Jesus my Friend
for the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me and have believed that I came forth from the Father. John 16:27God loves me because I first loved Jesus? But that's not what 1 John says..? 1 John 4:19 says "We love, because He first loved us." That's what I always learned in Sunday school. We love God because He first loved us and sent His son to die on the cross for us to save us from our sins. Without that first act of love, we would be incapable of loving Him.
So which is it? What's the "cause and effect" of my love for God and His love for me?
This is one place where the Greek translations are critical. You'll never understand it in the English. Let's first do some definitions.
The Greeks have several different words for the word "love." Since our vocabulary is limited, we're stuck with "love," and it just doesn't quite explain it. The two Greek words we're concerned with here are Agapeo (pronounced uh-gawp-AY-oh) and Phileo (pronounced phil-LAY-oh). There's actually an Agape too, (pronounced uh-GAWP-ay). Agapeo is the verb ("Agapeo your neighbors"), and Agape is the noun ("..the Agape of God.") Enough about that.
Agapeo (the verb) is defined by Zodhiates (The Complete Word Study Dictionary for the New Testament) as "To esteem, to love, indicating a direction of the will and finding one's joy in something or someone." A lot has been written about Agape love, but suffice it to say that it's an act of the will, not a feeling. It's that sacrificial love one feels toward another, where the object of the love's interests are more important to the lover than his own. Jesus willingly came to Earth to make Himself a sacrifice for our sakes. That's the ultimate in Agape love - to give up one's life for another (John 15:13). We agape God out of obedience because He's commanded us to, and because we have such a deep and profound appreciation for the sacrifice He's made for us - we just can't help ourselves, and it brings us joy to do so. Jesus is our example of sacrificial agape love - to make personal sacrifices for what's in the best interest of the other. We could discuss that at great length, but I have a different point to make.
Phileo, on the other hand, is "brotherly love." Philadelphia, Pennsylvania was named after this concept, "The City of Brotherly Love." Phileo implies that you enjoy someone's company, you have common goals and interests, you like each other intensely and seek time with each other. God says we have to love our enemies. This word love is agapeo. We have to love them, but God never commands us to "like," or phileo love, our enemies. "Love" and "like" are different, and one doesn't imply the other. We can hang our hats on our Father's agape love, but do we also have phileo love with Him? Does He like us? Let's see...
Go back and re-read the flagship verse at the top of the page. The Father loves you because you first loved Jesus, and we love God because He first loved us. Both are true if you insert the Greek. We agapeo God because He first agapeo us. But the Father phileo us if we first phileo His son. If. Cause and effect. God promises to agapeo us, and we can rest on that. But does He promise to phileo us? No, He doesn't. He promises to phileo us if and only if we first phileo His son. Loving Jesus with that sacrificial act of the will is a requirement for salvation, but what about phileo? Is that required?
If anyone does not love the Lord, he is to be accursed. 1 Corinthians 16:22
The love Paul is referring to is Phileo. If anyone does not phileo (enjoy the company of) the Lord, he is to be accursed. The word "accursed" in the Greek is the word "Anathema." It means "To give up to destruction for the benefit of God. To excommunicate from the church and from fellowship." The word "be" is an imperative in the Greek - in other words, a command. Let's reword this: "If anyone does not enjoy the company of the Lord, have things in common with Him, have common goals with Him, then he will suffer condemnation, sin, misery, and rejection from fellowship."
Does that mean that if you don't also phileo the Lord, you're not saved? I read every commentary on that I could find, and I couldn't find a single one that said that that was so. They all agreed that we are saved by agapeo loving God and Christ. We can do that and still not phileo love Him. Paul is saying that if we don't also phileo love Christ, though, our lives will be a mess, and we'll be missing out on the very best Christianity we could get. The word "anathema" in the Greek means either "temporal, earthly condemnation" or "eternal condemnation" about equally in its the bible usage. Since this is the only place in the entire bible that relates phileo love to condemnation, it has to mean the earthly kind. God would never have allowed such a huge, eternity-altering command to be in only one place in the bible. It's a warning for how we live our lives on Earth - not a warning about our eternal destination.
Assuming you're really saved (see Gospel of Jesus Christ for assurance), so you can be saved, but not phileo the Lord, then. What does that mean? It means you're going to Heaven, but you don't enjoy His company, you don't have common goals, you don't see things the way He does, you don't have those "feelings" associated with your love for Him. It probably means you really struggle with all sorts of sin and misery, and wonder why "as a Christian" you're not living the victorious Christian life. You probably question your salvation sometimes.
What it really means is that you're missing out on the friendship of God.
Do you want to be a friend of God? Do you want to have those "feelings" associated with your love of God? What do you do when you want to have a relationship with someone? What's the first thing you have to do to determine if you can like someone, or even phileo them? You have to get to know them.
You can't like someone you don't know.
Your agape love for God will come with obedience, and there's a joy in knowing you're going to spend eternity with Him. But there's also a joy of friendship He offers us that requires we come to know Him for who He really is. How do we do that?
Look for Him in the pages of your bible, listen to every sermon you can get your hands on, and have frequent conversations with Him throughout the day. As you read, listen, and pray daily (I stress that part), don't just look for instructions as to how to live your life, but look deeper for an understanding of who He is. Try to learn about His character and personality just like you would any new friend. Come to know how He thinks, what's important to Him, how He handles different situations, seek Him, and keep on seeking. As you learn more and more about who He really is, you'll find your phileo love growing and growing, and your joy in being one of His children will grow and grow, and you'll reach the heights of Christian victory as your perspective of life on Earth radically changes. Things that used to be important will no longer be important as you realign your thinking to His in that phileo friendship bond. That's true freedom in Christ.
He's revealed Himself to us so we can get to know Him, and we can't phileo love Him without knowing Him. But if you do, you'll find that Christian victory you seek.
Dive into the bible as if your life depends on it. Look for Him there. Love Him through its glorious pages.
Guess what gang? We can truly be FRIENDS with Christ, and with God. He will phileo us if we phileo His Son. John 16 says that. I can't hardly fathom that, but I can tell you I want it.
Friends with God. Him enjoying your company. Him wanting to be with you. Him wanting to be with you. Close your eyes and let that wash over you. It's there for the taking. Phileo His son, and you'll have it. You're no more saved, but you'll no longer be "anathema," or condemned on Earth. True victory is there, and it comes with friendship with God.
Agapeo the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength, and phileo His Son and let Him phileo you back, and you'll truly be in the Promised Land, the Kingdom of Heaven, on Earth.