Agape (Photo credit: danakin)

Probably most Christians—pastors and laypeople alike—are confused about biblical love. So if even they’re clueless, how can rest of the world understand?

After last week’s post, a reader asked if blessing those who curse us, loving enemies, and doing good is service or love. My answer was that there’s no difference between them. Service is simply one way that love manifests. So is patience, kind deeds, hospitality, encouraging words, prayer, or any other quality of good character.

The best way I’ve found keep love (agape, good will) in context is to use the phrase, “promote the good” in place of “love.” Agape is the word used in loving neighbors as self, among other verses. Thus, “promote the good of your neighbors as you would yourself.” Or, “If you promote the good of only those who promote yours, what are you doing so remarkable? Don’t even tax collectors do that?” Or, “For God so willed the good of the world…,” “speak the truth in good will,” and so on.

There’s nothing special about willing the good of friends, family, and people you like. Even gang members do that. But willing it for enemies involves invoking God to help you. (I can always tell where my heart is by what I sincerely ask God to do.) For example, if you want to love the guy who just stole your car, but you certainly don’t like him, you ask God to somehow bring about his good. That’s how you love and bless an enemy.

You may never know how he ends up, but that’s not your responsibility. On the other hand, God might answer with a police chase where he’s seriously injured after wrecking your car. Maybe he nearly dies. Maybe God meets him in that experience and his life turns around.

Loving enemies doesn’t mean we’re responsible for the outcome, although we can often influence it. We’re responsible for our own character and behavior, and praying for enemies promotes our good and well-being regardless how they turn out. God is always the author and finisher; you’re the contributor. That’s how you love Him and promote His good. (more…)