Some Pharisees once came to Jesus and asked, “Which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” (Matthew 22:36). Jesus answered,“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment” (vv. 37-38).
But he didn’t stop there. Jesus went on to say, “And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’” (v. 40).
In both cases, the word he used was agape.
You and I are commanded to love the same way God loves. Not as a feeling or an emotion but as a decision.
I have very little control over my feelings, because feelings are fickle and fleeting. I may like someone today but be angry with them tomorrow. My emotions tend to rise and fall with the changing tide – one day high and the next day low. But a decision isn’t like that. Decisions are an act of the will. I can decide to love someone even when I don’t like them very much.
Years ago I had a neighbor who was a really nice guy, and he would have been a perfect neighbor if it weren’t for his demon-possessed dog.
He barked at the most inappropriate times and often kept me up at night. It was one of the most annoying animals on the planet, and I had to live next door to it.
When people ask me if I think animals will be in heaven, I tell them I can’t know for sure, but I believe they will, except for my neighbor’s dog. It most definitely will not be there.
Because of that dog, there were days when I wasn’t very happy with my neighbor. On those days I may not have liked him much, but that didn’t keep me from loving him. I still wanted what was best for him, and I decided to do right by him, regardless of our how I felt at a given moment. If he had asked to borrow my lawnmower, I’d gladly have obliged. If he needed a ride, I’d have given him one. I didn’t have to feel kindly toward him to be kind to him. I had already decided to be kind and to love him as God expected me to.
God doesn’t command us to feel loving, but to love. It is an action, not a reaction or an emotion. When we act in love even when we don’t feel loving, and interesting dynamic begins to take shape. Our feelings start to change as well. Our emotions tend to follow suit and we actually start to feel loving, even toward those who have slighted us.
Agape love says, “I choose to act in your best interest, regardless of how I feel at the time, regardless of how you act or react, regardless of what you deserve.” Agape love is stable and constant and committed. It is the only kind of love that can withstand the inevitable trials and tribulations of life. – Jimmy Evans