: John 15:9-17
I command you to love each other in the same way that I love you. John 15:12
THE SCRATCH MARK across Alondra’s face was too big to cover up-but it made a great conversation starter. For her spring break, Alondra baby-sat and taught inner-city children. While her friends lounged on the beach, she cleaned up after babies. And when they came back to school to show off their tans, Alondra wondered if the scratch dug into her cheek by an angry five-year-old would leave a scar.
Have you heard of agape love? Agape (rhymes with “uh-SLOP-pay”) is a Greek word in the New Testament that English Bibles translate simply as “love.” Agape is love that’s of God and from God. It’s the love that gives without demanding anything in return. It’s the love that makes the health, happiness, and growth of others as important to you as your own. And it’s the kind of love that motivates students like Alondra to sacrifice time to take part in short-term mission projects-or to pull off countless other kind deeds every day.
C. S. Lewis calls agape “gift-love.” God’s gift of his Son supremely demonstrated his gift-love. John wrote, “This is real love. It is not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins” (1 John 4:10).
You can exercise gift-love in two ways. Human-powered gift-love is generous and centered on others. But it always has strings attached to it. It loves those you find lovable and deserving-or whose needs tug hardest on your heart.
But you can also love with a God-powered gift-love. That’s when God works in and through you to protect and provide for others. Only God’s potent love can empower you to love anyone and everyone without strings-even people you don’t find lovable, like enemies, social misfits, and grimy little kids. That’s the level of love Jesus called us to when he said, “Love your enemies!” (Matthew 5:44); “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39); and “Love each other in the same way that I love you” (John 15:12).
This is the kind of love that shouts all through Scripture. Paul was talking about God’s gift-love when he instructed, “Live a life filled with love for others, following the example of Christ, who loved you and gave himself as a sacrifice to take away your sins” (Ephesians 5:2).
And John tells you how to keep loving even when it hurts: “Let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God,” he wrote. “Since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other” (1 John 4:7, 11).
REFLECT: Are you learning to love others without strings as God exercises his divine gift-love through you?
PRAY: Talk to God today about the agape factor in your life.