|Pear tree in my backyard|
As we abide in Christ, like a branch connected to a vine, whatever is in the vine enters into us. So the agape love of Jesus is produced in us. This is not something we produce ourselves. The Spirit does this. "Trying hard" to be fruit-bearing does not work and ends up leaving a lot of people feeling condemned. Because if I am not loving enough then it must be because I'm not trying harder and working harder at this Jesus thing.
To understand this I recommend two things:
- Re-read and re-meditate on John chapters 14-15-16.
- Purchase and read Dallas Willard's Getting Love Right - only $1 for your Kindle!
Willard defines agape love as "an overall condition of the embodied, social self poised to promote the goods of human life that are within its range of influence. It is, then, a disposition or character (a second-level potentiality or potency, in Aristotelian terminology): a readiness to act in a certain way under certain conditions."
Thus understood, agape love "is not an action, nor a feeling or emotion, nor, indeed , an intention, as “intention” is ordinarily understood —though it gives rise to intentions and to actions of a certain type, and is associated with some “feelings” and resistant to others. It is this understanding of agape love as an overall disposition of the human self that , alone , does justice to the teachings of Jesus and Paul and the New Testament about love and gives us a coherent idea of love that can be aimed at in practice and implemented."
This is whole-being love, and is not something one turns on or off like a faucet. Willard rightly says the orientation of agape love is life as a whole. One becomes a loving person, rather than being a person who sometimes chooses to love and at other times doesn't.
"Paul understood the fallacy of those who say “I just can’t love so and so,” and there they stop and give up on love. He knew that they were working at the wrong level. They should not try to love that person but try to become the kind of person who would love them (emphasis mine). Only so can the ideal of love pass into a real possibility and practice. Our aim under love is not to be loving to this or that person, or in this or that kind of situation, but to be a person possessed by love as an overall character of life, whatever is or is not going on. The “occasions” are met with from that overall character. I do not come to my enemy and then try to love them, I come to them as a loving person.
Love is not a faucet to be turned on or off at will. God himself doesn’t just love me or you, he is love. He is creative will for all that is good. That is his identity, and explains why he loves individuals, even when he is not pleased with them. We are directed by Paul to “be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave himself up for us.” ( Eph. 5: 1-2) We are called and enabled to love as God loves." (Willard, op. cit., Kindle Locations 132-145)
God's great, boundless love cannot be self-manufactured. It is a production of the Spirit's forming us into greater and greater Christlikeness.