Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
Short summary of the novel, “A Tale of Two Cities” by Charles Dickens:
The year is now 1789. The peasants in Paris storm the Bastille and the French Revolution begins. The revolutionaries murder aristocrats in the streets, and Gabelle, a man charged with the maintenance of the Evrémonde estate, is imprisoned. Three years later, he writes to Darnay, asking to be rescued. Despite the threat of great danger to his person, Darnay departs immediately for France.
Sydney Carton, a look-a-like to Darnay, also has traveled to Paris because of the selfless love that Lucie Manette has inspired in him. He resolves to sacrifice himself to save her husband's life. Carton arranges for the Manettes to leave immediately. He uses his influence with Barsad (Pross), who also works as a turnkey, to get into Darnay's cell. He drugs Darnay and exchanges places with him, having Barsad carry Darnay out of the prison to safety. Carton dies in Darnay's place at the guillotine, satisfied with the knowledge of his good deed and the sacrificial love he showed towards Lucie. Sydney Carton’s final quote: “It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest I go to than I have ever known.” Though this is only a novel, the truth of “agape” love is shown by the sacrificial giving of one’s life for another, without thought of return.
The true meaning of love, as defined in Biblical terms, has been corrupted, stained in our English language. Most often, people that have said that they are in love, are really infatuated with what they think love is. This kind of "love" is something that lasts typically less than a year, and unless replaced by true love, results in broken relationships. Sometimes there are movies made that capitalize on “falling in love” but I am not sure they portray the true meaning of love. Is love that touchy-feely feeling a person has when he or she is with a familiar person? According to the Bible, love is caring in action. Love isn’t what we feel, but what we do.
The Greek language (the language of the New Testament) uses two different words to describe and define love. The most commonly used Greek word translated "love" in the New Testament is "agape." This love is represented by God's love for us. It is a non-partial, sacrificial love probably best exemplified by God's provision for our rebellion and sin.
"For God so loved (agape) the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." (John 3:16) The gift of God's Son as a provision for sin was given–––regardless of who we are or what we have done. God's love is unconditional.
In contrast, our earthly love is usually conditional and based upon how other people act toward us. This kind of love is based upon how well we get to know someone and how we interact with each other. We "fall in love," or two people meet and it is "love at first sight." But the world's love is a selfish matter. The world does not give love where it does not benefit them. If you do not please me, then I have no love for you. Thus, for the world, love must be earned by making someone else feel good. The Greek word "phileo" defines this kind of love, often translated "brotherly love." Phileo love is connected through our emotions - something that can be experienced by both believers and non-believers. This is in contrast to “agape,” which is love extended through the spirit. Agape love requires a relationship with God through Jesus Christ, since the non-regenerated soul is unable to love unconditionally. Agape love gives and sacrifices expecting nothing back in return. Powerful emotions may accompany love, but it is the commitment of the heart that holds true biblical love steadfast and unchanging. Emotions may change, but a commitment to love in a biblical manner endures and is the hallmark of a true follower of Christ.
Thought: Our example of true love is shown in God's love for the sinner. Romans 5:8 says, ". . .commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." The lost sinner living in rebellion and sin is still loved by the Lord. He loved us enough to die for us and pay our sin debt while we were sinning against Him. This shows that true biblical love is not about emotion. God chose to love us and His love was not based on our meriting it in any way.
Ephesians 2:8-9 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: (this is not of your doing) it is the gift of God: Not of works, (not a result of works) lest any man should boast (so that no one may boast). God’s love is given freely, a gift from Him. There is nothing you do to earn His love and not a thing you can do to keep Him from loving you. We can never be separated from God’s everlasting love, a sacrificial love shown by the shedding of His own precious blood for us.