Friday, November 17, 2006

Agape: A Love That Is Interested In Others

A ship wrecked in near the coast of an island. Only two men – Harold and Tom - survived. They were able to swim there way to a nearby desolate island. After negotiating what they would do, they decided they would split the island in half and each one would stay in their own half of the island. It was rough for them, so each decided to pray. Immediately, Harold started receiving answers to his prayers. He found food easily, but Tom did not. Harold was able to build a nice hut, Tom could not. Feeling lonely, Harold had prayed for a female companion. Soon, another shipwreck happened, a woman survived and swam to Harold's side of the island. Tom remained alone. Hoping to start a new life with his new companion Harold prayed for a way out of the Island. The next day a wandering boat showed off the coast of the island by Harold's side. Harold and his female companion swam to the boat and they sailed off. Tom was too tired to swim, and Harold offered him no help. As they sailed off, Harold offers thanks to God. Then God responded to Harold, "Why did you leave Tom?" Harold answered, "I do not want to be with Tom, you did not bless him and answered his prayers." God then told Harold, "Actually, I answered all his prayers. He prayed that all your prayers would be answered." Harold's only interest was himself. He only loved himself. Tom however, had interest in others. He loved with agape -God's unconditional love. It is a love that is interested in others.

The story of Abram and Lot is similar. We read in Genesis 13 that Abram and Lot had too many possessions to live together in the land. Not only did they have too many possessions, but also they had too many servants. Tension was mounting. Finally, the tension erupted into a fight (Genesis 13:7). Abram loved his nephew. He did not want any ill feelings between the two. He probably did not want to let his beloved nephew go, but it was evident that they had to part ways (Genesis 13:6). So he told Lot in Genesis 3: 8-9,

Genesis 3: 8 "Let there be no strife, I pray thee, between me and thee, and between my herdmen and thy herdmen; for we be brethren.
Genesis 3: 9 Is not the whole land before thee? separate thyself, I pray thee, from me: if thou wilt take the left hand, then I will go to the right; or if thou depart to the right hand, then I will go to the left.

Lot revealed what was in his heart: himself. Abram thought about his nephew's well being. As Paul says in Philippians 2:4, "Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others." Lot thought of his own well-being. He chose what seemed to be the best land. We read in Genesis 13: 10 – 11:

10And Lot lifted up his eyes, and beheld all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered every where, before the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, even as the garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt, as thou comest unto Zoar.
11Then Lot chose him all the plain of Jordan; and Lot journeyed east: and they separated themselves the one from the other.

The author of the lesson states that Abram showed nobility of character in his dealings with Lot. From the heights of Bethel Lot saw the Jordan Valley, well watered and fertile like the Garden of Eden and the plains of Mesopotamia. Lot chose that which appealed to his sense of immediate gain; little did Lot realize what his choice would cost him. The decision was between "faith" and "sight," and the results demonstrate the wisdom of making the right choice. Abram's close relationship with the Lord and his determination to walk by faith enabled him to look beyond the immediate temporal advantages to eternal gain.

Abram's dealings also showed agape. By letting Lot choose first, Abram showed no ulterior motive. And, although Abram let Lot live with the consequences of his choice, he did not stop caring for his nephew. When Abram found out that those who attacked Sodom took Lot with them, he immediately, " armed his trained servants, born in his own house, three hundred and eighteen, and pursued them unto Dan. And he divided himself against them, he and his servants, by night, and smote them, and pursued them unto Hobah, which is on the left hand of Damascus. And he brought back all the goods, and also brought again his brother Lot, and his goods, and the women also, and the people. (Genesis 14: 14 – 16).

Many of us in that situation would have probably thought, "As much as it pains me, Lot got what he deserved." Then proceed to do nothing about it, justifying ourselves by thinking, "we should not put ourselves in harms way to rescue Lot." But, agape does not act in this selfish and self-interested manner. God did not spare His own Son (Romans 8:32), but delivered Him for all of us. And, He did so while we were yet His enemies. We read in Romans 5: 5 – 8,

Romans 5: 5 …the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.
Romans 5: 6 For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.
Romans 5: 7 For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die.
Romans 5: 8 But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

The problem is that we are incapable of loving as God loves, unless God sheds His Holy Spirit unto our hearts. Outside of this we will only care for ourselves and those that we like. It is only as we continually choose to let God's indwelling Holy Spirit to dwell in our hearts that we will be able to agape. It is by this Godly love that the world will know that we are His disciples (John 13:35). It is this love that will make us be willing to die even for those who we believe do not deserve mercy from us. It is this love that will make us able to truly have interest in others. This love is a gift. Will you be willing to accept it?

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