What exactly does Scripture mean when it uses the word "love"? In English, the word "love" has a variety of meanings. It is used for the mighty passion that moves in the heart of God but it is used also to describe such things as the flutterings of the adolescent heart in spring, an extramarital affair, or a homosexual relationship. The one word "love" has to be spread over a multiplicity of diverse meanings. The Greek language is much richer in this respect. It has four words for love. One is eros, meaning love between the sexes. Another is philia, meaning affectionate human love. Then there is the word storge, meaning family love. The most powerful word for love, however, is agape, which means unconditional love -- the love that surges in the heart of God. When Paul says, "the fruit of the Spirit is love," the word he uses for love is agape. He means that the love we are expected to experience and demonstrate when we are indwelt by the Spirit is not just love in general, but love of a specific kind -- the love which we see exemplified in Jesus.
In the text before us today, Paul says: "For Christ's love compels us." This cuts deep. It is possible to be compelled by the love of achievement, of success, of a cause, of a fight. What compels you -- the love of a cause or the love of Christ? The enemies of the early Christians complained that "these followers of Jesus love each other even before they are acquainted." They did. They couldn't help it, for the very nature of the faith they had embraced was love.
Father, as I look into my heart in these few moments to see what controls me, help me to come out with the same answer as the apostle Paul -- "the love of Christ." Pour Your love in so that I may pour it out to others. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
For Further Study
1. What is the ultimate expression of love?
2. What was Peter's testimony of the scattered strangers?