Thursday, February 27, 2014

What is Love?

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As the month of February (the month we celebrate love and Valentine's Day) comes to a close, I want to finally write a post about this message which I have been putting off.  I would say the word "love" is probably one of the most commonly used words in the English language.  We use it to describe a whole range of feelings and emotions.  We love ourselves, our families, our children, our pets, our favorite television show, sports team, food, drink, clothing apparel, shoes, friends, and maybe even our deity of choice.  Our frequent use of this word often leaves it feeling empty and meaningless these days so we often feel that just saying a simple "I love you" isn't enough to express the stronger feelings of attachment we may feel for another person.  Just look at how many alternate definitions good ol' Mr. Webster provides for this simple four letter word:

1  a (1) :  strong affection for another arising out of kinship or personal ties <love for a child>; (2) :  attraction based on sexual desire :  affection and tenderness felt by lovers (3) :  affection based on admiration, benevolence, or common interests <love for his old schoolmates>;
b :  an assurance of affection love;
2:  warm attachment, enthusiasm, or devotion <love of the sea>;
3  a :  the object of attachment, devotion, or admiration love;
(1) :  a beloved person :  darling —often used as a term of endearment (2) British —used as an informal term of address;
4  a :  unselfish loyal and benevolent concern for the good of another: as (1) :  the fatherly concern of God for humankind (2) :  brotherly concern for others
:  a person's adoration of God

:  a god or personification of love
:  an amorous episode :  love affair
:  the sexual embrace :  copulation
:  a score of zero (as in tennis)

Does it get more convoluted than that definition?  Wow!  As Christians, we are called to find the deeper meaning of the word love as God defines it in his Word.  If we look to the Biblical definition of love, we would probably find it most similar to number 4 above although that definition may still seem a little weak.

The most commonly used scripture to define love is probably  1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (NIV):

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  Love never fails.

This definition of love does seem to conflict with the more worldly definition of love where most people seem to feel they should love themselves above all others.  Love is not supposed to be selfish or self-seeking, right?

My pastor's sermon series for February was an amazing look at God's definition of love, primarily between couples, and how that definition applies to the sexual relationship.  This was the cute graphic our church's media team created for the series:

I invite you to listen to any of the podcasts of the sermons from this series whenever you have a free minute or two.  
 He defined the 4 different types of love found in the Bible:

1.  Eros:  the physical, sensual love between a husband and a wife. The scriptures address this type of love as a necessary and important part of a healthy marriage.  Yes, the Bible does seem to be very clear that this type of love is to be fulfilled between a husband and a wife.  It does actually forbid sex outside of marriage.  You can read more on that subject here as I do not want to pretend to be an expert on that subject.  I can just say that I truly appreciate the precious gift of this type of love with my husband.  Even the apostle Paul who chose to remain unmarried recognized its importance when he wrote:

Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I do. But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion. (1 Corinthians 7:8-9, NIV)

2.  Philia:  close friendship or brotherly love

Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. (Romans 12:10 ESV)

3.  Storge:  family love; the bond between mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers.  Many examples of family love are found in Scripture, such as the love and mutual protection among Noah and his wife, their sons and daughters-in-law in Genesis; the love of Jacob for his sons; and the strong love the sisters Martha and Mary in the gospels had for their brother Lazarus.

And last but certainly not least, 

4.  Agape:  This form of love is the highest and most important of all the forms of love.  It is selfless, sacrificial, and unconditional love.  It is the love that God exemplified completely on the cross for each of us, and it is the love that He calls each of us to strive to duplicate for Him as he calls us to follow his commandments.  

Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them. (John 14:21, NIV)

My scripture verse for today is another example of God's important commandment to love Him and to love one another.

The end of all things is near.  Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray.  Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.  (1 Peter 4:7-8)

Jesus says, "As I have loved you, so you must love one another."  (John 13:34b)

So who are you loving today?

8 comments:

  1. Wow, this is good stuff. My favorite Bible verse is John 3:16, and sometimes I look at the clock when it is exactly 3:16 or my total for breakfast is $3.16....I'm always thinking, "there You go again!" It is so nice to be loved. : )

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    1. Oh yes, John 3:16 is definitely one of my all time favs! I remember when I was teaching children's church at my Dad's old church and did a little lesson on John 3:16 and what God's love for us means. I led the children in the salvation prayer that Sunday, and it will always be one of my favorite memories. :-)

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  2. Great post! Very interesting. I have friends (husband and wife) who call each other Agape as a pet name. I finally get it!

    I am really behind on your posts so I should probably read them before asking this, but did you take the picture on the top? Is that your house? Yes or no- I love it!

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    1. I am so glad I could let you in on the "secret" meaning of that word. I think it is so great that the Greek language has so many words to describe the different uses of the word love. It makes it mean so much more and be less convoluted than our one word for all meanings. :-)

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  3. Great post! I've learned so much about loving people in the last ten years, and still learning. Love is the catalyst for change. We must love first. He loves us first. Going to live some one extra today!

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    1. That's a good quote..."Love is the catalyst for change." Isn't that the truth? :-)

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  4. I can't wait to listen to the Podcasts! I often remind myself that love is patient. I want to show that to my children as much as I can.

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  5. This is such a beautiful post. And it is so challenging, for me, to keep striving towards the 1 Corinthians 13 definition of love.

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