Love: Perhaps the most frequent topic of discussion, but the least understood. We were created both to need love and to love, but what is all the fol-de-rol about it. Songs have been written about it, such as “All You Need Is Love”. Endless poems and stories have been written about love, and there is one 66-chapter book, whose primary theme is love, God’s love story, the Bible. Yet, for all that has been written, sung-about and talked-about, we are largely clueless about what true love is.
Before I get into what the Bible says about love, I want to quickly survey what we call “love”. There are actually four kinds/types of love, and which one we are either giving or experiencing depends on the “who” and the “where”. Ancient Greeks identified four forms of love: kinship or familiarity (in Greek, storge), friendship (philia), sexual and/or romantic desire (eros), and self-emptying or divine love (agape). We hope that the love our spouse or lover is a combination of eros and agape. Lets look briefly at each kind of love.
Storge: Parental love..the love that parents have for their children. Even though what parents may do is limited by either resources, or for the good of the child, it is a deep caring for their welfare.
Philia: This is family love, the love closely-related family members have for each other. We will go much farther in seeing to the needs of someone in our family. We have a much closer bond, because these are the people that we grew up with. Blood is thicker than almost anything else. Philia is often called “brotherly-love”.
Eros: Perhaps the most popular form of love, “Eros” is sexual or romantic love. “Erotic” is derived from “eros“. Within an appropriate, loving relationship, sexual love can result in a deeper “bonding” of the couple. Tim and Beverly LeHaye call sexual love “The Act of Marriage“, in a book by that same title. Unfortunately eros is also the most often misused, because we are, by nature, selfish people. “I want sex for what “I” get out of it”. Our partners pleasure is secondary to our own, not, giving our lover sexual pleasure, with our own being secondary…deriving our own sexual please from GIVING sexual pleasure.
Agape: Self-emptying, or divine love, is the pinnacle. The other person becomes the primary focus of agape love, and what we get in return, if anything, is not even in the equation. Agape, or self-giving love, is what I will focus the balance of this treatise on.
While many, even most, people think love is primarily an emotion…a warm, fuzzy feeling, the emotion is only the tip of the “love iceberg”. “Love” is a verb, an action-word. There is nothing passive about love. If we tell a person “I love you”, but don’t demonstrate by our actions that we love them, all we did was use words to give them an empty “warm, fuzzy feeling”. If a wife tells her husband that she loves him, but sits in front of the TV at supper-time, and never fixes supper, he has good reason to question her “love”. The warm, fuzzy feeling would come with a full stomach if she truly loves him.
Can we even love another person so completely that our whole focus is on them and their welfare? Only if we know the Source of all love, God Himself. Let’s look at the bar that God set in Deuteronomy 6: 4″Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one! 5″You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” Jesus Christ, in His commentary on the Law in Luke 10:26-28 “And He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How does it read to you?” 27 And he answered, “YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND; AND YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.” 28 And He said to him, “You have answered correctly; DO THIS AND YOU WILL LIVE.”…”
That is a VERY HIGH BAR…loving God above ALL else, and our neighbor as ourself. None of us will attain to such a high mark in this life, in our own strength. One of our problems is that we “love” ourselves MORE than we love God, or anyone else. Our “self-love” has made us into our own “god”, rather than the true and living God being our God. Unfortunately that kind of “self-love” is really SELF-CENTEREDNESS. We have made ourselves into the center of our universe, not God. That affects all of our relationships, starting with our relationship with God.
While we acknowledge that the “love-bar” is impossibly-high for God, Jesus Christ, just hours before He went to the Cross, RAISED THE BAR ON OUR HUMAN RELATIONSHIPS ALSO. In John 13, we read 34 “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
His “new commandment” is the essence of Agape love…that self-giving, self-sacrificing love that Jesus demonstrated on the Cross. Could God have demonstrated His love for us in any more graphic way, than to send His only Son, to die on a cruel Cross, so that we might be forgiven and redeemed? I don’t think so.
My question, to myself, and you, my readers, is: Are we loving God above all else, and are we loving one another as He has loved us, and gave Himself for us? If we aren’t, and that means me too, then I/we have a mark to strive for. Actions speak louder than words.
Jesus Christ raised the bar…are we willing to follow in His footsteps? “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another“. Can those around us tell, by our love, that we are His disciples? I pray that is my/your aim in life.
Start by reading His Word, God’s love story…the Bible.