• Read 1 Corinthians 13
Wow, so love is not rude, not easily angered, not self-seeking, keeps no record of wrongs, etc. Yikes. I can be rude, self-seeking and sometimes way too easily angered. How can I learn to love like the love described here? Obviously, the answer is with God, but I want to dig a little deeper.
• The 4 types of love
In English we have one word for it, “love.” In the Greek, there are 4 different words that describe love and each has a different meaning or characteristic. Let’s touch on these.
1. Storge or affection. This one is also known as SECURITY LOVE:
This love is the love that everybody needs to survive. It is that feeling of being cared for and nurtured. Some people would describe this as the type of love parents have for their children. It can be very self-sacrificing, however it isn’t perfect love. Without Christ, it can be a very selfish love. This love is a familiar love. Sometimes we forget to use good manners with those we love and live with. It’s the old idea of “Familiarity breeds contempt”. That is a weakness that will come out unless guarded against. ALSO, we see with storge that caring for a helpless child is delightful, but once we are no longer needed or necessary, it becomes a hardship or a place where bitterness can creep in. Ultimately, this is not a kind of love that seeks the good of others, but our own good.
2. Phileo or friendship. This one is also known as BROTHERLY LOVE: For many of us, this is the easiest of the loves. We enjoy our time with friends. This is a very broad term. You can have storge love as well as phileo love for family members. For example, when your child grows up, the storge love remains but phileo love also develops. You share common interests and your child becomes your friend. We see that in John 15:13, where it says, “Greater love has no man than this that he lay down his life for his friend.” Phileo love is a wonderful love, but still is not a perfect love. Sometimes we have friends who fill a void in our life: cause us to feel useful, loved, or brings companionship so that we aren’t lonely. Often we seek friends to meet a need. That is not bad, in and of itself, but it isn’t the perfect, selfless love of agape (which we’ll get to in a minute.)
3. Eros or passionate love. This one is also known as PHYSICAL LOVE: This is the love most of us dream of when we’re growing up. The Fairy Tale, gushy feelings that end with “Happily Ever After” and usually involve a great dress! :) Or at least that is how I view it. Eros seems to be a very self-sacrificing love. What prince in a love story wouldn’t risk his life or slay even slay a dragon for his fair maiden? This love is beautiful and magical and amazing. At first. It is, as C.S. Lewis describes it, in his book The Four Loves, the DIVE that gets us into the water. It is not, however, the water itself.
*I went to a beautiful wedding last weekend. It was up in the trinity mountains near Mt. Shasta. The bride was stunning and her groom, completely goo-goo over her. Someone commented that she better enjoy being a bride today, because tomorrow she’ll wake up and just be a wife.* We laughed at this, but, it really is the nature of eros.
With eros, there is a risk of idolatry. However, it is very feelings-based. We learn over time that falling in love is something that happens to us, but being in love is something we do. We need God to make love last.
SO…how are we to love perfectly, living as imperfect humans?
We are self-protective by nature. “Self” protection is actually an oxy-moron. Only God can protect us and only God’s love is perfect. That brings me to the 4th kind of love.
4. Agape or perfect love. The agape love of God is the love that reaches for the highest good. When you look at a person, no matter what their weaknesses are, no matter what their bad points are, or their good points or their strong points, you always say, “What is the best good I can do for this person?” And God does that. This is the love we’re striving for and this is the love that we are free to receive from the Holy Spirit. It perfects all the other loves.
It is perfectly NATURAL for us to say, “But love is too risky. I must be careful, this may mean suffering.” In the Bible, however, God says nothing about protecting ourselves from earthly loves for fear they should bring us suffering. Again, I’ll quote C.S. Lewis. He says that, “To love anything is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to keep it in tact, you must give it to no one, not even an animal. You must carefully wrap it round hobbies and little luxuries and then lock it up in the casket or coffin of your own selfishness.”
We have to believe that God loves us with agape. Once we experience the agape of God, it truly transforms us. It is then that we can obey what God tells us in Matthew 22:36-38. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment and the second is like it. Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Agape is the love that enables us to love like Jesus loves. He loves us into the capability to both receive love (from Him and from others) and then to give love (to Him and to others.) To me, that is the goal. If He tells us that the most important thing, the Greatest Commandment, is to love (Him and then others), I want to learn to do it right.
Recently, I came across a scripture that just jumped off the page. You know the kind. You're just casually reading and then, BAM! It just got to me! The verse was 1 Peter 1:22. It tells us to, “Love one another deeply and from the heart.” I don't know about you, but I tend to think that the deeper I love, the deeper I can hurt. In today's world, we tend to want to love one another shallowly…or at least in a way that will cause us the least pain.
My dear sister Jenny is moving to Minnesota very soon. I love Jenny deeply. This move is a really hard thing for me to have to deal with. Part of me wishes that I could just say, "Who cares? No big deal." and watch her leave. However, I've taken the risk, so to speak, to open my heart up here. I love her so deeply. I feel that way about her whole family. What really kills me is that my kids love her kids so much. There's nothing like that cousin love. It would be so much easier if none of us were close. Maybe it'd be smart to keep our distance over the last few days of their stay here in California. But "easy" isn't the goal. Loving deeply is. I don't want any regrets when they're gone. I want to know that we formed as many great memories as possible. Even though that does make the pain of their leaving even more intense!
What we can learn from agape will teach us to love the way God asks us to; to love perfectly. Not with our heart hidden away in the “coffin” of selfishness (or what we may want to call self-protection).
Agape is completely self-less in nature. It loves everyone, it loves endlessly and it even loves undeservingly. Agape is utterly disassociated from NEED. God created the world out of agape, not out of need. We can be filled to overflowing with agape, and then it will pour from us. We will love others more and need others less. We can take the risk, because we realize there is no risk in loving God. Getting filled up from Him first will cause us to love more freely and recklessly than ever before.
So, the question then becomes “how”? How do I become a person who loves in the idea of Agape?
• We must believe that He loves us 100% (not because of who we are or what we do but because of who HE is!) We’ve got to really let that one sink in….and like I said, once we experience that love, it will truly transform us!
• We need to take the time daily to get filled up with that love. Once we are filled up, we are free to pour out.
• Then, we will love everyone, we will love endlessly and we will love even the undeserving or even harder, those who are different than we are.