Love isn’t a loophole
Sometime over the past couple of years I began hearing a churchy catch-phrase that was new to me. The first time I heard it I was puzzled. Same response the second time I heard it, and the third.
In fact, it’s consistently been my response.
The phrase is “sloppy agape”.
Now, if you aren’t familiar with the word agape, it will help you to know it’s usually pronounced in a way that rhymes with sloppy. Ah-gop-ee. And it describes the type of love that is unconditional and not romantic or sexual. It’s the kind of love God has for mankind, and the kind we’re urged to have for Him.
That’s where my puzzlement sets in. God is perfect. He loves perfectly, and according to scripture (1 John 4), He is love. It is the essence of His nature.
And there’s nothing sloppy about Him.
When I’ve heard the phrase used, it has been disdainfully employed to imply that we expect grace and love to cover too much, and that we expect to be free to continue in sinful behaviors and habits because God won’t hold us accountable.
That sounds kind of right, doesn’t it? And yet…it also sounds kind of wrong.
Leave it to religion to attempt to water down the good news so that it become mediocre news. Way to turn prime rib into a bowl of oatmeal, folks.
See, here’s the deal.
Jesus died for us. Not only that, but Jesus died as us. Galatians 2:20 makes this statement clearly:
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
What this means is that Jesus volunteered to be accountable for our sin—both the sin debt we inherited from our human ancestors, and our ongoing entangling sins that distort and pervert our original design as ones formed in the very image of God. God poured out all His wrath over sin on Jesus when He was hanging on the cross.
Which means He doesn’t have any left for those who have been crucified with Him.
He’s not operating according to our messed-up sense of justice. Jesus was punished fully, and as a result God is now free to pour out His pure, unfiltered, limitless, unconditional love on us.
It’s not sloppy. It’s the passionate, outrageous nature of agape. It’s His furious love for us.
You are loved like that, you know. So am I. And I don’t know about you, but it makes me want to stand a little taller, speak a little more kindly, be a little more gracious. We’re not working our way towards being clean enough to be good with Him. He already sees us as clean because He credits us with the payment Jesus made on our behalf. And He’s not put off or intimidated by the areas in our lives where we don’t quite get it yet and we keep messing up. He fully intends to hang with us and work with us until we are transformed and manifest the reality of who we are: gloriously loved children who are citizens of a heavenly kingdom.
That’s a far cry from being a bunch of folks looking for loopholes to continue being the worst versions of themselves. Agape isn’t a loophole; it’s a wide open gate to being clean and right with God, permanently.
Agape love will probably always look sloppy to those who haven’t fully felt the impact of it in their own lives and who haven’t understood the level of mercy and grace extended to them.
I sure wish that didn’t include so many believers.
He’s so much better than we realize.