Phil Cox

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Relationship with Others

6th July 2006

This is the second of the three talks on relationships I was asked to give recently - Relationship with others.

We’re called to love each other, and to love our neighbours.

But it’s very hard to love someone just because we’re told to.

It’s far better and easier to see why we should love them.

You’re probably familiar with the Greek word agape, which most English Bibles translate as "love". The Illustrated Bible Dictionary (which I heartily recommend) says this about agape:

This is one of the least frequent words in classical Greek,
where it expresses, on the few occasions that it occurs,
that highest and noblest form of love which sees
something infinitely precious in its object.

Did you hear that? Agape “sees something infinitely precious in its object”.

I could gladly preach on how Jesus died for us because He sees something infinitely precious in us – even if we can’t see it in ourselves (and this would fit well with the previous talk). But in this talk, I want to make the point that, to love each as we should, we need to see something infinitely precious in each other.

And it's there!

Genesis 1:27
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

It’s particularly true of God’s people:

Romans 8:29-30
For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

And this statement is true of the most irritating, lazy, unrighteous, unforgiving Christian you’ve ever had the misfortune to encounter.


The Bible modifies the old, classical Greek, definition. The New Dictionary of Theology says:

agape was the relatively uncommon Greek noun used by both LXX and the NT
to describe the self-giving love of God revealed in Jesus Christ which is
the motivating power and pattern of Christian living.

The crucifixion is the greatest example of agape love. The crucifixion also makes agape love possible for the Christian and motivates the Christian to agape love. In fact, only Christians have agape love (although many non-Christians are self-sacrificing).

1 John 4:7-11
Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.
This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.
This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.
Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

Agape love is a gift from God.

Romans 5:5
...God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.

So let’s ask God to give us His agape love for others:

  • For our partners, and our families,
  • For the other Christians in our churches, especially the selfish, noisy, obstructive, difficult ones – the ones who won’t sing, or don’t sing in tune.
  • For our neighbours – including the teenagers who vandalise our town, the drunkards who wake us up at night, the selfish ones who barge into us in the supermarket...

Here’s a story that’s going round the Internet at the moment.

One day, when I was a freshman in high school, I saw a kid from my class was walking home from school. His name was Kyle. It looked like he was carrying all of his books. I thought to myself, "Why would anyone bring home all his books on a Friday? He must really be a nerd." I had quite a weekend planned (parties and a football game with my friends tomorrow afternoon), so I shrugged my shoulders and went on.

As I was walking, I saw a bunch of kids running toward him. They ran at him, knocking all his books out of his arms and tripping him so he landed in the dirt. His glasses went flying, and I saw them land in the grass about ten feet from him. He looked up and I saw this terrible sadness in his eyes.

My heart went out to him. So I jogged over to him and, as he crawled around looking for his glasses, I saw a tear in his eye. As I handed him his glasses, I said, "Those guys are jerks. They really should get lives." He looked at me and said, "Hey thanks!" There was a big smile on his face. It was one of those smiles that showed real gratitude.

I helped him pick up his books, and asked him where he lived. As it turned out, he lived near me, so I asked him why I had never seen him before. He said he had gone to private school before now.

I would have never hung out with a private school kid before. We talked all the way home, and I carried some of his books. He turned out to be a pretty cool kid.

I asked him if he wanted to play a little football with my friends. He said yes. We hung out all weekend and the more I got to know Kyle, the more I liked him, and my friends thought the same of him.

Monday morning came, and there was Kyle with the huge stack of books again. I stopped him and said, "Boy, you are gonna really build some serious muscles with this pile of books everyday!" He just laughed and handed me half the books.

Over the next four years, Kyle and I became best friends. When we were seniors, we began to think about college. Kyle decided on Georgetown, and I was going to Duke. I knew that we would always be friends, that the miles would never be a problem. He was going to be a doctor, and I was going for business on a football scholarship.

Kyle was valedictorian of our class. I teased him all the time about being a nerd. He had to prepare a speech for graduation.

I was so glad it wasn't me having to get up there and speak. Graduation day, I saw Kyle. He looked great. He was one of those guys that really found himself during high school. He filled out and actually looked good in glasses. He had more dates than I had and all the girls loved him. Boy, sometimes I was jealous.

Today was one of those days. I could see that he was nervous about his speech. So, I smacked him on the back and said, "Hey, big guy, you'll be great!" He looked at me with one of those looks (the really grateful one) and smiled. "Thanks," he said.

As he started his speech, he cleared his throat, and began. "Graduation is a time to thank those who helped you make it through those tough years. Your parents, your teachers, your siblings, maybe a coach...but mostly your friends. I am here to tell all of you that being a friend to someone is the best gift you can give them. I am going to tell you a story."

I just looked at my friend with disbelief as he told the story of the first day we met. He had planned to kill himself over the weekend. He talked of how he had cleaned out his locker so his Mom wouldn't have to do it later and was carrying his stuff home. He looked hard at me and gave me a little smile.

"Thankfully, I was saved. My friend saved me from doing the unspeakable."

I heard the gasp go through the crowd as this handsome, popular boy told us all about his weakest moment. I saw his Mom and dad looking at me and smiling that same grateful smile. Not until that moment did I realize its depth.

You never know how much your words or actions - which might seem quite minor to you, may affect another person. Since that other person - whoever he or she is - is of infinite value, be nice to them.