“But above all these things,” Paul says. What things? Your world view (3:1-4), putting to death worldly ways in your life (3:5-9), and putting on the attributes of the new man in Christ such as renewing knowledge of Jesus, impartiality, tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering and forgiveness. There is something that transcends all of these because in reality this one thing incorporates all of the above. That thing is love.
This “love” (ἀγάπη - agapē, ag-ah´-pay) is not a measured affection but literally a love feast, an overflowing lavishing of love on others. It’s interesting that the Greek word agape was not a commonly used word in the secular world. It took Christ to define such love. In Christ God lavished His love on us. Christians are to communicate that love to others. Christians love God supremely because of His love for us. Christians love others sacrificially in obedience to prove our love (John 14:15, 21). Christians love sacrificially as a love offering to the One who loves us so much. He loved so we love (1 John 4:7-12).
Not only is the love lavishing, it is an overcoming love. It is not a love like the world knows. It doesn’t only love those that reciprocate in love. It goes beyond that, it overcomes to love even our enemies. It loves the unlovable (e.g. Luke 6:32-35). That is what God did for us. He loved us while we were still sinners (Rom. 5:8). This is a full rich kind of love and because it comes from God it is a love that “never fails” (1 Cor. 13:4-8a).
The love of God is incredible. It is powerful. It is what distinguishes the Christian from every other person, (or at least it should.) A case can be made that a loveless Christian is no Christian at all (cf. 1 John 3:14-16). Love is the fruit of the Spirit, the evidence of spiritual life (Gal. 5:22-25). If you call yourself a Christian, do you love? Do you love with an agape kind of love? Do you lavish God’s love on others or do you limit its dispersal like the world does?
Love is the “bond of perfection.” The word “bond” (σύνδεσμος - sundĕsmŏs, soon´-des-mos) refers to a ligament, a joint tie, a fastener, or that which ties together. Love is the bond, the glue, that holds us together. Like the cross members that hold a ship together, or like the links in a strong chain, love makes a sturdy relational structure.
How do we define such love? In Jesus selfless sacrificing longsuffering giving of Himself on the cross we see the extent and quality of this love that binds together. It is by viewing His love for us that we are inspired and compelled to love in the same way (2 Cor. 5:14ff.). It is through the indwelling Holy Spirit that we receive such love (Rom. 5:5).
Someone has said, “It is natural to love those who love us. It is supernatural to love those who hate us.” That is why love is the glue and bond of perfection. The love of Christ moves us to go beyond what would normally be expected. We need love to hold us together. We are so weak. But the love of Christ is so strong.
For instance, the following piece by an unknown author illustrates love:
What is love?
It is silence--when your words would hurt.
It is patience--when your neighbor's curt.
It is deafness--when a scandal flows.
It is thoughtfulness--for other's woes.
It is promptness--when stern duty calls.
It is courage--when misfortune falls.
You can see how such love will guard relationships and hold them together. Sometimes we need to be silent instead of addressing an issue with someone. They may not be ready to hear. Sometimes God would have us trust Him silently and let Him do the talking. Patience is required to bear the hurts of others. It’s not a bad idea to shut out scandalous tidbits of information. It’s always good to be mindful of other’s needs. A servant is prompt when the Lord calls us to a task. There are times when courage is required to take steps of faith or stand still in faith. All of it is an expression of agape love.
Often I have couples come to me for counseling. Inevitably the root issue is one of love or a lack thereof. There are always different situations with differing details. But the bottom line always comes down to love. Too often the problem stems from one or both of the partners being more concerned about who is right and winning an argument than they are about genuinely loving each other with an agape love.
Husbands, you are called by God to love your wives with an agape love. That means lavishing love on them. That means sacrificing to love them; sacrificing your rights and pride. That means serving in love. That means loving through pain and hurt. And wives, you are called to submit to your own husband in love. Without the love of the Spirit to empower you that won’t happen (Eph. 5:21-33). The question remains for each husband and wife, “Will you count the cost? Will you go to the cross for your mate? For Jesus? Will you deny yourself and walk in the love of the Spirit?”
Both husbands and wives need to put on love in their marriages. And parents and children need to put on love in their relationships. And brothers and sisters in Christ need to put on love in the church. Wherever we are and in all that we do, we need to put on God’s love (e.g. Eph. 6:1-9).
The call to love like Jesus is not an easy calling to answer. In fact it can be one of the most difficult if not the most difficult things the Christian does. That is why we need to rely on the Holy Spirit to provide us that love and empower us to love (Rom. 8:26a). No matter how difficult loving others is, it is always worth it. And God is able to cause every circumstance to work together for good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). That is God’s promise. That is God’s purpose; to love. God is faithful. He will do what He promises to do. Trust Him. Love.
When we trust God and put on this love, it becomes for us the bond of “perfection” (τελειότης - tĕlĕiŏtēs, tel-i-ot´-ace) or perfectness, completeness, maturation. It is through love that we realize our purpose as Christ’s disciples. Love is what distinguishes a follower of Jesus, a disciple of Jesus (John 13:34-35). As we follow in the steps of Jesus and love we find it is often a very difficult road. But with the power of the Spirit, like Jesus, we love to the end (John 13:1). And in the end, like Jesus, we will come through victorious. Nothing can separate us from the love of Christ. And empowered by the love of the Spirit we can be more than conquerors (Romans 8:37-39). That is a glorious thing to experience. That is an enriching edifying way to live. Those who live to love like Jesus are His instruments to bring glory to His name. Above all put on love.