Love, the most powerful force there is and a force I am not sure we understand or get.
I think one of the problems is our own language – it’s so limiting. The same word we use to express deep affection for those closest to us is the same word that we use to express appreciation for lesser things. For example, we ‘love’ our spouse and we ‘love’ ice cream – I am confident they do not share the same sentiment.
However, in the New Testament, there are multiple words for love – each having a distinct understanding. One of them is the word ‘phileo’ – referring to a brotherly concern and affection. But a more powerful term ‘agape’ signifies a sacrificial commitment to another’s satisfaction, security, and development. As you can see, depending upon the usage, a different word would be expressed.
And it is the ‘agape’ word that is used to express the kind of love that God has for us – a love that only the Holy Spirit can produce in and through a believer.
In the parable of the prodigal son, Jesus describes a father’s sacrificial love for his wayward son. When the young man demands early inheritance, the father does not deny his request, though he knew it would lead only to bitterness. So, despite personal and financial sacrifice, the father gave his son his share. Then the father waited patiently while the prodigal learned some very difficult lessons.
No doubt, this was a trying time for the father, because a good dad wants to protect his children from poor choices, mistakes, resulting in painful consequences. But a wise father also knows that some hard truths can be learned no other way. And the same is true for us; there are times that the best thing we can do is trust that the Lord will reach a defiant heart.
Agape love, then, will never let us go. It will always forgive and restore. And this is precisely what the father does in the parable. When the prodigal son returns, humbled and broken, the father reaches out and receives and restores him – just the way our heavenly Father does for each one of us.
Now, that is a love I not only want to get, but give.