No, the title isn’t a misspelling. I know you want it to say, “Pure Love,” and it kind of does. Our word, “pure,” comes from the Greek word, “pur.” But “pur” doesn’t mean, “pure;” it’s Greek for “fire.” When I speak of “pur love,” I’m talking about love that cleanses through burning – love that purifies.
Pur love confronts the objects of our love with their sin. It calls them out. It holds them accountable. It might at times need to distance itself, rather give comfort and aid to the enemy our brother or sister is harboring. Even in the agony of separation, pur love prays and waits for their return. If what I’ve written about pur love sounds familiar, that’s because it’s a contextualization of 1 Corinthians 13:6-8a:
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.
Paul and the other writers of the New Testament benefited from a rich language which featured four words for “love.” The word which Paul used in 1 Corinthians 13 was, “agape’.” It refers to the highest form of love – that which is entirely for the sake of the beloved. We find little if any use of the word in contemporary secular Greek literature because agape’ doesn’t occur in nature. God is the source of this kind of love. As Paul said in Romans 5:5, “And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”
God loves us at our very worst, but he also loves us too much to leave us that way.¹ God’s love sent Jesus to die for us, but that’s not the end of the story. Christ died to cleanse us from our sins. Agape’ burns in the heart of God and comes forth as flame to burn away our sins. This pur love envelopes us in a blaze as it spreads from person to person cleansing for God a people, his church.
If the love of God burns in us, we must confront each other over sin, and we mustn’t let up until there is confession and repentance. In love, we will speak the truth so that the body of Christ will be built up.²
One time my friend, Uriah, and I were eating at Village Inn when a high school friend of mine walked by the table. I hadn’t seen her in nearly twenty years. She asked, “Where are you living now?” I replied, “We’re in Springdale. In the historic district.”
After we left the restaurant, Uriah said, “There’s something you said in there that bothered me.”
“Oh, what’s that?” I asked.
“When you said you’re in ‘the historic district’ is sounded like you were trying to put on airs or something.”
He was right! I didn’t want to say, “We’re in an old house in a declining neighborhood.” That would have made me look like a failure. My brother smelled the reek of pride and called me on it. I’m so thankful for him.
Speaking the truth in love isn’t always well received, though. I can’t count how many times I’ve skirted around an issue to maintain a friendship. Other times I’ve suffered abandonment and rejection from those I’ve tried to correct. Paul knew the high price of pur love even as he poured it out on the Galatian church. Toward the end of a lengthy rebuke he wrote, “Have I now become your enemy by telling you the truth?” (Galatians 4:16 NIV)
Because it carries this risk of suffering at the hands of its objects, pur love must also be pure love. If we love to be loved in return, we won’t offer pur love. If we learn to accept and give agape’, we’ll see a church that is becoming ever more like Christ as each member does their part.
- Max Lucado said something very much like this in his book, Just Like Jesus.
- Ephesians 4:16