As I ask that question, I discover how difficult it is to
answer. How would you describe love? If you think love is a feeling, think
again; that could be heartburn. If you think love is like a fantasy, that can
be dangerous; fantasy is almost always better than reality.
What does “love” mean in the Bible? There are seven
different Greek words in the New Testament that are translated, “love” in
English, yet each one has a different meaning. They are: (1) Eros – Romantic
Love; (2) Philia – Affectionate Love (Like a good friend); (3) Storge –
Familial Love (Parents, brother, sister, etc.); (4) Pragma – Enduring Love; (5)
Philautia – Self-Love (Self-esteem); (6) Ludas – Playful Love (Butterflies in
your stomach); (7) Agape’ – Unconditional love.
At Matthew 22:36-40, Jesus is asked which of the Commands
of the Mosaic Law is the most important. He replies: “Love God with all your
heart, mind, and soul” and “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
In this statement several types of love are included. The
“love” we are to have for God encompasses affectionate, familial, enduring, and
sometimes playful love. When we truly experience the love of God, we are also able
to experience a healthy form of self-love; realizing that we are children of
God and therefore priceless.
In the statement, “Love your neighbor as yourself”, the
Greek root is Agape’; “unconditional love.” Recall the words of the Apostle
John, “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, so that all
who believe in him will never die, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)
That root is also Agape’. Therefore, God’s love for
humankind is “unconditional”, just as our love for other humans is required to
be unconditional. There were no footnotes added by John to exclude anyone from the
love of God.
The realization that God’s love for us is unconditional
gives us the freedom to love God without feeling pressured into it. God’s love
is an invitation to a relationship; an indescribable unity of body, mind, soul,
and Spirit, not a threat or condition of love.
God’s love does not separate us from one another, it
unites us when we live-in to God’s love appropriately. How do we live-in to
God’s love appropriately? When Jesus is quoted as saying, “Love your enemies”,
that is also Agape’, unconditional love. The same goes for Jesus saying, “love
one another as I have loved you.”
There is the difficulty; learning to love others
unconditionally. Human love is always conditional. If someone hurts us, we
don’t feel like we can love them. The truth is, you don’t have to like someone
to love them (Agape’ love, that is).
If our lives depended on God “liking” us, we would be in
trouble most of the time. Humans do a lot of un-likeable things to each other
and this planet. It’s a good thing God loves us!
Blessings and Peace to you
ST. ANDREW’S EPISCOPAL CHURCH
555 E. Third Street | Grove, OK 74344