By Brother Michel Lankford
The Bible already overtly answers that question: The ultimate virtue is LOVE. Now, when I speak about love in this context, I am not talking about two moonie-eyed teenagers who are infatuated and exhilarated over each other and cannot bear to be parted from each other for a second, until there hormones and dastardly circumstance drives them to break up and chase after someone else next week, or next month.
No, when discussing the Supreme and Cardinal virtue, the kind of Love that I’m talking about is the kind that would make you lay aside your glory, your power and your position, to put yourself in the shoes and circumstance of the one you love, so that you could understand and relate better to the one that you love, (Hebrews 7:25).
It’s the kind of love where you would endure and overcome hardship, sickness, famine, temptation, ridicule, false accusations, and even torture, all to make sure that the object of your love would prosper and be well, and would not be destroyed, (Isaiah 53:1-12).
The Cardinal virtue is the kind of love where you would rather die yourself, then to see the one that you love perish or be destroyed, even when they deserve it, and you don’t deserve it.
The Cardinal virtue is the kind of love that even when the object of your love rejects you in horrible ways, you are crying out to heaven for their forgiveness, so that they will not need to be condemned. Let’s make sure that we understand. That’s the kind of love that we are talking about here.
As It Is Written:
“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. (Romans 5:8–9 NASB95)
As It Is Written:
“In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 4:10 NASB95)
Make no mistake. This is the kind of love that we are called to grow into and to develop within ourselves for how we treat one another
As It Is Written:
“Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. (1 John 4:11 NASB95)
agapē: (noun form) agapaō (verb form)- [ἀγαπάω]This is God’s kind of perfect love. It’s God’s defining characteristic and the kind of love that we are to become partakers of as born again believers. This kind of love’s attributes are described in 1 Corinthians 4:4-8). This is the kind of love we are told to grow into as part of the command we are studying now.
Agapē is Patient – meaning to persevere or put up with long-term (Hebrews 6:15; 1 Thessalonians 5:14).
Agapē is Kind – meaning to be, “Of serviceable good” (1 Corinthians 13:4).
Agapē does NOT Envy – meaning it does not selfishly covet or crave to possess another person’s blessings, position or possessions (i.e. Acts 17:5).
Agapē does NOT Brag or Boast – meaning it does not parade its accomplishments, nor does it puff itself up at the expense of others (i.e. Matthew 6:1-4; Luke 18:9-14; Romans 12:3; Philippians 2:3; Luke 14:8-11).
Agapē does NOT act unbecomingly, it is not rude – loosely meaning that one does not behave in such a way that would bring any unnecessary embarrassment, discredit or dishonor to your Lord, to yourself, or to your neighbor.
Agapē does NOT pursue with insistence upon, or demand its own way (i.e. Israel insisting upon the King instead of being willing to be ruled by God – 1 Samuel 8:1-22; as opposed to the contrasting attitude of Christ – Luke 22:42; Matthew 6:9-11, 33). This particular attribute of love is WHY humankind was given free will, and why God doesn’t simply automatically force everyone to follow Him. True Love must allow the opportunity for the other person to choose.
Agapē is NOT easily provoked or easily motivated to anger- meaning not given to losing its temper (akin to: Proverbs 29:22; Esther 1:10-12; in contrast Exodus 34:6; Titus 1:7; James 1:19-25).
Agapē forgives; meaning, it refuses to hold onto a grudge or keep records of wrongs that someone has done against it, especially when the offender asks for forgiveness (i.e. Matthew 18:21-35; Luke 7:39-50; Matthew 6:14 -15; Ephesians 4:25-32).
Agapē does NOT rejoice in evil. – Meaning love does not, celebrate endorse or honor sin or iniquity, instead, it only rejoices when Righteousness and Truth prevail (i.e. 1 Corinthians 13:6; akin to: Psalm 15:1-4 in contrast to: Romans 1:32; Proverbs 4:16; 17:15; 24:24; Isaiah 5:20-24).
Agapē bears up under all things – meaning love perseveres in the above characteristics through all things; meaning to push through and endure (i.e. Luke 23:34; 1 Corinthians 9:12)
Agapē continues believing; maintains faith in God and His principles through all things (i.e. Proverbs 3:5-8; Proverbs 37:3)
Agapē continues hoping in the Lord – meaning a faithful expectation of a Godly result (i.e. Matthew 7:7-8; Galatians 6:7-10; Romans 8:23-25; Hebrews 11:6).
Agapē continues – meaning it never fails, it never collapses, it never quits, and it never gives up…
According to the command, (Matthew 5:44), we are supposed to cooperate with God to the point where He transforms us so that the above attributes will describe how we treat our enemies! No matter how you slice it that is a tall order. When we understand what God’s real standards are, there is not a single one of us who can correctly say that we have arrived. Folks let’s be honest, we don’t even always treat our friends this well, let alone our enemies. If we respect God’s standards, we know that we have a long way to grow!
How do I KNOW that this is the Cardinal Virtue? It’s simple. The Bible states that outright:
As It Is Written:
“And now these three things remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13:13 LEB)