At times, those of us reading Scripture in English are short-changed by the language’s limitations. For instance, English has just one word for love, whereas Paul’s original letters, written in Greek, use two words. Believers are promised that God’s love will reside in them (Eph. 3:19). But they often think that refers to a brotherly concern and affection for others (phileo). In fact, the Holy Spirit shows agape love in us—a commitment to another person’s satisfaction, security, and development. We have the same capacity for sacrificial love that Jesus showed at Calvary.
Jesus subtly described the power of sacrificial love in His parable of the prodigal son. The father must have recognized that greed and wanderlust were gnawing at the young man—and that denying his request for an early inheritance would lead to bitterness. So, despite personal and financial sacrifice, he gave the son his share. Then, the father waited patiently while the prodigal learned his lesson.
No doubt that was a trying time—a good dad wants to protect his children from making mistakes! But a wise man also knows that people often must discover hard truths for themselves. Sometimes the most loving thing we can do is to get out of their way.
The prodigal son returned home dirty, contrite, and seeking a place in the servants’ quarters. What he received instead was the full force of his father’s love and instant restoration to his place as the master’s son. That is agape, and it is the kind of love that wins hearts and minds for the Lord.
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