“But as you excel in everything — in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness and in our love for you — see that you excel in this act of grace also. I say this not as a command, but to prove by the earnestness of others that your love also is genuine. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.” 2 Corinthians 8:7-9; ESV.

This particular passage from second Corinthians 8 is part of a study on encouragement to give generously. And when we hear that phrase, some people might think that I’m referring to giving generously to the church. This is not my intention. And it is not my intention to be able to focus on just the financial aspect of giving. My intent for giving is to be able to give in the same way that Christ gave to us, giving of Himself so that we can have value and acceptance. This is my focus for this article.

For those of you who are avid readers of mine, you know that most of my articles focus on relationships: relationships with God and man, relationships with one another and relationships with ourselves. And in all of those various articles, the main focus that I try to bring out in all of these is the component of love. In my experience in my many years of life on this earth, there is no greater importance than what genuine love can do for a life. I have seen it proven over and over again how genuine love can transform the most broken and shattered life and turn it into a fragrant offering to the world around them.

But the key factor is this: This love must be genuine in order to make that difference. You will agree with me that there are many variations of love — brotherly love, erotic love, friendships, infatuations — just to name a few.

The love to which I am referring to is what is known as agape love, which leads to unconditional love. Unconditional love is not love that one doesn’t necessarily deserve, but is granted to the individual nonetheless. It is a type of love that asked nothing in return. I may love you because you love me. With agape love, I love you regardless if you love me. My motives are not to get anything out of view or from you, it is simply that I love you and want the best for you.

And this is the love that I’m talking about which God has for each and every one of us. And when I say each and every one of us, I’m not just referring to Christians/believers. I am referring to everybody, period. God loves us whether we believe in him or not. God loves us regardless of our race, gender, or social status, or sexual orientation and whatever else you want to throw in the mix. God loves us genuinely!

When an individual is loved like this, that individual begins to be able to see the value they possess in the life of one who is giving such love. If I can use an earthly example, my relationship with my wife over the last 35 years has given me a tremendous amount of self-worth because of the way that she has loved me throughout those 35 years. That love has helped me to be more confident in who I am because of the way she makes me feel when I am with her. In the same manner, God’s love has transformed me and has made such a tremendous difference in my life, that love has allowed me to be able to love the world around me to try to improve it for the better. We have such a great ability to rid the world around us of great hostility and hatred if we were able to use genuine love in our relationships with one another.

In looking at First Corinthians 13, see how God wants us to love one another using His formula in how to love one another:

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a; ESV.

If we, as a society, are able to love like this, or even as individuals, can you begin to imagine the impact that this would have on not only society, our communities, and our families but also on ourselves? Can you imagine how much negativity we could erase and how much healing that could take place if we were to love this way?

I’m not talking about the type of love that is all rainbows and unicorns. I referred to this love that is found in first Corinthians 13. This specific type of love has the ability to bring healing and restoration to any broken life, if each one of us is called to love in such a fashion. This isn’t a suggestion for believers; this is a covenant. This is the type of love that reflects Christ because it is Christ. We are called to mirror that love.

I charge each of us to love in such a manner. Study the Scriptures provided to learn how to develop this type of love. And if you have this love developed, then you must put it into action, for only through action can we see results.

The Rev. John Boyanowski serves at Pleasant Lake United Methodist Church.

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