By Brother Michel Lankford
This is probably one of the BEST questions of all time. If we get this one right, everything else falls into place more easily. 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 their hormones and dastardly circumstance drives them to break up and chase after someone else next week, or next month.
Above all we MUST learn this: True Love is NOT a FEELING. Genuine Love is NOT an EMOTION. True Love is a CHOICE. It is a DECISION that is followed through with SPECIFIC ACTIONS, BEHAVIORS and CHARACTERISTICS.
Love Defined Bullet List
(1 Corinthians 13:4-13)
- Love is patient.
- Love is kind.
- Love is not jealous; (Meaning NOT sinfully jealous or not jealous for selfish gain, which is wicked, in contrast to being jealous desiring for the OTHER person’s protection, prosperity, and well-being, which is a righteous jealousy. There is a CRUCIAL difference there).
- Love does not brag and is not arrogant.
- Love does not act unbecomingly, or is not rude.
- Love does not seek its own. Love does not demand it’s own way. It allows the other person to choose, despite the consequences. I might beg. I might plead. I might coach. I might argue for you to make choices that will bless and prosper you. However, I will NOT FORCE you to choose life. I will let you choose, but you may also have to bear the consequences of those choices. If you are not free to choose, then it isn’t love. Love can be offered, but Love cannot be forced, otherwise it is not love. For example, That’s WHY the opportunity and the choice to sin HAD to be in the garden of Eden, (Genesis 3); because true love MUST give the other person the opportunity to choose. True love CANNOT FORCE its own way. Otherwise it is NOT Love by definition.
- Love is not easily provoked to anger or rage.
- Love does not take into account a wrong suffered. Love is forgiving
- Love does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth.
- Love keeps the faith. (Love continues to believe through all things)
- Love continues to hopes through all things.
- Love endures, and perseveres through all things.
- Love chooses never to quit, fail, or give up.
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 13:4-8). 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” to the other person (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, (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 REJOICES in and DELIGHTS in the TRUTH. – Meaning love ONLY delights in and rejoices in what Almighty God has defined to be truth, (Psalm 119:142; Psalm 119:151-152; Psalm 119:160; John 14:6; John 17:17
FACT 1: YHWH Almighty God is the very definition and the very embodiment of what Love is, and how Love Functions, (1 John 4:7-8). Therefore, whenever you are truly walking in agreement with God, then you are loving. When you are not walking in agreement with God, then you are not loving by definition.
FACT 2: We CHOOSE what we are going to rejoice in, and what we are going to delight ourselves with.
FACT 3: Love ONLY rejoices in what Almighty God has defined to be truth.
FACT 4: True Love CHOOSES NOT to rejoice or to delight in things that Almighty God has declared to be wicked, to be evil or to be unrighteous in HIS Sight.
FACT 5: IF you CHOOSE to rejoice in, and to delight yourself with things that Almighty God has declared to be wicked, evil, or unrighteous, then you are NOT being a LOVING person at that point; regardless of how affectionate you might feel.
FACT 6: IF you REFUSE to REJOICE in, and to DELIGHT yourself with things that Almighty God’s Instructions and what God has declared to be RIGHTEOUS, GOOD, and TRUE in His Sight; regardless of how affectionate you might feel.
FACT 7: In order to be a genuinely LOVING person, I MUST come into AGREEMENT with God. I must rejoice in, delight in, and embrace what God says is GOOD, RIGHTEOUS, and TRUE. I MUST also REJECT, REFUSE, and NOT DELIGHT in, and NOT celebrate what God has declared to be WICKED, to be EVIL or to be UNRIGHTEOUS in HIS Sight.
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!
Genuine Godly Love is the Cardinal Virtue. THOSE are the choices and actions that identify whether or not I am truly being a loving person. Affectionate feelings DO NOT identify or define Love. Our choices and actions do. It’s EASIER to make loving choices, and to have loving actions when the pleasant and affectionate feelings toward another person are there, but we CAN and we SHOULD make loving choices and have those loving actions REGARDLESS of how we might FEEL at any given point. It’s definitely EASIER to CHOOSE and to ACT Lovingly when affectionate feelings are there, but we CAN make loving choices, and carry forth loving actions, whether we feel affectionate toward a person or not. Good feelings are nice when ever we can get them; but good feelings DO NOT identify your love. Your CHOICES and your ACTIONS, identify whether you are truly a loving person or not. Do not be deceived. Do not deceive yourself.
As It Is Written: “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. (1 John 4:7–8 NASB95)
How do I KNOW that this is the Cardinal Virtue? It’s simple. The Bible states that outright. We just reviewed the list together here.
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)
Christians, PLEASE Stop Ditching Love School
It’s unfortunate, but what many believers fail to understand is that the Commandments of Almighty God were given with the primary purpose in Mind. In other words, regardless of what vehicle God used to display His Commandments, (whether HE spoke directly as on Mount Sinai, or He spoke His Instructions through the prophets, (Moses through John the Baptizer), or He spoke His Instructions through Messiah, or He spoke His Instructions through the apostles who bear witness to the resurrected Messiah), the fact is that the Almighty Father had a primary PURPOSE and a GOAL that He is trying to achieve in giving each of His Commandments and Instructions. He is trying to give us the living mechanics for HOW to LOVE. God is trying to give us the mechanics for HOW to love God with ALL of our being, or HOW to Love our neighbor as ourselves. Learning the living mechanics of HOW to love God, and HOW to love our neighbor as ourselves, is the ENTIRE FUNCTION of the Commandments of God.
As It Is Written: “For this is the love of God, that we keep His Commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome. (1 John 5:3 NKJV)
So, according to the New Testament what is the identifying marker that we love God? We just read it. Loving God means KEEPING His Commandments.
As It Is Written: “But whoever keeps His Word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. (1 John 2:5 NKJV)
So, according to the New Testament, how can I KNOW that I am growing and being perfected in Loving God? We just read it. It’s right here in front of us. I can KNOW for CERTAIN that I am growing and being perfected in love, when I am practicing and KEEPING the Commandments of God.
As It Is Written: “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. (1 John 5:2 NKJV)
So, according to the New Testament, how do I learn and how do I know that I am loving the children of God? How do I know that I am truly loving my neighbor as myself? According to what we just read in front of our Eyes, the way that we know that we love the children of God, is by loving God, and by KEEPING His Commandments.
Folks, speaking for myself, I believe the New Testament. I want to love Almighty God with my WHOLE being. That is one of my life goals. In order to learn the mechanics of HOW to effectively love God, I need to learn and practice KEEPING and DOING His Commandments. That’s what the Commandments are intended to teach me; how to love God effectively. Since practicing the Commandments of God teaches me HOW to love God, then the Commandments of God is something that I cannot do without. The Commandments of God become indispensable to me, because they exist to teach me HOW to love God, and I cannot do without that experiential knowledge. The same principle is true when it comes to learning how to love my neighbor as myself. God’s Commandments exist in part to give me the mechanics for HOW to love my neighbor as myself. Since I cannot do without that experiential knowledge, that also means I cannot do without the Commandments of God, because I NEED the training that God’s Commandments are there to provide. God’s Commandments are INDISPENSABLE for the Christian once we realize what the Commandments are there to teach us. Yes, obeying God’s Commandments will not purchase our salvation. That is purchased through Messiah, of course. However the discipline and the training in the mechanics of how to love God and how to love our neighbor comes through practicing the Commandments of God, which makes God’s Commandments indispensable for the Christian.
Thank you for your kind attention.
Brother R. Michel Lankford
Whole Testament Discipleship Success