Of Agapao and Sheep

Today is Saturday, the twenty-fourth of September, 2022, in the twenty-fifth week of Ordinary Time.

May the peace of Christ dwell in your soul!

Day 23,571


Dear Father in heaven, we long to be your children and to grow closer and closer to eternal life with all its goodness and truth. In your love to us your children, bless us as we walk on earth under great stress and temptation. Keep us from going astray, and let what you have placed in our hearts grow toward perfection, to your glory and your honor. May our hearts always know the joy that our struggle and suffering are not in vain, that if we are faithful, we may bring forth the fruit of righteousness. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)

Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.
(John 12:24-25 NIV)

  1. for the joy of knowing that any struggle and suffering we endure in this life are not in vain
  2. that the crimson stain of our sin is washed whiter than snow
  3. for the perfect, inexplicable love that our Father has for us
  4. for the fact that there is nothing that we can do to either diminish or increase that love
  5. that God does not get angry with us for our sins (thanks to Jesus’s blood on the Cross)

“Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.”
(Isaiah 1:18 ESV)

My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.
(1 John 2:1-6 ESV)

Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.
(1 John 2:9-11 ESV)

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.
(1 John 2:15-17 ESV)

1 John is such a wonderful book. There is so much good material in there. Chapter 2 deals with several different subjects. Verse 6 gives us a good way to measure our relationship with Christ. If we abide in Him, we will be walking “in the same way in which he walked.” Unfortunately, it appears that the only part of Jesus’s walk that some folks noticed is the bit where He upended the tables of the money-changers and chased them off with a whip.

Personally, I’m drawn more toward His compassion toward the woman caught in adultery (and I still want to know where the man was in that scenario; it seems a lot of things haven’t changed in a couple thousand years); I’m drawn to His compassion to the woman who had been bleeding for twelve years, who was healed by the touch of His garment; I’m drawn to the blind man, to whom Jesus said, “What do you want me to do for you?”

Verses 15-17 present a tough order. But looking at the Greek text, the word that is translated love is “agapao,” which we call “agape.” That is the highest form of love possible. Unconditional love. We are being told not to give that kind of love to the world and its desires. I don’t believe that this is saying that we cannot enjoy things in the world. But we are not to be obsessed with them, or love them unconditionally. That kind of love is reserved for God and other people.

Nevertheless, I will still admit that this is a struggle for me, at times. The world can be a lot of fun, and it can be very satisfying. I mean, face it, our enemy is not going to come at us with beets and brussel sprouts. (Apologies to anyone who likes beets and brussel sprouts.) And sin is, to be honest, rather beautiful on the surface. So there’s our danger. And we simply need to remember that our highest allegiance is not to the world, it is not to a nation (there are quite a few people who really need to hear that), not to a government or a tribe or a language. Our highest allegiance is to God and God alone.

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
(John 10:11 ESV)

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”
(John 10:27-30 ESV)

First, I want to direct us back to the 1 John passage, verse 2 of chapter 2. There’s that fifty-dollar theology word, “propitiation.” That is a rare word that is translated the same in the KJV as it is in other versions. It can also mean “atonement.” But I will never forget one definition of that word that I once heard in one of our “lifehouses,” back in our Exchange days. It was said that “propitiation” means “God isn’t angry with us anymore.” Sure, that is a drastic over-simplification of the word, but it is also true.

Now, take that thought and look at Jesus’s words about being a “good shepherd.” Can you even imagine a shepherd being angry with his sheep? I cannot. I’ll confess, I don’t know much about sheep, other than what I have learned in Bible studies, but I simply cannot fathom a shepherd being angry with his sheep.

If we are His sheep, and He is our shepherd, He is not angry with us. When we go astray, He goes out of His way to bring us back. And, while there may be consequences for our going astray (I have heard that a shepherd would, at times, have to go so far as to break a sheep’s leg to keep it from going astray, after which the shepherd must carry the sheep on his own shoulders until the leg heals), that doesn’t mean that our shepherd is angry with us.

God loves us with a love that is inexplicable. That word up there, agapao, is virtually impossible for a human being to achieve. I think we can come close, but that is the love with which our Father loves us. And there is absolutely nothing that I can do to change it. I cannot sin so badly that God will love me less; nor can I perform so amazingly wonderfully that He will love me any more than He already does.

So what I do is, I rest in that. I embrace that. It draws me into deeper relationship with Him. And I love Him back as best I can, as a human being.

Father, I praise You and thank You for Your love for us, that agapao that we can scarcely mimic. I thank You for the propitiation for our sins that means that, because of the work of Jesus Christ and His sacrifice for us, You are not angry with us; our sins have been forgiven, they are atoned, forever and ever. All glory to You, Father!

Help us to love one another with that same love, Lord! Help us to walk in the way that Jesus walked; and may we focus more on the loving ways that He treated people than with the rare times when He expressed anger. Give us that love for one another.

Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus!

And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.
(Colossians 3:14 ESV)

Grace and peace, friends.


3 thoughts on “Of Agapao and Sheep

  1. Agape love is so powerful that it causes the enemy to stop in his tracks because he does not understand love. Love of God makes us more than a conqueror.

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