FAITH: Reflecting on the meaning of beloved
"This I Command You, That You Love One Another." John 15:17
On a recent Lord's Day, my sermon touched on the word "beloved" in Hebrews 6:9. This single word says a lot. If we put ourselves in the position of the man who wrote Hebrews, we can sense how meaningful "beloved" is in this text. Imagine the overwhelming pressure of steering a large group of people away from the doctrinal cliff that they are heading toward. And of course, it isn't enough that they not fall off the cliff, no, they must be led back to Jesus and renewed in their faith in Him as the one and only eternal High Priest. The pastor who authored Hebrews deeply loved these people. This obvious by the fact that he chose to try to stop them, though he knew it would be awkward. His shepherding work would bring personal conflict, feelings would be hurt, and friends would become enemies. But it was necessary that he confront them to bring about a correction to the disastrous course they were on. This is love!
When you read "beloved" in your Bible, think "love." A little Koine Greek helps us. The famous word agape (love) is a noun, the verb form that it is derived from is agapao (to love), and the word we read in Hebrews 6:9, agapetos, is the adjective form derived from agapao. It means dearly loved or beloved. This is the same word used in the Gospels exclusively by the Father to the Son. For instance: "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased" (Matt 3:17). This is the love of God within the Triune Godhead. What a depth of love is communicated in this term!
Perfect and eternal love exists between the Father, the Son and the Spirit. And God's love is given to us in many ways. He created us by His love, and He cares for us by supplying all our needs in His love. His love was demonstrated to us when He sent His Son as a sacrifice. "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). If God is love, and He is, then His covenant people will love each other. Husbands will love their wives and children. Wives will love their husbands and children. Children will love their parents and their siblings. The church is love, too. Believers love one another and that love extends out to a world of unbelievers, too.
The simple phrase "love one another" appears 13 times in the Bible. It's in John 13:34 twice, and in 15:12, 17; Rom 13:8; 1 Thessalonians 4:9; 1 Peter 1:22; 1 John 3:11, 23, 4:7, 11, 12 and 2 John 5. Beloved -- it is God's will that you and I love one another! I cannot think of another command or fruit that God emphasizes more than love. To love, or agapao, is to esteem others higher than yourself. There's little confusion as to why God's love resulted in sacrifice, and love leads us to sacrifice, too. Sacrificing yourself for the good of others is a difficult thing to do. Remember the pastor who worked with the Hebrews. He sacrificed his comfort, time and energy to shepherd these folks because he loved them deeply. I can only imagine that some hated him for it, but some certainly loved him for shepherding their souls. This example teaches us that the greatest way we can love every person (believer and unbeliever) is to lead them to Jesus Christ. We are forgetful. We need to be reminded of Jesus and His Gospel frequently (Heb 2:1).
Jesus is the perfect example of loving one another. He willingly gave Himself for us. And so let us keep the memory of Jesus hidden in our hearts, and as we go back to His Word, let Him instruct us about love. May God give us the attitude of Jesus Christ (Philippians 2:5) in all things, who humbled Himself to the point of death (2:8). And by maintaining the attitude of Jesus in our minds, we will be loving one another continually in whatever ways we can.
Dear Lord, lead us to use our gifts, time, and energy to love one another for Your glory alone. Amen!
Chris Cookston is the pastor at Prineville Community Church. He can be reached at 541-447-6315.
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