Monday, April 25, 2011

What is Love?

“All you need is LOVE”


“God is LOVE”

1 John 4:8

How many different types of love are there? There is love for one’s parents and family, love for one’s close friends love for stuff, love of money, love of sports, love of self, love of women, love of sex, love of drugs, love of music, love of __________ (fill-in-the-blank hobby), love of men (maybe…. :), and love for a significant other. When I’m talking to someone I will throw around the word “love” frequently and it never has the same meaning. There are intensities of love. We are all looking for love in one way or another. Someone without love is someone without hope.

Why do we love? We are hoping to be loved in return. It is something we all seem to inherently strive to gain: the love of others. We even attempt to get love from things that cannot really love us back. Why do we love sports? We get such a high emotional reaction to the outcome of the game that we feel fulfillment from that. It is the same with any other sort of entertainment. It is not bad. Actually it is good to be able to enjoy entertainment but it cannot be our main supply for love. How can we define love?

In Greek they had four different words for love: “Eros,” “storge,” “philia,” and “agape.” C.S. Lewis put them in the following order: storge, philia, eros, agape with agape being the most intense form of love and the greatest of loves. I am no Greek scholar and I have seen them put in different orders but I have always appreciated Clive’s point of view.

Stroge is applied to acquaintances and in our language I think I should be classified as a “like” and not a “love.” This is the type of love we have for inanimate objects. “Bro, I love that movie!” Inanimate objects should not be given more love than this because they cannot love you back although people try to get money to love them back. Philia is the love that is shared between close friends and family. It is developed over time and is obviously what comes after stroge. The next love in line is eros which some define as actually “being in love.” It is the romantic part of a relationship that can follow a philia friendship. The last one doesn’t necessarily follow any of the other “loves.” Agape is the love that I have heard the most about in church and it is also what Clive calls the greatest of loves. Agape is what is called unconditional love and this is the love that is used the most in the New Testament.

The Greek terms for love do help narrow down our intensities of love a little bit more but there are still intensities for the Greek terms for love. I know I have a different level of “love” for my acquaintances, my friends, and my family members. I have never really experienced eros but I can say with confidence that there are different intensities of that love as well; Almost every marriage starts out with that eros feeling and for at least 50% of them they lost that feeling somewhere along the way and many end in divorce.

The one love that doesn’t have any different levels of intensity is agape. That is because agape is not dependent on what the other person does but it is a state of mind and a choice to love. Agape does not seek the love of others. It is the love the loves with the possibility of not getting anything in return. It is that crazy love that says “Love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you.”

I want to add one more level of love that I have never seen but I have felt. I am referring to God’s LOVE but I want to make a distinction between our love and God’s LOVE. God is LOVE! Everything he does and everything He is, is LOVE. The New Testament writers used agape whenever they were referring to LOVE. But His LOVE is much deeper than anything we can describe or imagine because we get our understanding and our desire for LOVE from God. We are always searching for something to fulfill us. We try eros, philia, love of money, love of things to bring fulfillment in our life but all we need is LOVE. One of my friends wrote on her status: “May all my friends experience HIS extravagant LOVE. Reach up and receive it!! It is available for you now. stop and open your heart up for the touch!!” God’s LOVE is free and it is crazy and it doesn’t make human sense. Why does God love me with this LOVE after all the times I have lied to him and betrayed him and told him “no I am going to try this form of fulfillment?” I believe Francis Chan puts it very well in his book entitled Crazy Love. He says

There is an incalculable, faultless, eternal God who loves the frail beings He made with a crazy kind of love. Even though we could die at any moment and generally think our puny lives are pretty sweet compared to loving Him, He persists in loving us with unending, outrageous love.

The last book that we read as a small group was called The Comfort of Vengeance by Ben Redmond. It brings up the perceived conflict between God’s LOVE and God’s vengeance found in the book of Nahum. How can God be loving and vengeful? The conflict only arises when we look at it from a human standpoint. Vengefulness and love has never existed in any human I have ever met. When I see someone bent on vengeance, they do not have love. But with God, his vengefulness flows from his LOVE which means it is not vengefulness at all. But we see it as vengefulness because there is no word to describe a loving vengefulness. It is same thing when God is said to be a “jealous” God. When I think of jealousy, I think of a man who does not trust his wife enough to let her talk to other men. This vengefulness and jealously cannot be looked at it as a human being vengeful or a human being jealous. God’s vengeance comes from His LOVE for all the people and things that He made. If a nation is continually sinning against Him and His creation, it is His right as the creator to punish them. People need to know that they cannot commit such atrocities and get away with it. God always warns the people as well and is much more forgiving and patient with them than any human would be. Why should parents punish a child? Parents should punish children to let them know they have gone too far and to correct wrong behavior NOT just to get the child to be quiet. It should be through love (and hopefully LOVE). God’s motivation is the same and much purer and true than any parent’s motivation could ever be. “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! (Matthew 7:11)”

God’s LOVE is crazy! Reach up and grab it because He gives it to us freely. Everyday renew your LOVE intake. There may be times when you feel dry and you feel God is not there but "I will never leave you nor forsake you."

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