“We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters.” (1 John 3:16, NLT)
Love is tested by our ability to show it without seeking anything in return. On September 16, 1962, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. preached one of the greatest sermons on counter-cultural love at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, GA. The sermon is titled, “Levels of Love” whereby he sets a thesis on one of the most misunderstood expressions today, love. Dr. King preached that the highest form of love both displayed and described in the Bible is agape. During his sermon he provided a contemporary application by stating, “The person may be tall, or the person may be short. The person may be light, or the person may be dark. The person may be rich, or the person may be poor. The person may be up and in; the person may be down and out. The person may be white; the person may be black. The person may be Jew; the person may be Gentile…[but] you come to the point of loving every man and becomes an all-inclusive love. It is the love of God operating in the human heart.”
Dr. King was often attacked for his nonviolent approach, his incorporation of agape during the Civil Rights movement was frequently labeled as weak and sentimental. However, Dr. King believed that agape love was not at all weak, but one of the strongest powers that could be experienced, “It is a very stern love that would organize itself into collective action to right a wrong by taking on itself suffering.” The apostle John also describes “real love” as being strong through the ultimate act of self-sacrifice demonstrated by Jesus on the cross. Such love, real agape love, does something that no other love can do; it causes us to love others without seeking anything in return.
- What does the apostle John mean when he says, “So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters?”
- What opportunities can you take to love your neighbor as yourself?
- How can you help foster a community not just for the hurt and mistreated, but a community of the hurt and mistreated?