At times, those of us reading Scripture in English are shortchanged by the language’s limitations. For instance, English has just one word for love, but Paul’s original letters, written in Greek, use two words. Believers are promised that God’s love will reside in them (Ephesians 3:19). But we often think that refers to phileo love—brotherly concern and affection for others. Yet the truth is, the Holy Spirit shows agape love in us—a commitment to another person’s security, satisfaction, and development.
We, too, have the capacity to show the same sacrificial love Jesus demonstrated at Calvary. He subtly described the power of this 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 of the estate. Then, the father waited 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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