What is Love?

Most people have many questions about Love.  It is something that we don’t fully understand, and even those who have studied it for their entire life don’t quite get it.  We ask: am I “In Love” and what does that mean?  Is it right or wrong to have a strong emotional bond with someone and is that all there is to love?  Is love just a feeling?  Is love not a feeling for that matter, does true love really need time to develop or can someone truly believe in “Love at first sight”? I would now like to humbly offer my views on love and its implications, and also what the Bible has to say on this matter.

Different Words For Love:

We have lots of instruction about this both from the bible and from many of our leaders and teachers. The bible develops very well what love means. First off biblical love is commonly referred to as Agape. There are other types of love as well. Eros and Philia are these other two kinds of love. Many people in our culture have mistaken Eros for true love and have a really cruddy relationships because of it. Eros is best defined in the word it sounds like “Erotic” (as Eros is the root for Erotic) it is simply the emotions that run through your head and body when you are “falling in love” with somebody. As it was said before “Eros” love fades with time through biological means and therefore the bond that there was before quickly dies.  Sadly I believe this is one of the key factors in divorces today. A couple gets together thinking they are “In love” and then after a few years (or even sooner) the feeling wears off. They aren’t getting the feeling they once had when they first met and now they are longing for the romantic feel again.

The second word is Philia which is brotherly love. We see brotherly love all around us in the friends we make and how we treat those friends. Now, one problem I commonly see is a person having a great relationship with someone of the opposite sex and then realizing that they have a strong feeling of love for them. Now this is a form of true love but it is not the love to be found within a marriage. The bible commands us to love our neighbors as ourselves and this will lead to a true love with that person. What I was saying is that sometimes I see a person loving someone else and then the relationship becomes highly confused. Someone mistakes the others Philia love for “True love” and then they take the relationship from there and go off and get married. They truly love each other so that shouldn’t be a problem right? Wrong! they have the wrong type of love for a marriage relationship. Philia in my mind is one step higher than Eros but it still isn’t quite there to Agape yet. Now to ease up some confusion somebody might have at this point I am not saying Eros or Philia are wrong, in fact they are quite great! They are both forms of love that we express to each other. A marriage will have a very tough time getting going if there is no Eros within it and will definitely fail if there is no Philia!

But here I get to the crux of it all, Agape love. The purest form of love we know of. Agape love is best defined by the bible in 1 Corinthians 13 when it describes the different features of love. This highly important verse says, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, 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.” There is certainly a lot of aspects of love! Perhaps some that you have never thought of before. I will now go into a bit of detail about each of these aspects of love.

The Types of Godly Love:

Love is patient: Love is long-suffering, it will endure all hardships at all times and under any circumstances. We love without being filled with anger, resentment, indignation, or revenge. So yes, a very good way to see whether your relationship will last is through going through tough times but I would argue that this need not be tested to know that you have this aspect of Agape love. All you need to do is to ask yourself a very simple question. What would I do if she (or he) did “_____” And you fill in the blank with some really horrible things. If you can honestly answer that you would feel no resentment or want revenge then you have this form of love. Be completely honest with yourself though. But just because you haven’t had hard times already, it doesn’t mean you won’t survive the future.

Love is kind: your love should be gentle, courteous, and obliging. You will seek out to do favors for your beloved, not because you will gain something from it but because you just feel inclined to do so. In fact you may find yourself purposefully straying away from any behavior in which you could stand to gain from your good deeds. This is an aspect of humility as well.

Love does not envy: you do not become jealous when somebody else gets something you don’t in fact you are very glad for that person. You do not wish to tear the other down to your level or are displeased in their happiness. You share that joy with your loved one and rejoice with them instead!

Love does not brag: You do not seek to gain your beloved’s approval and admiration. You do not need their applause. You are to be humble and to do things, as I said before, selflessly. True love will raise your opinion of you loved one and in so doing lower your opinion of yourself. You then will find it hard to become conceited or arrogant. You do not seek to raise tumults and disturbances but seek to calm these angry passions.

Love is not arrogant: We must accept that we cannot be mind readers or somehow know everything there is to know about the other. We must be modest and expect the loved one to change over time and love the person they develop into. We will be, again, humble in our thoughts about each other.

Love does not act unbecomingly: Your love should stay securely within the bounds of decency. You will do nothing ill-mannered or rude. You refuse to do things that could be seen as base or vile, and you will do things as there is a time and place. We will act with reverence and respect for our beloved and keep the distinctions our society has set for us to keep. You will not do anything that could be seen as irresponsible or inappropriate.

Love does not seek its own: Love is unselfish. It is not self-serving. We will, in our love continually express service to our beloved. We are naturally “takers” and must learn in our love to become “givers”. Love is “What can I do to serve you” instead of “what is in it for me”

Love is not provoked: If you love this person you will never be irritated with them. You will not be annoyed with things they do whether simple or deep. In so doing you cannot then bring up such annoyances in arguments as insult. If you love this person you will not find the annoying thing annoying anymore. If you find yourself doing this however now is the time to correct this behavior. It is highly destructive and serves only for pain of both parties. You are first annoyed with something they do then in the future you bring it up in an argument only to hurt them. Do not let yourself be quick to anger either. Let love soothe your mind and do not hold on to such passions.

Love does not take into account a wrong suffered: Love thinks no evil. You must not think to get even with someone and pay them back somehow. You must also not suspect evil of someone. You must give them, as it is said, the benefit of the doubt. Do not indulge your suspicions and do not give into an ill opinion of your beloved. You must be slow and reluctant to believe wrongly anything about them. Instead of seeking out to uncover a lie it seeks to cover and forget it. It covers all sins with love and patience and longsuffering.

Love does not rejoice in unrighteousness: love, simply, wishes no ill to anyone. It does not take into matter the sins of the other with delight or rejoicing. It does not rejoice in its own sins. You must respond to the failings of others with compassion and extend a helping hand in restoration. You must not have sport in seeing another’s sins uncovered.

Love rejoices with the truth: love will have great joy every time the expression of truth takes place. It is overjoyed at the righteous application of the knowledge of God’s word, a life being changed, and the growth of faith of the beloved. It seeks justice and blessing.

Love bears all things: love will cover, keep silent, and keep confidential all wrongdoings of the beloved. It will endure and put up with any shortcomings. We must become aware of the nature of the object of our love, and how it is yet only human. We must allow the loved one to expose their faults before us. To “lay here broken and naked” for us to “clothe you in crimson roses” we must seek to protect our loved one from the public rather than to publish their faults for the world to see.

Love believes all things: this is much more directly aimed at giving your beloved the benefit of the doubt. You will believe them until all evidence becomes too overwhelming and then you will confront them but in love and understanding believing them and their reasons the whole way. You will see only the best in your beloved whenever possible.

Love hopes all things: love hopes for the best in the object of the love. You constantly look for the best and encourage and exhort them for all their accomplishments. You must acknowledge the presence of sin however but still look to see the good and the hope in all things.

Love endures all things: Love stands its ground and never gives up. The word here is a military term meaning to hold on regardless of whatever assaults and attacks may come our way. Love should hold on with all its got and never let go. That is where the wedding vows come in. We are committed to what we are doing here in this relationship. I’m gonna be here till I die!

How Can We Love Each Other?

So now that you know what agape love really means I would like to say that a marriage without agape love is not a true marriage at all. It is the purest form of love. Now the next big argument I would like to make is that we in our various natures will feel that love most in certain ways. This concept is explored in a book called “The Five Love Languages” by Gary Chapman. I would like to suggest reading about the five love languages yourself, but here I will also describe what they are and what they mean in a newly developing relationship.

The love languages are: Words of affirmation, Quality time, Acts of service, Physical touch, and Gifts. Don’t ever let anybody tell you that one or more of these expressions of love are insignificant or possibly not needed. These aspects of the expression of love must be very prevalent in any relationship whether pre or post marriage. Every individual develops differently psychologically, so his or her individual love language can vary widely. Frequently that person will best express his love for another in his own language just as we English speakers speak English best. However, in a relationship with a person of the opposite sex you may find that the person opposite may have a totally different love language. This is frequently where the confusion arises between partners. They must learn to speak each other’s language and to speak it fluently. Now first I would like to address the problem some of you might have with somebody having the love language of physical touch. You might argue that it isn’t one or that it is somehow wrong or whatever. But I am here to tell you that my own dominant love language is most likely physical touch. This entails anything really. Holding hands while walking, hugging, back rubs, and most obviously kissing. Now this is most definitely a Godly aspect of love. I would challenge any person who thinks otherwise to give Song of Songs (or Song of Solomon) a good read through. God has created the intimacy of physical touch with great purpose.

At this point I would also like to argue against the point of love being just a biological thing. If we reduce “being in love” to just a biological impulse than what have we become?! Of course we have a biological impulse that drives us in this fashion but do not reduce a relationship to that! If you feel like you are in love with somebody than you probably are, but instead of blaming that on hormones and pheromones I would like to point you to what true love is. Have an agape love with your girlfriend/boyfriend and you will not believe where it will take you! Yes you, being newly in love, can have true Agape love. Nothing and nobody can stop you from doing that! So yes, I believe in love at first sight, at least in the regard that it is highly possible to have agape love for someone immediately after seeing them. The reason behind this is that Love is a choice. Many of you know this very well from reading Ted Dekker’s stuff.

What are the things El Elyon loves us by? He Chooses, He Pursues, He Rescues, He Woos, He Protects, He Lavishes! What is the first step? Choosing. It is possible for you to choose to love someone with agape love as soon as you see them. So do not judge a relationship purely on how long it has been going, or on anything else. Judge it on whether you see true agape love or not. Time is not the only recommendation for this situation. What is needed is to analyze whether this “love” is currently only biological or whether it is Agape. If it is agape then I would advise moving ahead in the relationship in whatever form that may be. If it isn’t then it doesn’t mean you have to stop the relationship it just means that you need to focus on developing the agape love. Now, this does not mean that whoever you are in love with will respond with reciprocity and so don’t take this as “advice on how to get a girl/guy” but instead take this as advice on how to make sure your love is real and genuine.

Also it is a good thing to take every relationship you are in seriously. Take your intentions into consideration. If you aren’t thinking about the future of the relationship you probably not in love. If you are seriously taking the future of the relationship and your intentions into consideration then it is much easier to figure out you really love this person. If you want a future together AND love them, then there is a much better chance for you. If you do not dwell on the future of your love, then what are you doing? You are wasting your own time and theirs.

I cannot tell you very much about love, even when I write this much. The more you learn about love the more you find out there is, you fall deep into it! That is one of the great mysteries of love! Remember, God is Love. He Chooses, He Pursues, He Rescues, He Woos, He Protects, He Lavishes. All for us, he loves us all!

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