Hallmark’s favorite day just passed us by yet another year. Many cards were exchanged, gifts and flowers doled out, and restaurants booked for lovely romantic dinners. It’s a retailer’s dream! Every year, on February 14th, the theme of the day is love.
Love. We celebrate it, say it, and even attempt to show it, but what is it really?
Love is a word we use so often to express a wide range of emotions. Unfortunately, it’s also a word that gets misappropriated far too much. One major reason it gets distorted is because our English language only provides for us one general word. We say that we love God. We say that we love our family. We might say that we love our job, car, and home. We also say that we love __________. You could fill in that line with countless other examples. Now, obviously, we don’t love our job, our car, our home, or any other object, in the same way we love God or our family. Yet, we use that word interchangeably to describe all of those things. Having only one word for love is just too broad.
Consider the Greek language, who has narrowed love down to eight, more specific terms.
1. Eros – romantic
2. Philia (Philly-a) – affectionate (friends)
3. Storage (Store gay) – familiar (family)
4. Pragma – enduring (long marriage)
5. Philautia (Phil-ow-tia) – self
6. Mania – obsessive
7. Ludas – playful
8. Agape – unconditional
As you can see, their use of the word love is much more specific and targeted. If you think about it, we have all used most, if not all of these meanings attached to our one word, love. You can understand why things may get mixed up and misunderstood. Maybe you already know all of these Greeks words, maybe you don’t, but the last one on that list is the one you probably hear the most and it’s certainly the one that’s the most important to us believers, agape.
Do we show unconditional, selfless love for others? Do we care for others more than for ourselves? At times, I’d bet we all can answer yes. I’m sure some may even show it more often than others. Most of us, however, would probably agree that agape love is, no doubt, the most difficult type of love to demonstrate consistently. This leads to the biggest reason love gets misappropriated. Most of the world doesn’t comprehend what real love is because they don’t have a relationship with its source. Now we’re not talking about that mythical creature Cupid here, we’re talking about the King of kings, Jesus Christ. Consider what the apostle John wrote:
1 John 4:9-10 (NLT)
(9) God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. (10)This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.
Now pause, step back, and let that resonate. God, who is the creator of existence, who is absolute power, absolute knowledge, absolute strength, chose to send His Son into this world and suffer an unimaginably horrific death at the very hands of the people He came to save and grant eternal life. Could God have created a different plan? Certainly. Did He have to sacrifice His Son? No way. This is the plan He chose. This is love, TRUE LOVE! The ultimate sacrifice! Unfathomable!
Only through Him can we even begin to exhibit true love explained in that popular passage recited at just about every wedding:
1 Corinthians 13:4-8 (NLT)
(4) Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud (5) or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. (6) It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. (7) Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. (8) Prophecy and speaking in unknown languages and special knowledge will become useless. But love will last forever!
I’m sure these are verses we have heard sooooo many times and after a while, we may gloss over their significance and even fail to demonstrate them. This is heavy stuff! There is no way we can show that kind of love without the power of the Holy Spirit within us, overriding our sinful nature.
We’re living in a time where unity and love are being promised and promoted all around us, but division, unfortunately, is what we’re witnessing more frequently. You may be experiencing this personally with family members, friends, co-workers, or even fellow believers. It is so easy to get discouraged, frustrated, and distracted by this, but don’t lose heart! Remember that we can’t control everything around us, but we can control how we react and live. Continue surrendering to Christ and continue praying for all of those in your life and around you. As we press on in our faith, we will shine brightly in the darkness so that those who are lost can be found in Christ and finally see and experience TRUE LOVE.