“Litmus test” is a phrase used for tests that effectively and decisively determine someone’s true intentions, beliefs, or character. Prayerful study of the Bible has convinced me that the fundamental principle of God’s Kingdom is agape love, and that, therefore, agape love is the best litmus test for determining whether someone is a practicing Christian and disciple of Jesus.
Let me group together for you some scriptures that persuade me:
“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent His only Son into the world, so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and His love is perfected in us.” (1 John 4:7-12)
“And [Jesus] said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.’” (Matthew 22:37-40)
“By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35)
“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” (Colossians 3:12-14)
“Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:8)
The great challenge of agape love, illustrated in the parable of the Good Samaritan, is that it applies to friends, foes, and strangers. (Luke 10:30-37) Our Lord commands us to “love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you”. (Luke 6:27-28) We are to love everyone God loves. (Matthew 5:43-48)
The extraordinary importance of agape love is revealed in the Apostle Paul’s dramatic statements at 1 Corinthians 13:1-3. We can have all the other characteristics of a wonderful Christian: flawless doctrine, mountain-moving faith, lavish generosity, and sacrificial service. But even then, if we do not have agape love, we are nothing and gain nothing.
Our agape love must be in truth and deed, not just lip service. (1 John 3:18) We must speak the truth in agape love. (Ephesians 4:15) Our faith only works through agape love. (Galatians 5:6) And our witness to this agape love requires not only that we refrain from sins against agape love, but that we refrain from approving of others when they sin against agape love, including those in politics and media on both sides of the aisle. (Romans 1:32)
Agape love of the Lord is best manifested by learning and keeping His commands. (John 14:21, 23; Matthew 28:18-20) For that reason, agape love of others never rejoices at their wrongdoing or sin. (1 Corinthians 13:6)
At the same time, agape love recognizes that we all fall short and that the lost, in particular, are going to act lost because they are so susceptible to the influence of Satan, the enemy of God and all humankind. (2 Corinthians 4:4; 1 John 5:19; Ephesians 6:12) Jesus reserved His “harsh words” for religious leaders, not the tax collectors and prostitutes. (Luke 11:37-52; Matthew 9:10-13) The lost are the harvest. (Matthew 9:37-38)
Every Christian knows the compelling definition of agape love given by Paul at 1 Corinthians 13:4-8:
“[Agape] 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.”
What the Church must understand amidst the rising darkness in our nation and world is that it is not enough to know the definition of agape love. We must live it. (Matthew 7:24-27; James 1:22-25)
The good news is the God of agape love lives in us through His Holy Spirit, giving us the ability to agape love as He has commanded us. (Romans 5:5) My dear friends, let us all abide in His love. (John 15:9)
God bless you, and God bless our community.