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Love Redefined: Agape


Love is sacrifice, but what does it mean to “sacrifice”? In the Old Testament a sacrifice is defined as an offering to God. There were five types of offerings mentioned in the book of Leviticus: the burnt offering, the grain offering, the peace offering, the sin offering, and the trespass offering; all of which involve worship of God. A burnt offering is an animal (oxen, sheep, goats, etc.) burned on an altar before God, and it represents full surrender in obedience to the Lord. Each animal had a different requirement for how it would be prepared and burned, but these were physical offerings in dedication to worship as instructed in Leviticus 1:3-4 – “If his offering is a burnt sacrifice of the herd, let him offer a male without blemish; he shall offer it of his own free will at the door of the tabernacle of meeting before the Lord. Then he shall put his hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it will be accepted on his behalf to make atonement for him.” Take notice of the mention of free will. Although, this is from the Mosaic Law men were still ONLY to give these offerings because he had humility and desire to please the Lord. Just as we are called to be “hilarious givers” we should all possess a positive attitude when expressing gratitude to God otherwise it is lacking sincerity.



The grain offering is the only form of sacrifice that does not require blood and accompanies the burnt offering, it entails: flour and oil (God’s word), frankincense (prayers), and salt (preservation). The peace offering was also to complement the animal sacrifice and requires a feast and fellowship shared between the priests and the people which represents unity. Fellowship is still vital today because in the Body of Christ we need to build up one another and heed the warning in 2 Corinthians 6:14 – “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?” If we don’t have other believers to edify us and hold us accountable then we will be like wounded prey stopping to nurse our wounds whenever we succumb to the lies of the enemy or fall victim to oppression, we will be too distracted to notice the attack before it is too late. I see this way too often, even if you don’t attend Sunday service it is still important to encourage one another in Christ. Galatians 6:1-4 reveals that we are to share in one another’s burdens – “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks of himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another.”



As believers, we are all brothers and sisters in Christ, that means we are a family! There is a saying that “blood is thicker than water” when referencing the family bond. Indeed, it is a deeper bond when you become a child of God, you become joint-heirs with Christ. You are royalty and by His royal blood you are redeemed. Jesus paid the price for our sin as a sacrificial lamb, and only His blood can atone. In Romans 6:23 we learn – “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Regarding atonement, the final two offerings known as the sin offering and the trespass offering are a form of restitution, the first of which was an offer for everyone in general for sin, and the final one being specific to a transgression such as disobeying the ten commandments. One of the consequences even involved compensating the other person that was trespassed against in some cases. This was God’s design that encouraged repentance and reconciliation. God has always encouraged this even when the law was fulfilled by His Son. He confirms this in 2 Corinthians 5:18 – “And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation.”



There are over four thousand religions in the world today, but one of the main things that sets Christianity apart from the rest is forgiveness! Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and Animism as the seven world religions that are the most popular. In Judaism forgiveness is involved with debt and many believe you cannot be blessed or healed until you clear that debt in its entirety. Islam teaches that if someone forgives another that Allah will elevate his/her status and “remove” their sin from them. This belief also supports the idea of works required for salvation, including fasting to appease Allah. Hinduism teaches that to be forgiven of sins, you must perform tasks such as fasting or bathe in a sacred river. It goes the same for Karma when seeking forgiveness from others; it would involve corrective actions to counter the negative acts they committed. Karma is also linked to the idea of reincarnation and what an individual would be reborn as in a future life would be determined based on their actions while living one life versus the next. In Buddhism, the practice of mantras and phrases concerning forgiveness are the way. Sikhism believes that any form of hair removal is a sin so imagine how easily it would be to be found guilty of a sin, and their idea of forgiveness is that we can let go but never forget. Finally, Animism is the belief that all things even inanimate objects possess a spirit or soul and the only way to be forgiven is to make sacrifices. This is not love, it is do or die to those that practice this faith. Christianity is the only one that teaches forgiveness coming from love and not done out of fear of punishment of some sort.



Love is UNCONDITIONAL. Therefore, forgiveness is freely given, not because it would avoid incurring the wrath of an angry God or because you don’t want to be reincarnated as a worm. In 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 defines love as – “Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up, does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away.” Love is charity (love in action), it endures forever. This is the kind of love we should share in our relationships. Unfortunately, society in the modern world has defined it as something that is contrary to God’s plan. Sexual immorality runs rampant corrupting even the minds and hearts of believers, there is a lack of commitment in relationships, the single life and divorce are being glamorized, and “nuclear” families are being dissolved.



More than ever this year, God is saying that we need a reminder of what love truly means because God is love. In 1 John 4:16-19 we have the perfect example of this love – “And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him. Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. We love Him because He first loved us.” Oh, how He loves us! If you ever have any question of how much we are loved by Him, just look at John 3:16-17 – “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.”  The Lord is gracious and merciful in His love.



In the Bible we learn that Israel was God’s first love, the apple of His eye. God delivered the Israelites (His people) from bondage in Egypt through His faithful servant Moses. To which He gave commandments for the people of Israel to follow, but this was not to boss anyone around. God did this because He knew of the giants they would have to face; He knew they would turn from His ways to man’s own understanding and be like the pagans, but the Jews would honor the written law. Discipline was necessary. This was about accountability and obedience. In the book of Leviticus all the sacrifices they were required to do were symbolic for Christ on Calvary and offered reminders of repentance. When Christ was born to the virgin Mary, this was not for Him to witness to the gentile, He was born to live as the Son of man for the Jewish people. He was also born for the same reason He gave in Matthew 5:17 — “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.” In the popular show “The Chosen” the role of Jesus is played by Johnathan Roumie, in the show Jesus is claimed to have said He is the “Law of Moses”. This is blasphemy, in my opinion, because for Jesus to be the Law of Moses, Scripture would be contradicted, and we know God does not make mistakes. In Romans 8:2-4 this idea is invalidated — “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” When God’s people rejected Jesus, persecuted him, and had Him crucified it was then that the gentile (non-Jew) was grafted in. It was then that Jesus was dying for everyone’s sin, not JUST for the Jew.



This is God’s LOVE. It is a mystery to man how you can have the most wicked heart of man and live a prodigal life yet still be forgiven and redeemed, made new with a heart ruled by peace. Sometimes we can find it hard just to forgive a cuss word spoken against us, but Jesus forgives a lifetime of evil. Salvation is the greatest miracle of all! Romans 5:8 proclaims — “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” This is what unconditional love truly is. Society views love much like the idea of perfection in a different light. Every February fourteenth a holiday known as Valentine’s Day is recognized worldwide. It is a day of gift-giving to loved ones such as spouse, a crush, or just a friendly gesture of giving a thoughtful card to a close pal. The traditional gift could vary from chocolates, poetry, flowers, or just giving someone a little extra time. Although we should all behave with a thankful and giving heart year-round, this is a common time for acts of “love”.



The origins of this well-known day are a mystery, but there is a clear theme of love and relationships. Many believe the holiday is derived from a pagan celebration (just like Easter) known as “Lupercalia.” I just want to note that after extensive research Christmas DOES not have pagan origins, so I won’t list it any longer as a pagan custom. As always, this festival was designed to ward off evil spirits, this is a common theme with the pagans, they seem to always be warding off spirits. The purpose of this one was to chase away infertility and was marked by violence, spontaneous matchmaking, and of course animal sacrifice. Although the pagans tried to make everything sacred, even sex, this celebration perverted that by encouraging a time of chaos and lust. Over time these practices evolved modestly, but still encouraged succumbing to the temptations of our flesh. Galatians 5:19-21 warns – “Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” These “works” are everything the pagans represented. This is NOT love.



The other inspiration behind Valentine’s Day was born in the Roman Catholic Church. Valentine (Valentinus) was a name that belonged to three different saints; all three were martyred. All three were beheaded for defying the orders of the Roman Emperor Claudius II. One of the saints secretly married young soldiers and their lovers despite the commands from the emperor outlawing marriage. Claudius forced celibacy in his ranks to prevent distraction of wives and families and keep morale up. The first of the saints expressed love as a martyr. A martyr is someone who dies for what they believe in; it is a sacrifice for someone to surrender everything including their life to stand for their values and faith. These are the saints that suffer persecution just as Jesus did for sharing what they believe. There are Christians today, being beheaded in the Middle East for their belief in Jesus as the Messiah and Son of God. This is true love for Father God. Yahweh is our first love, for it was He that taught us the meaning of “agape” love throughout Scripture. He sent His only Son to be hung on a cross, it is by the Blood of the Lamb that the debt of our sins are paid and we are no longer bound by death (sin); For He loves us unconditionally and His blood has washed us clean. Would you die for Him who died for you?



In Revelation 2:10 a message of victory is revealed – “Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.” The crown of life is awarded to the overcomers; this word means “bravery” in Hebrew, among a few other adjectives describing righteousness. But it is not by our righteousness that we find strength and bravado. Isaiah 61:10 proclaims – “I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, My soul shall be joyful in my God; For He has clothed me with garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness, As a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments, And as a bride adorns herself with jewels.” This is a portrait of marriage in heaven. The church is the Body of Christ, and the body is us. We are the bride for Christ. In Ephesians 5:25-30 the same kind of devotion is expected in the bonds of earthly marriage – “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the Word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. For no one has ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones.” This is true love; it is a sacred covenant between husband and wife but also between mankind and God.



Love is being redefined for believers, it isn’t a box of chocolates, or a fleeting summer romance and it certainly isn’t loving someone straight into hell because you think love means to fear stepping on toes or “judging” someone. Love means restoring a brother or sister in Christ with a spirit of gentleness, not avoiding accountability. Love is also faith, but not just faith in God but believing that someone can repent and desiring it for them, wanting them to have what you have in Christ. Charity is feeding the hungry with the children’s bread and not just sandwiches. Love is unity and finding commonalities in the Christian faith between each believer but also teaching Biblical truth to those led astray. Love is revival of the dying church, made alive again in Christ, taught to walk in the Spirit. Love is having a heart for the broken and those weak in faith, believing in healing for them and not condemning them for their worry.



 I have an example of this to share: there was a woman that was praying for a child, she had suffered miscarriages, but prayed without ceasing for it to be made possible. Other believers gathered around her and prayed over her, some prayed in tongues, some prayed life into her womb, and then one woman stood out from the rest as she prayed. This woman reassured the other in her brokenness and sorrow that even if she was unable to carry a child in her womb, that doesn’t mean God wouldn’t make her a mother to another child that needs love through adoption. Could it be possible that it is God’s will for her to rescue a child and nurture them with God’s love? Could it be that these miracles can take time, or our prayers are answered in a way that doesn’t meet our standards? Through that healing prayer, she may still not experience carrying a child and when she sees that, is the issue a lack of faith and hope in the Lord, or is it that God has another plan for her as a mother? She could break and her doubt could grow if she doesn’t witness that prayer answered the way she expects it. The way we should love is even when we don’t see the miracle right away, we still do as the Holy Spirit leads us and strive to show the broken or the lost God’s love through edification regardless of what we can’t see. That does not mean that we come into agreement with infertility, but we should understand that healing can come in different ways. This understanding and expression of patience and grace for that person is also an expression of God’s love.  Romans 3:3-4 reassures those that are weak in their faith – “Will their unbelief make the faithfulness of God without effect? Certainly not! Indeed, let God be true but every man a liar. As it is written: “That you may be justified in Your words, And may overcome when You are judged.” God is not a liar, but man is. This isn’t always an issue of weak faith or lack of hope. Sometimes the prayers are answered in a way only God knows or understands. It is not man’s understanding that matters and as hearts grow cold, so does that love even for those they doubt.



In Matthew 24:9-12 Jesus reveals that war will be waged against love and truth – “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations from My name’s sake. And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold.” Christians are already hated by the world, but now as the end draws nearer, believers are fighting against one another in the Body of Christ. We must remember to love as Christ loves us. We are being deceived by wolves in sheep’s clothing and our love is growing cold towards one another. To resolve this, we must love because He first loved us, and by reading the Word we can see throughout the Bible examples of how to love God and our neighbor. Don’t listen to man’s traditions, society’s idea of love is a lie. 1 John 3:18 teaches – “My little children, let us not love in word or tongue, but in deed and truth.” Don’t just say you love someone, show them what it means to be loved.



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