During the Christmas season, we often talk about God’s love and how He gave us the greatest gift of all. As I was meditating on the list of growing faith in 2 Peter 1:5-7, several things came together in my mind about that amazing ḥesed/agape that is the final result of the list. Jayson Georges1 and Jackson Wu2 wrote several interesting articles about how God’s “grace” (charis) actually expects reciprocity from us. The classic definition of “unmerited favor without expecting anything in return” found in Protestant theology is not accurate. Rather, God gives us grace, expecting us to respond to Him in kind.
Another thread that I’d been meditating on was a statement by Daniel Bennett in a sermon series on 1 John: “Christ loves contra-conditionally.” This means that Christ says, “I know you’re going to fail, but regardless I commit to love you sacrificially. I know that you're a sinner, but I'm still going to love you.”3
Tying these things together, it made me realize that the kind of agape we are called is as follows: this love does expect love in return, but is prepared to be disappointed. It chooses to love, no matter the cost, no matter the response, knowing that most of the time the object of the love will not respond in kind; it is the ultimate sacrificial, unrequited love. Then when the object of that love returns it, it makes the love all the sweeter. That is how we as Christians are called to love: never giving up; expecting a response, all the while knowing it may never come; knowing the object of our love will screw up again and again and yet remaining loyal to them.
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- 1. Jayson Georges, “The Meaning of God’s Grace”, HonorShame.com, 2016-01-20 < http://honorshame.com/the-meaning-of-gods-grace/ > (accessed 2017-12-21). Jayson Georges, “The Problem of ‘Grace’ in English Bibles”, HonorShame.com, 2017-09-20 < http://honorshame.com/grace-and-charis/ > (accessed 2017-12-21).
- 2. Jackson Wu, “Saved by Grace? Which Kind?”, Patheos, 2016-01-20 < http://www.patheos.com/blogs/jacksonwu/2016/01/20/saved-by-grace-which-kind/ > (accessed 2017-12-21). Jackson Wu, “Does Grace Require Reciprocity?”, Patheos, 2016-02-25 < http://www.patheos.com/blogs/jacksonwu/2016/02/25/is-grace-conditional/ > (accessed 2017-12-21).
- 3. Daniel Bennet, “The Love Test – 1Jn 2:7-11”, given 2014-07-03 at a conference in Akçakoca, Turkey.