At the start of a Gregorian new year, the Lord often shares with me a single word to summarize what He desires to highlight in my life and ministry in the upcoming 12 months. The word has always been relevant to the larger Body of Messiah. You might recall that last December I received the word, Peace. Little did I know how sustaining that word would prove through 2020!
For 2021 God has spoken, Love. Here’s what He brought to my heart:
Yeshua said that in the end times, because of the increase of wickedness, the love of many (some translations say, most) will grow cold. (Matthew 24:12) Most, if not all of you reading this post, would probably agree that recent years have witnessed an exponential increase of wickedness in the earth, particularly in the West. Responding rightly to escalating deception, depravity and darkness Is not always easy. Even more challenging can be the mounting anger and hostility—especially in media—which tempts many committed followers of Yeshua with lovelessness.
This year, God wants us to respond to the increase in wickedness with mature, Messiah-likelove (or in New Testament Greek, agape). Whatever circumstances we encounter in 2021, He will give us grace to grow in agape through them. In fact, He will use those circumstances to work some of His highest purposes in our lives.
You and I were created in love, for love. Yeshua said the greatest commandment of the Torah is to love the Lord our God wholeheartedly. The second greatest command is to love others as we love ourselves. (Matthew 22:37-39)
This year, Messiah-like love for brothers and sisters in the Body, or ekklesia, is essential for the unity to which He is calling us. It is also substance for our testimony. “By this everyone will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35)
Agape love is unconditional, and unconditional love involves self-sacrifice. It requires a death to self—not in a spirit of victimization, but in biblical valor. The process isn’t easy. But it’s worth it!
How do we grow in agape? I’ll be the first to admit I’m no expert. But I have learned that love is a choice. First, we choose to personally receive the Lord’s unconditional love for us. Then, because He first loved us, we choose to love Him back. The exchange of divine love escalates and overflows to others. Love matures as we extend it to those around us, especially those who do not love us back or may even curse us. (1 John 4:19, Matthew 5:44)
It has been said the purpose of life is to be transformed into the likeness of Messiah by learning to love as He did. This year, by God’s grace, I want to grow in agape according to 1 Corinthians 13:1-8. I hope you’ll join me in the process. The futures of our families, cities and nations could depend on it.
“If I [can] speak in the tongues of men and [even] of angels, but have not love (that reasoning, intentional, spiritual devotion such as is inspired by God’s love for and in us), I am only a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers (the gift of interpreting the divine will and purpose), and understand all the secret truths and mysteries and possess all knowledge, and if I have [sufficient] faith so that I can remove mountains, but have not love (God’s love in me) I am nothing (a useless nobody).Even if I dole out all that I have [to the poor in providing] food, and if I surrender my body to be burned or in order that I may glory, but have not love (God’s love in me), I gain nothing. Love endures long and is patient and kind; love never is envious nor boils over with jealousy, is not boastful or vainglorious, does not display itself haughtily. It is not conceited (arrogant and inflated with pride); it is not rude (unmannerly) and does not act unbecomingly. Love (God’s love in us) does not insist on its own rights or its own way, for it is not self-seeking; it is not touchy or fretful or resentful; it takes no account of the evil done to it [it pays no attention to a suffered wrong]. It does not rejoice at injustice and unrighteousness, but rejoices when right and truth prevail. Love bears up under anything and everything that comes, is ever ready to believe the best of every person, its hopes are fadeless under all circumstances, and it endures everything [without weakening]. Love never fails [never fades out or becomes obsolete or comes to an end].”
(1 Corinthians 13:1-8, AMP)