By Daniel Bobinski
This column brings an end to my series on agape love. Over the past 2.5 years I’ve used this space to explore the four powerful verses of 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. With this installment, we are completing the series.
The reason I took so long to explore a mere four verses is because they are not just four mere verses. In this passage of Scripture, Paul elaborates on the verb agape used by Jesus in Matthew 22 when He was asked to identify the greatest commandment. Jesus answered the question by saying, “‘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. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
And then our Lord said, “All the law and all the prophets hang on these two commands.”
If you would like to read previous installments in this series, visit https://www.christianlivingmag.com/columns/ and then enter my name in the search bar.
The Greek word in this final installment is about “hanging in there.” The word is hypomenō (phonetic: hoop-om-en’-o), and every popular biblical translation except the NIV assigns the word “endures” here. The NIV uses “perseveres.” The word means, “To remain, to tarry (stay) behind.” It also means to persevere and endure, to bear ill treatments bravely and calmly.
God Is Our Example. When we remember that God is love (agape), it’s easy to see this aspect of God’s love in His behavior toward us. Most certainly, He “hangs in there,” remaining and persevering to draw us back toward Him despite our ill treatment of Him – not to mention all the grief Satan gives Him. After Adam and Eve disobeyed the one command they were given, it would have been easy for God to say, “Well, you messed up. I warned that you would die if you ate that fruit, and now you’re going to die. Too bad, so sad.”
Instead, God has been demonstrating His love by enduring.
Love the Lord. There are days when I want my time on earth to be done. So much sin surrounds us – not only the crimes we see occurring between and among the other people who inhabit this planet, but also the corruption and injustices perpetrated by those working in our government. Some days I say, “God, you can take me home today and I won’t mind a bit.” But I also then say, “Nevertheless, not my will but Yours be done.” The simple fact that I’m still here tells me that God has a purpose for me being here – that He has things He wants me to do.
And so, despite all the bad things happening to people all around me, and despite the ill treatment I receive from others, I remain behind, holding fast to my faith in Christ. I love the Lord, and I trust that He knows better than me regarding what I’m supposed to be doing and the optimal time for my departure.
God doesn’t treat me poorly, but this sin-filled planet in which He has me is not my first choice. Still, I choose to endure for Him as calmly and as bravely as possible.
Love Your Neighbor as Yourself. As I wrap up this series on agape love, I wish to remind the reader that “love your neighbor as yourself” is better understood as, “Love your neighbor in the same way as you love yourself.” As much as some folks don’t like to believe it, this means we need to love ourselves! For this we can also turn to Ephesians 5:29: “After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church.”
Interestingly, the passage in which Jesus lays out the greatest commandment (Matthew 22:34-40) aligns with “the golden rule” which is found in Matthew 7:12. That verse reads, “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” In both places Jesus says the actions sum up the Law and the Prophets, and in both places He says we should treat others as we ourselves wish to be treated.
All of this requires introspection on our parts. Each of us must think how we want to be treated, and then we should strive to treat others the same way.
In the case of hypomenō (love always endures), I think this includes considering our own sin nature. When we make mistakes, don’t we want those around us to remain? To tarry behind? To stick with us, even if we’ve said or done something that hurt them?
And if we look at this from the other direction, having Godly relationships means we need to “hang in there” with people who hurt us unintentionally. People’s sin natures will influence their words and actions, but if we are striving to live a life of agape love, we endure ill treatments bravely and calmly.
Does this mean we should become doormats to those who continue to walk on us, despite our best efforts to communicate the problem? My answer is, “No.” In my opinion, people who continue to mistreat us and show no genuine remorse for doing so despite being informed of the problem should not be given carte blanche to continue their abuse.
I have no doubt some will want to debate this point, so just know my answer is, “Every situation is unique, and should be taken to the Lord.”
In closing this series, let me say this: I truly believe that if every Christian regularly studies these attributes of agape love and asks the Holy Spirit to manifest these traits into our daily lives, we will have a much easier time living a life of agape love.
Until next time – be blessed.
Daniel Bobinski, Th.D., is an award-winning and best-selling author and a popular speaker at conferences and retreats. Reach him at [email protected] or (208) 375-7606.