“Love/Agapao” – Devotional with Chaplain Shelby


How do you define Love? A feeling? An emotion? Some say love is a feeling you feel when you feel something you never felt before.

Many people have written about love. They say love is blind, love is a many splendored thing, love is war, love is the answer, love is all you need.

I found a few interesting quotes on love. One of them said, “to love and be loved is to feel the sun from both sides.” Another wrote, “love is friendship that caught fire.” And the great theologian Dolly Parton wrote, “love is something sent from heaven to worry the hell out of you!”

So many different viewpoints on love. So, what is love?

The Love we’re talking about is best described by the Greek word Agapao, meaning unconditional, preferential love chosen and acted out by the will. It is not love based on the goodness of the beloved, or upon natural affinity or emotion. Rather this is benevolent love that always seeks the good of the beloved. Agape is founded upon deep appreciation and high regard. It is perhaps for this reason, that agape is the love that God commands.
I read a story about a soldier who was captured in WWII and held prisoner. One day there was a shovel missing from the inventory. The enemy officer in charge of the prisoners became enraged. He demanded that the missing shovel be produced. When nobody in the squadron budged, the officer got his gun and threatened to kill them all on the spot. It was obvious the officer meant what he said.

Then one man stepped forward. The officer put away his gun, picked up a shovel and brutally killed the man with it. When it was over, the survivors picked up the body of the man and carried it with them to the second tool check. This time, no shovel was missing. Indeed, there had been a miscount at the first checkpoint.

The word spread like wildfire through the whole camp. An innocent man had been willing to die to save the others! The incident had a profound effect. The men began to treat each other as brothers. When the victorious Allies swept in to rescue them, the survivors lined up in front of their captors and instead of attacking their captors, they protected them. They insisted, “No more hatred. No more killing. Now what we need is forgiveness.”

The sacrifice of one man changed the hearts of those around him. He innocently faced punishment to save others. God willing, we face a situation as grim as this one. But we can still impact those around us by our actions. There is a song that says as much, “they will know we are Christians by our Love.”

Another definition I like says Love is sacrifice and commitment expressed in action. Almost always, love is seen before it is felt. So, what does it look like? John 3:16 reads, “God so loved the world that he sent (God’s action) his only son so that whoever believes in Him (our action) will not die but have everlasting life.” Here we learn what love is. Christ laid down His life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. Verse 18 says, “let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.”

1 John 4:7 reads, “let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love, does not know God, because God is love.” Verse 20 is very telling and clear. It says, “whoever claims to love God yet hates his brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen, 21 And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.” It did not say love your brother or sister if they are good to you or do all the right things. Love is not rooted in yourself. Your ability to love your enemies does not originate within yourself but in your relationship with God. Love is a product of knowing God. Hating even your enemies says that you are not as close to God as you should be. Matt 5:44 reads “But I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that despitefully use you and persecute you.”

I am so grateful I did not have to pass a goodness test for God to love me. His word says that while I was a sinner still sinning, Christ died for me. He didn’t wait for me to try and get it together. He knew it was impossible for me to do enough good and be good enough to ever stand before Him worthy of His love. My acceptance of His perfect Son who imputed his righteousness or goodness to me, redeemed me from an eternity without God, and made me a new creation and gave me new life. So, I can now love the unlovable, because I better understand how unlovable I am and yet the Father still loves me.

God so loved the world that He sent his only son to die for me! Amazing Grace! Amazing Love! So today, we celebrate Love. The love of the Father for his wayward, stubborn and self-willed creation.

Written by Chaplain Smith and Scott Jensen.
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Chaplain Shelby Smith served at a local church for 19 years before joining Arkansas Heart Hospital. Here, he has the opportunity to meet the spiritual needs of patients, their families and our staff. In addition to offering prayer and encouragement, Chaplain Shelby Smith shares a weekly devotional.

Read more of Chaplain Smith’s devotionals.