This week has been a lot. A lot of red, a lot of pink, a lot of close up pictures of roses and sappy Facebook posts (I will totally admit that I was responsible for writing one of them).
I would be lying if I said that I hate Valentine’s day. I love a good excuse to give gifts, eat chocolate, and go out to eat rather than cooking.
But after attending a conference this weekend that absolutely ignited my love for God’s love, this Valentine’s day made me sadder than most.
I am in a place that our own human way of loving feels so small compared to the love God has for us. Don’t get me wrong, I love celebrating the love I harbor for my husband. But that love is only at its best when it is met through the lens of the Father’s love for us.
Perhaps the most confusing four letter word out there. We love pizza. We love our family. We love our boyfriends and girlfriends and spouses. Some love U of L and the less awesome folks love UK. We sing out our love for Christ in worship then go home and rave about how much we love This is Us.
This may be why we often aren’t able to effectively grasp the kind of love Jesus demonstrated for us when He took on the cross. It may be why we are so inclined to cultural Christianity, loving Jesus as much as we love our dogs and cats. This is why I will stand strong that English pales in comparison to the Greek.
In the Greek, love is defined by four separate words. Four words that help us understand how our love emotions exist and how they can best be relationally applied. So let us celebrate love this week. But let us know what we are celebrating. Let us understand the least of the loves and the greatest. Rather than generalizing our bubbly emotions, let us live our lives in and through these specific loves, understanding how one affects and builds upon another.
…is a love we are typically familiar with. This is the love after which the city of Philadelphia was named. The brotherly (or sisterly!) kind of love. It speaks of affection and fondness. It is the one from which we show our appreciation in others. It is involved in giving and receiving. This love speaks of affection, fondness, or liking. It involves giving as well as receiving.
This philia love is not eternal. It can fall under strain. It can collapse under weariness.
One of its most famous appearances in scripture is found in Matthew 10:37
“Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.”
Obviously, this verse is not saying that we should harbor hatred for our closest people here on earth, but it is explaining that when our philia love, this very perishable kind of love, outshines our love for God, we should begin questioning whether or not we are really sold-out in love with Him.
Thought provoker: If I had to choose right now between having a relationship with God and having a relationship with your most beloved person, who would I choose? If the answer is not God, we have to pray now that He would mold our hearts’ desires into that which would choose Him every time–not that our love for people would diminish, but that our love for Him might explode. Let me tell you, friends. This one is hard for me. I would presume it might be hard for all of us. Let us not try to change our hearts by and of our own power, but through His hand alone.
…is the kind of love I feel for my husband, my mama, my daddy, my sister, my puppy, my grandma, and all the other people I get to naturally love. I hold these people dear because my soul innately wants to. I love how McLean Bible puts it when they explain, “It is a quiet, abiding feeling within that rests on something close…”
This love is beautiful. It is a kind of love we all feel. It is a natural inclination. But it hurts when someone we storge-love hurts us. It can leave us feeling abandoned and lonely. It is what makes us feel as though our own heart has been ripped out when we lose someone.
Yet paired with another kind of love, this storge affection can be invincible. Romans 12:10 demonstrates both storge love and philia love together when it uses the term “brotherly affection”
“Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.”
This demonstrates that the best kind of storge love is that of choice. We not only feel inclined to show this love, we choose to act upon it.
Thought provoker: How can I purposefully pair my storge love with my philia love in my natural relationships? Beloved brothers and sisters, this is hard. It takes us out of our habitual love and forces us to place effort into the relationships that we hold most dear. It seems like it would be easy until we are called to do it for those who have hurt us or those who do not seem to want a storge love with us.
…is not a kind of love found in scripture, yet it is one we are all too familiar with. This is the “me” kind of love. It is the kind of love that is self-seeking rather than other-serving. It is the kind of love that fears it might be lost. It beckons us to enter relationship because of what we might get out of it. It is a love of passion, pleasure, popularity, person-hood. It says, “I love you because you make me feel good.”
This is the most fragile kind of love. This is the kind of love that was brought to earth when Adam and Eve made the choice to break God’s commands, and it is the one we follow every day when we do the same.
Thought Provoker: How often do I fill my time with this kind of love? It can be as small as watching Netflix for hours rather than digging into God’s Word that we might fill our heads with pleasurable thoughts. It can be as large as getting married only for the self-satisfaction of having a husband.
I fear we hold tight to this love far more than we know.
This love says, “I’ll follow Jesus if…”
…if he gives me a good job.
…if he makes my depression go away.
…if he helps me prosper here.
It tells our children that we will love them only when they obey us. It tells our spouses that we will love them only when they ‘get it together’. It tells our friends that they cannot count on us. It tells the world that our God is a God of conditions.
It is not real love.
This is real love…
…Praise God from whom all blessings flow! Oh, my friends, this love is the blessing. This is the noblest word for love in all the Greek language. It is not inspired by the worth of its object but originates just because. This is the “God is love” love. God is Agape. It is the opposite of eros because it sought nothing but us! It sought only our ability to reside in the house of the Lord forever.
There are only a few known occurrences of this love outside of the Bible. Y’all this is Jesus love.
This is a love that we do not get to take part in without Him. It is the love that delights in giving with no expectation of receiving. It is the love that would give its life without hesitation. Rather, it did give its life without hesitation.
It is the love that removed the conditions. It fulfilled the law. It poured out its blood upon a cross that we might get to partake in it. And according to God’s word, we get to!
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
“…and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”
1 Thessalonians 3:12
“…and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you”
This is the love that should be met in our marriages, in our friendships, in every relationship in which we desire to bring glory to God. It is the love we long to have but rarely want to give. It is the kind of love that is a choice. This is the perfect love that casts out fear. This is the greatest of these. This is God. This kind of love feels impossible, but as we just read in 1 Thessalonians, we can abound in this love for one another. When we have partaken in this kind of love from God, He pours it out on us that it might overflow into our relationships with others.
Thought provoker: Are my relationships met with unconditional love? I am talking the love that forgives abandonment without being asked for forgiveness. The kind of love that goes back into the relational storm though lightening strikes all around. The kind of love that stops holding hurt against another. For good.
I would be lying and fooling you if I answered that question with a yes.
Here is what I know. That answer can be a yes when my heart becomes aligned with God’s. When we are seeking to be a man or a woman after God’s own heart, He makes our desires His. Over and over and over He is faithful to transform our eros into agape. He is faithful to join our storge and philia together and top them off with His unconditional agape. He will bless our desire to love like He does. Unconditionally. Without self-interest. Eternally.