Last Friday I attended a conference for the believing ladies in Northern Israel—believers in Jesus. It is always a wonderful opportunity to see people I’ve not seen in a long time. There were people from as far north as the Golan and as far south as Jerusalem. It was quite a mix of women: Ashkenazi, Sephardi, Ethiopian, Arabs, Americans, Scandinavians, Russians, and more. Being Israel, everything was in Hebrew, but there was translation into English, Arabic, and Russian. I love these kind of meetings.
The theme was “The Deep Love of Jesus.” The same theme as the conference in Jerusalem last July, the one I shared at, as a member of a discussion panel. I was asked to share again. About? How I had come to understand the deep love of Jesus through my marriage to Rich and walking with him through his death. Another sister shared about her battle with cancer, and another about the death of her child in a terror attack. Between the things we shared, and the lessons that were taught, the entire day provided much food for thought.
Out of everything that was shared, two things stand out in my thoughts right now. One has to do with how the word “love” in the Song of Songs was translated in the Septuagint. All these years I had heard teaching that the Song of Songs represents the love of Jesus for the Church, or God’s love for Israel, or both. While I have intellectually understood that, I never understood it in my heart. It made no sense to me, as I worked through the book—in English of course. I found out that for the Song of Songs, every instance of the word love is translated in the Septuagint as “Agape.” That was a mind blower for me. Why? Because I’ve also learned in recent years, that the Septuagint is a Jewish translation of the Hebrew bible into Greek, from around the 2–3 century BC. The Septuagint has been a critical text in helping us to understand more obscure passages in Hebrew. Suddenly, seeing Song of Songs from a spiritual perspective made a lot more sense.
From there, the speaker shared something else though. A challenge really. If we truly know God’s love, if we truly believe in Yesuha, then why do we treat people as objects? Where is our love for others? I was wondering if we all do that, as she implied, and then she started giving examples. The old lady with two items in the store, who wants to go in front of us after waiting more than 30 minutes to check out. The clerk in the store who is not working fast enough so that I can get out and go home. The delivery person who arrives an hour late, and all I care about is that I got my items–with never a thought for the delivery person and their needs. The person at work who irritates us? The driver in front of me who does something stupid… The speaker challenged us. In all these situations, without realizing it, the other person becomes like a thing to me—an object for my convenience—rather than a beloved person for whom Jesus died on the cross.
That is real Agape… and no, I’m not there yet. I am so thankful that God knows that. Like Peter, He asks me if I agape him. Like Peter, I must be truthful, I have no idea what real agape is. I can only reply, “Lord, you know I phileo you…”
The truth is, I’m afraid of the pain of agape. There is no such thing as a nail-less cross. I am again challenged, to get out of my shell, and let God bring people into my life whom He wants to Agape—through me. As weak as I am, I find my encouragement in this: Peter, by the end of his life had indeed learned to agape Jesus. May I too learn to truly Agape Jesus, which includes, through God’s grace and in His empowerment, giving Agape to all the people in my life.