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July 31; What is Love?

Posted on August 14, 2021 at 11:40 AM

How easily do we say the words “love you?” And when we do, what does that really mean? With the advent of the heart emoji, we’ve sanitized the expression so much it’s almost a throw away phrase – easy to say, but hard to quantify.


We know there are different kinds of love. The love a mother has for her child is certainly not the same as our love of pasta or chocolate. And that passionate adrenal rush we feel when we first meet our future spouse is certainly different than the deep and abiding devotion we feel some twenty years down the road.


So, are they all love or should that word just be confined to a particular feeling or person? We know that love encompasses a range of emotions, some strong and some fleeting. But that doesn’t make it any less love. We tend to toss off “love you” pretty easily but I’m not sure that’s a bad thing. Really, is there a limit on how much or what kind of love we should show?


In all it’s forms it opens up the speaker and the hearer to the possibility of emotional attachment and acknowledges that there is a warm connection and understanding. Just because a word is said often, doesn’t strip it of it’s power. English has one word for love so we use it a lot. But in the Greek and Hebrew of Scripture there are really three basic ways to define it.


One is eros, which refers to the flesh and, while not specifically called out in the Bible, physical love is mentioned in the context of marriage so we know it has meaning and importance.


Then there is philos, which refers more to warm affection and deep friendship. In fact, this is used in Matthew 10 to refer to the love for a parent or child. Jesus used this word to express His love for his disciples and friends.


But then there is agape, which speaks to the sacrificial and unconditional love of God. This is the type of love we see in John 3:16 where it reads “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son…”. It’s mentioned again in Matthew 22:37 when Jesus said “…love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” And again in John 13:34 when we are told to “love one another; as I (Jesus) have loved you…”. The word Jesus used for love in these passages is the verb form of agape, so it describes an action not just a feeling.


Agape love is one that is stripped of all it’s pretense or need for reciprocity. I love you just because. It stands alone and unselfish, and is the love God feels for us. Romans 5:8 simply says “But God demonstrates His own love (agape love) toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” It doesn’t get any less complicated than that.


And to take it a step further, this agape love is what we are commanded to demonstrate to the world. Remember Jesus command to His followers to “love others as He has loved us.” That means agape love… a word that requires action not just a heart emoji, a smile, an invitation to church or a gift in the offering plate.


I will never apologize for being that person that says “I love you” a million times a day, because I really do. I have a heart that is mushy and ready to be touched by a babies cry or the breath of a puppy, and will be moved to anger in defense of strangers. I’m glad God wired me that way, and I think that as the Holy Spirit works on us we all start to feel more of that for our human sojourners.


But I want to learn to go deeper than that and truly seek an agape love – not just for my family or those in my circle – but for the whole world. In our human form we can never be Christ, but we are Sons and Daughters of God, and can seek to be Christ-like in our compassion, self-sacrifice and agape love. And that means even caring for the one who hurts us or may never appreciate what we’re feeling.


Remember, ‘while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.’ That means He loved us, not knowing whether we would ever love Him back in the same way. That’s agape. To coin an old 70’s song… “what the world needs now is love sweet love. It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of.”

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