Is there any word more misunderstood, or behavior more powerful than that which is motivated by the biblical New Testament word “love” – which is translated “charity?” C. S. Lewis (in The Four Loves) described charity [Greek word agape] as the love Jesus Christ lived and spoke of... in contrast to other “loves”
In the Bible, the Apostle Paul declares over and over that this kind of love,charity (agape) is so unique that it is not merely superior to all the other loves, but also it is so desirable that it is to be sought for more than anything-->more desirable than anything you would or could ask God for, including any kind of spiritual gift.
That’s a big claim: if you are experiencing agape love, this “spiritual experience” exceeds that of working a miracle, seeing a vision, or any other kind of wonder that would qualify as a “WOW!” moment.
If you know the Bible you realize that this makes sense. At its root, agape is love which originates in the Father God, through Christ’s perfect sacrifice, and comes to a Christian via the Holy Spirit. Love is from God, and yes, the other kinds of love originate in God (since all good things ultimately come from God), but this love comes specifically and directly from God. This kind of love is not faked, and it’s not a feeling, yet it is real.
The works that Jesus Christ did found their source in this love. All Christ's miracles were done to show people the heart of God, who is love.
Eventually, Jesus Christ called on and empowered His followers to do His works--I'm pretty certain He meant do the work of God through loving (agape).
And when Jesus said of his followers that the world would recognize the by their love, he was actually pointing back towards his own life and the evidence of God’s hand all over his own words and works.
This year I met a man, a foreigner, who has found asylum in the USA from an Islamic country. Although he has seen several heads of state in his home country in his lifetime, for the past few decades they’ve become increasingly strict about their religion. Prior to coming to the USA this man was a Muslim, but while here at some point, he became a Christian.
He shared with me that from his youth he recalls looking for love. As the sect which runs his country increasingly harsh towards people, yet his hunger for love did not diminish but his heart grew sadder and he began to despair. However, since becoming a Christian he has been walking on air because he now knows agape, and he is empowered and also freed to love people.
Although he is poor and unknown here (quite the opposite of his life in his home country), he’s happier than he’s ever been. His heart is full, which makes him a wealthy man. His story moves me as it reminds me how special and absolutely priceless is the gift that the love of God, agape, is to people who have experienced it.
When I think of it, I feel like a millionaire.