In last week’s study, we defined what true love really means for the genuine believer.  To be clear, I mean those that genuinely believe in the Lord.  We are to strive for that agape type of love. Agape love:  love in the highest form; unconditional love; the love of God.  Now that love has been defined for us and we have a better understanding of what love is, we must move forward in our study on love.

We ended last week’s study by taking a look at this scripture:

37 Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’

Matthew 22:37-39 NKJV

This scripture is so important to our study on love.  You see, everybody wants to be loved – everybody wants somebody to love them.  However, Jesus lays out the order in which we should prioritize our love.

Properly prioritizing your love according to scripture

Who or what do you love the most?  Take a moment to jot down your answer before you continue reading this study.  I ask you to do this because this thought will play a very important role in our study today. 

Now, let’s take a look at this scripture again and see how we should love.  Jesus, God in the flesh, says that we should first love the Lord our God (Matt. 22:37).  Jesus says, “you shall love the Lord your God” before He mentions anybody else!  We should love the Lord more than we love anybody else!  Somebody will ask, “more than my wife or husband? More than my sister or brother?  More than my parents?  More than my children?”  The answer is very clear, we should love the Lord over everybody and everything.  Why is this the case?

We should love the Lord because He first loved us!

19 We love because he first loved us.

1 John 4:19 NKJV

Often times we do not put the Lord as our first priority, especially when it comes to love.  We will put others in His place or we will even put materials in His place.  Who or what did you write down for your answer of who/what you love the most? 

You should know that I am guilty of this as well.  Sometimes we will say that we love the Lord first but many times our actions speak differently.  Where we should love the Lord first, we love our husbands or our wives, or our children, or our siblings or other things.  Where we should love the Lord first, we will put our love for fancy things and our love for great wealth in His place.  You see, we have already started off in the wrong place when it comes to our love.

So, first on our prioritization list of love, we have:

  1. The Lord our God

Now, I want you to pay very close attention to who Jesus said we should love next.  Jesus says (Matt. 22:39), “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  You will recall that this is a callback to the command we saw in last week’s study found in the Old Testament (Lev. 19:34).  What Jesus says here might sound controversial to some, but we should not be mistaken or confused by what He says.  Jesus says we should love our neighbor as we love ourselves.

I preached a couple of months ago – Do You Love “Me”?  This was a sermon that also focused on Matthew 22:37-39.  I focused on falling in love with yourself.  This, I tell you, is a very controversial topic for some.  Why?  Because we have been taught since we were children not to be selfish.  Loving yourself over others is thought to be very selfish and something that a believer should not do.  However, I tell you, Jesus tells us that we should love ourselves.

If you want to understand the order that Jesus tells us we should love in, here it is listed out for you:

  1.  Love the Lord our God
  2.  Love yourself
  3.  Love your neighbor

You see, it is impossible for us to love our neighbor if we have not fallen in love with ourselves first.  It is impossible for us to fall in love with ourselves if we have not first fallen in love with the Lord.

Again, I want to make it clear that when I say “love”, I am not focusing on that eros type of love (love of body, sexual, desirous love).  When we think of “self-love” we instantly begin to think more on the “eros” side of love – physically. However, love is actually more of a spiritual thing; we have come to realize this since we defined that true love is the Lord.  The Lord is not physical so the love that He shared with us is not a physical love but a spiritual love.

With that said, we cannot love the Lord with the eros, storge, or philia type of love.  We can only love the Lord with that agape love – that unconditional love.  We must love the Lord in our spirit because it’s impossible for us to love Him any other way.  Self-love is also the same and we must recognize that!  It’s certainly very important to love who you are physically, but we’re going to push past that point and take a look on the inside at our spiritual self.

Falling in love with yourself

The first time that any of us take a deep look into who we are on the inside, we should not love that person.  You see, we must be careful of the inner self that we fall in love with.  Here’s what I mean by this: worldly wisdom says to love who you are both inside and out but the world doesn’t understand that first inner self because the world does not understand things of the spirit.  The world does not accept the Lord nor does the world love the Lord (John 15:18-25).  So, we must push past the world’s teaching on love and look at this through what we have learned spiritually in the word. 

The inner self that we end up falling in love with, will determine the kind of love that we share and even get in return.  We want to share that agape love, but at the same time, we want to receive that agape love from others in return.  How can we do this if we fall in love with the wrong inner self.

The first self we see is not our best self.  We look inside and all we see are the wrongs, the terrible deeds, and the wicked things that we have done.  This first self is actually full of mess and full of sin – this man is a sinner and you shouldn’t fall in love with him (her).  Many people are being told to look on the inside and love who they are.  When they look inside, they see that they are not a “good person”.  Some decide that there’s “no fixing” who they are while others will accept and love who they are on the inside because they are being told that they should accept who they are. 

Too many people end up falling in love with the wrong self.  You see, this self will accept any old kind of love given to him/her and will then share any kind with others.  The problem with sharing this kind of “love” is that this love is filled with all kinds of animus, deceit, and wickedness.  This love believes in scheming and being deceptive.  This type of love is here today and gone tomorrow.  Everything is out of whack with this kind of love – this love makes people do crazy things.

We must not ever fall in love with the sinner but unfortunately, many people are being told to accept themselves as they are.  This idea of love is good in worldly wisdom but spiritually speaking it would seem rather foolish.  Again, God is the definition of love and none of those actions sounds like the way that the Lord has loved us. 

You don’t have to accept that you are a sinner and you do not have to accept that there is nobody that can’t fix who you are when the Lord is more than capable.  God can cleanse your spirit and free you from that first self and He wants to do so because He loves you.  However, the question is whether or not you love yourself enough to allow the Lord to do His work inside of you.

But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.

1 John 1:7 NKJV

When you have been washed by the blood of Jesus – not a literal/physical washing but spiritual – you become a new creature.  You must love yourself to take on such a cleansing.  When you are washed by the blood of Jesus, you become a new self

17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.

2 Corinthians 5:17 NKJV

This new creation (new inner self) that you have become, on the inside, is one that you should fall in love with.  The biggest mistake we can make is to choose not to believe in any of this is possible – not to believe in the power of the Lord.  To choose not to believe in any of this leaves us with a veil over our eyes that will blind us from knowing God and, therefore, knowing that true agape love.

Does any of this mean you will never understand or find love if you do not believe in the Lord?  Absolutely not.  Understand that there are two different thoughts on love going on here – there’s the worldly wisdom on love and the spiritual wisdom on love.  The worldly wisdom on love includes that eros, philia, storge type of love; these forms of love that can be found in the world.  However, that agape love is a love that comes from only one place – the Lord.  Some will say they have “unconditional” love, but that unconditional love pales in comparison to the love of God.  Any other love is sadly a poor man’s imitation of true agape love.

Our agape love as believers

When we become a genuine believer of the Lord, He comes and dwells inside of us.  The Lord is not going to come and dwell inside of a temple that’s filled with wickedness.  This is why we must turn to the Lord and allow Him to cleanse us of our wickedness. The Holy Spirit comes and dwells inside of all true worshipers. In other words, that agape love comes to dwell in us.

Remember our list:

  1.  Love the Lord our God
  2. Love ourselves
  3. Love our neighbors (everybody – family, friends, acquaintances, and strangers)

The apostle Paul wrote beautifully about that true love in his first letter to the people of Corinth.  He says:

4 Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up

1 Corinthians 13:4 NKJV

Let’s understand, again, when Paul says this, he’s not talking about that eros, storge, philia type of love.  Paul is talking about that agape type of love – the love of God and the love that now dwells in us.  You will recall how I said that first inner man’s love has all kinds of wickedness, deceit, and scheming involved in it – notice the difference in loves.

Paul says that true love is long and kind.  Worldly wisdom teaches us that love is a temporary thing and that is certainly true with the eros type of love and even the storge and philia type of love.  Our sexual desire for others come and go.  Some folks are getting married solely off of that eros type of love but what happens when that type of love fades?  One day, the one that loves you, might become your biggest enemy.

Worldly wisdom puts love on for show – for an audience – but true love does not parade itself nor is it puffed up – does not boast or brag.  We certainly love to be able to show off our affection for one another, right?  However, we must admit that the love that parades itself is not the love of God.  This is not to say that there is anything wrong with that.

However, we must also admit that there are times when we want a great deal more than that – especially from our significant other.  Unfortunately, what has happened in some cases is that we have found that agape love but our significant other hasn’t truly found that agape love.  We are left trying to pull a love out of them that simply doesn’t exist in them.  We end up putting out not only that eros type of love but also our agape love, and in return, there end up being no agape love coming back in return.  There are many people who are hurting today because of this very reason.

Worldly wisdom says “love hurts”, but love should not create any kind of pain for us.  We must remember the way the Lord loves us and the way that we have loved ourselves.  We have fallen in love with the Lord unconditionally and have fallen in love with ourselves unconditionally.  We know what real true love feels like from two places – the Lord and ourselves.  Therefore, we should not allow ourselves to be caught in a situation where we feel love has become painful. 

5 [love] does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil

1 Corinthians 13:5 NKJV

Worldly wisdom says that love makes people act crazy sometimes.  Agape love does not behave rudely nor is it provoked to think evil.  We, as believers, have to learn how to keep those other types of love in check because they can become very reckless.  True love is of God, there is no evil in the Lord, therefore, there is no animus or evil in the love of God.  If there is no evil in the love of God, there should be no evil in our love.

The best way that we can keep the other types of love in check is by letting the love of God rule us (Colossians 3:15).  We cannot allow the other loves to move us to a place where we should not be spiritually.  If you are ever moved to such a place, the best thing that you can do is remove yourself from the cause or source.  We will see that there is nothing wrong with loving at a distance.

7 [love] bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

1 Corinthians 13:7 NKJV

True love never gives up and never dies.  Has the Lord ever given up on you?  You see, I can tell you for a fact that the Lord has never given up on me!  This is the kind of love that we should find within ourselves and this is also the love we should have towards others.

We often see this phrase, “endures all things” and we apply it in the wrong manner.  We must remember that Paul says to us that agape love does not behave rudely nor does it thinks evil.  We cannot allow ourselves to be hurt by others physically, mentally, or spiritually.  Real love does not abuse anybody – we must understand that.  You have loved yourself, therefore, you should not accept any such “love”.

The endurance of love is being there and not giving up on those who are genuine in their love.  There are many people that speak about love and will say that they “love” someone but their love is not genuine.  Do not allow your love to become a burden or to hurt you – we will talk more on this in a moment.

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.

1 Corinthians 13:8 NKJV

That true love will never fail when all other things will one day fail.

13 And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

1 Corinthians 13:13 NKJV

Let us love the Lord with all of our heart and soul.  Let us then learn to truly love ourselves unconditionally.  When we have learned what love is and loved ourselves, let us take that type of love and share it with others – our neighbors (everybody around us).

Love is not a burden

The problem that many of us have is that we let love become a burden because we have been told that love “hurts”.  We have also been taught that “real love” endures.  However, we must remember that many people talk about love from a worldly wisdom perspective.  Love is not abusive and love does not hurt – we do not have to stand for such because we have chosen to love the Lord and love ourselves. 

When we have learned to love God and ourselves with that agape love, we will not settle for a love that hurts.  Truthfully, we want others to love us as the Lord loves us and as we love ourselves because we know that love is real.  Others may accept a lesser kind of love but that does not mean that we have to accept a lesser kind of love.  Now, I want you to understand that I am not talking about physical standards, wealth standards, or anything along those lines. 

I want to share something else that Paul wrote on the subject of love.  Paul wrote:

13 For I mean not that other men be eased, and ye burdened:

2 Corinthians 8:13 NKJV

When Paul wrote this scripture to the people of Corinth, he was talking to the people on giving.  When he was sharing the gospel on his journeys, Paul would often receive a collection from the people to share with those in Jerusalem.  The people would give out of love and do for others out of love – that unconditional agape love.  This also ties into what we have learned over the past couple of weeks about love.

A lot of times we end up easing others with the agape love we are putting out there.  That love of God that comes naturally to you the believer, is a love that’s capable of easing the burdens of others.  Many times you go up and beyond for others because that is all you know how to do – there’s nothing wrong with this.

However, if we’re being truthful, we must admit to ourselves that not everybody has that agape love.  So, what ends up happening?  While you are going out of the way, they may be shortchanging you when it comes to love.  In other words, your abundance of love has eased them but you end up becoming burdened because you’re getting no such love in return.

So, Paul says:

14 But by an equality, that now at this time your abundance may be a supply for their want, that their abundance also may be a supply for your want: that there may be equality:

2 Corinthians 8:14 NKJV

Love is a two-way street – worldly wisdom actually understands this somewhat.  Your love for others, including a special someone, should not be a burden on you.  If you are not getting an equal love in return, in the end, all you are doing is hurting yourself.  We must be cognizant of the love that we are receiving from others.  Does this mean we should measure the love we put out? No, not necessarily.  We must, however, recognize when we are not getting that agape love in return so that we can know when to at least speak up or take any other action that does not lead to us being in pain or acting out of pain.

It is love when you can leave and let be without there being absolutely no animus in your heart.  Sometimes, the best way to love somebody just might be at a distance.

 Jesus says this about loving other:

But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you

Matthew 5:44 NKJV

Our love goes more off of human emotion whereas the Lord’s love (His grace) truly is unconditional in every sense of the word unconditional.  Love, however, is not an emotion.  Love is a feeling, a choice, and ultimately it is an action. 

For us to be able to love those who hate us and spitefully use us, we have to often remove our emotion from the equation, especially if we are striving for that agape love.  Jesus says we should still pray (bless) our enemies and those who curse us.  We should still treat people right even if they hate us or spitefully use us.  At the same time, we do not have to allow folks to abuse us with whatever love they are choosing to put out there.  It is ok for you to act on your own self-interests and get out of terrible situations and pray for them.

Faith and love is the ticket to heaven

We must remember that the Lord chooses to love His creation regardless of who we are.  As believers, we are to recognize the Lord’s love for being true love and we are to then imitate God’s love.  Should we choose to refuse to love others as the Lord has loved us, then we do not truly believe nor walk in His way.

He who says, “I know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked.

1 John 2:4-6 NKJV

If we do not walk in His way and if we are not obedient, then how can we claim to have a heavenly home with the Lord?  Therefore, we must do our very best to love.

God is not going to allow hatred to enter into the new heaven that He has prepared for us.  He is going to toss sin, the devil, and death into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:10, Revelation 20:14).  All of those who were found to be like the devil, full of hatred and sin, will also be cast away (Revelation 20:15).  There is a great consequence for choosing not to love with true agape love.

Faith, genuine faith, will consciously always strive to love.  Let us remember that our love should be without wickedness and should think no evil.  Our love is not of the world – there will be many people that say to you, “I can’t love folks the way that you do”.  This is said because they have not loved the Lord, experienced His love, nor do they love themselves.  I hope you have enjoyed this two part study on love!  Please share with somebody somewhere.  Also, if you would like to add anything or ask questions, feel free to do so below.  I respond to comments!  May the Lord continue to keep and to bless all of you.


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