After yesterday’s post, which was awash in the rapture of agape, it time to take a step back and apply the balancing perspective. One reader, March, left the following comment.
So is agape giving anytime we are asked? I fall so many times into the trap of giving only to find that the gift was ill spent. Is agape giving without question? Is agape withholding the gift when you feel uncertain as to how it will be used?
My ministry is within a culture of schemers and scammers. I would dearly love a clear cut understanding of giving within the bounds of agape.
A good question: “anytime we are asked?”
The short answer is no. But, fleshing out that no is the purpose of today’s post. Agape, like everything in our Christian life, must fit into the context of all of the other demands of scripture. There are three passages (out of numerous possibilities) that I would like to use to balance out the utter givingness of of agape.
- James 4:3. “You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.”
- John 14:21. “Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.”
- Philippians 1:9-11. “And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.
James 4:3. Using God as our example, we see that his essential agape does not force him to give to us any time we ask, especially, as James notes, when what we are asking for will be used improperly.
You are walking down the street and a person comes up and asks you for a dollar or two. It seems pretty obvious they are trying to get money for alcohol or drugs. It is easy to say no in this situation. They would use the money improperly. That is the obvious response in keeping with the illustration in James. However, agape doesn’t end there. Agape prompts you to ask them what have they had to eat today; to offer to buy them some real food; to give them some tangle aid and along with it, Christian witness.
John 14:21. We are commanded many things in Scripture, many of which require us to give aid to those in need. It is when we adhere to those commandments that we demonstrate our love, our agape for our Lord. But aid is meeting the need, not the wants or passions of another.
One area that distorts the concept of need is how our society has made a disease of everything, including all forms of addiction. The addict has “needs”, but those are not the kind of needs we as lovers of God are called to meet. We serve the larger need everyone has of taking proper care of what God has given them.
Philippians 1:9-11. In this passage, we arrive at the key component of agape, indeed of love period. It is to be exercised in the most excellent way, using all of our knowledge, understanding, and spritiual discernment. Every exercise of agape should be pure and blameless, bearing righteousness as the fruit of our actions.
Agape is the source of tough love; love that always seeks the absolute best for the other, while acting in holiness and righteousness in all it does. It does not excuse, or enable sin and destruction. It does what is right and true, no matter the cost it brings to bear on us.
There will be times when we are not sure what to do, even after prayerful consideration. So, sometimes all we can do is act sacrificially and leave the hindmost to God. When we have done that, and things turn out wrong or we were taken advantage of, that from my perspective is when the true test arrives. As Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 13:5 and 7 agape is not irritable or resentful, instead it endures all things. When we act in honest love and are wronged, we do not hold a grudge, seek revenge, or get angry. That does not mean we don’t call people to task; we do. We just do it for the right reasons in the right way.
The path of agape is the most difficult path in all creation. It goes to the very heart of God, down a very narrow path, though the smallest gate imaginable. That is why so few walk it all the way, persevere to the very end. But when we do; when we take up our cross and hold diligently to the road less traveled, we walk in the footsteps of Christ and as we approach the heart of our Creator, we will find our Lord already there, waiting to welcome us.
Grace and peace and agape be yours, now and forever. Amen.