Thank you for choosing to pray today for revival and for our prodigals. Prayer is a gauge of how our spiritual life is going as John Piper states in the following quote. “Prayer as a relationship is probably your best indicator about the health of your love relationship with God. If your prayer life has been slack, your love relationship has grown cold.”
Each of the New Testament writers speaks about love and Paul was the champion of them all. The volume of words on love reflects what an important subject it is to God. In Romans twelve we have considered subjects such as worship, surrender, renewal, and spiritual gifts; now, our focus is love. “Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor” (Rom. 12:9-10). The interesting fact about love in these verses is that there are three distinct words used to describe it. The three Greek words are agapē, philostorgos, and philadelphia. Let’s talk about them.
Agapē love is pure, real, and genuine. Let it be without hypocrisy! How do we love like this? Only by drawing from God’s great love for us. Love by definition has no hypocrisy or pretense, but when failing people are the doers of it, there is plenty of room for imperfection.
Our motives are being challenged. The reality is that our love for God can be insincere, and our love for one another can be artificial or deceitful, and in order for us to love properly our hearts must be right before God. This is the reason for the qualifying statement on the heels of the command, “Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.” This is not a one-time thing but is meant to become the habit of our lives. It requires aligning ourselves with the character and heart of God. The Hebrew writer describes Jesus with these words: “You love righteousness and hate wickedness” (Heb. 1:9). He always hated evil and held to goodness! Let us follow His example.
Philostorgos is love that is personal, affectionate, and cherishing. In all the Bible, philostorgos is only used once. Thayer Greek Definitions says it means to be prone to love, to love affectionately and tenderly. It continues by saying this love is “the mutual love of parents and children and wives and husbands.” There is a mutual flow of love back and forth, from one to the other, because we have come to deeply treasure and value one another. When our relationship deepens, so does our affection for that person.
While this love should exist between moms and sons, husbands and wives, etc, it is not limited to these relationships. The way in which we love all the family of faith should have this quality about it.
It is a love that takes the concerns of the other person into account. It is a love that cares about the feelings of others. It is a love that respects the boundaries of others. It is love that will enable the other to thrive for God. How can we love one another affectionately and tenderly?
Philadelphia love is a family love - relational and pleasant. That’s right! We all belong to the same family. Each one of us is loved by God and has been begotten by God into His family by the ultimate sacrifice of His Son.
The following statement in the verse seems to explain how this familial love works, “Outdo one another in showing honor.” The result of such love is that no one seeks his/her own honor but rather the honor of the other. What does this mean? It means seeing the true worth of a person—as from God’s eyes. Thus, you are not looking at all their failures, their inadequacies, their past sins, but rather looking at them as they are made perfect in Christ—forgiven, purchased, righteous. It is not a valuation based on ability and performance, but on who a person is, a beloved child of God, a brother or sister in Christ.
Think of how wonderfully the church family would run if each one tried to outdo the other in showing honor? Seeing the agapē, philostorgos, and philadelphia love being lived out, the neighbors would say, “See how much they love one another.” May God help make this true of us!
Love in Christ,
Bryan and Rachel