Valentine’s Day is right around the corner and with it a plethora of pink, teddy bears, and heart-shaped everything. On this designated day, people make a special effort to let others know they’re loved (and others desperately wait to hear confessions of love). But why must this be designated to one day? And why must it be romantic love? Can’t we love everyone everyday with God’s love, a love that’s beyond the material and commercialized? What is real love?
When I look up “love” on dictionary.com, these are the top three definitions:
1. a profoundly tender, passionate affection for another person.
2. a feeling of warm personal attachment or deep affection, as for a parent, child, or friend.
3. sexual passion or desire.
The Greek language has four words for love:
– eros (romantic, sexual love)
– agape (brotherly love, charity)
-philia (friendship love)
-storge (natural affection as of parents for their children, also a less common word for “love” than the first three)
If you note the definitions of “love” listed above the Greek, you’ll see that #1 could be eros or agape, #2 is philia, and #3 is eros. Also, note that love is described by other nouns, namely“affection,” a “feeling,” and a “desire.”
Is love affection, a feeling, or a stirring passionate desire? Our society portrays it as such, and it’s terrifying. I would feel utterly heartbroken if my husband told me he had strong feelings of affection or desire for me. Likewise, if my closest friends or family members said they had warm feelings for me I would cry rivers. “Why?” you ask. Because that kind of love is changeable and not based on a commitment. That kind of love says “I love you for what you do for me,” “I love you when you’re attractive,” or “I love you when you make me happy.” I’m blessed because my husband, close friends, and family love me with God’s love, agape love. Agape love is not based on performance of the receiver of love nor the feelings of the giver.
“Tell me more about this agape love,” you say. Of course! In my brief search, this is what I’ve unearthed on the topic:
“Agápe means love: esp. brotherly love, charity; the love of God for man and of man for God. Agape is used in the biblical passage known as the ‘love chapter,’ 1 Corinthians 13, and is described there and throughout the New Testament as brotherly love, affection, good will, love, and benevolence. Whether the love given is returned or not, the person continues to love (even without any self-benefit). Agape is used by Christians to express the unconditional love of God for his children. This type of love was further explained by Thomas Aquinas as ‘to will the good of another.’”
Sorry, that was long…phew! But it was so good I had to include it all. Did you notice the key words? Unconditional, wanting good for others, given without self-benefit. This kind of love is extraterrestrial. It’s from heaven above, and its existence on earth only happens when people let God fill them with this love. You have to be possessed by God’s Holy Spirit to love this way because human nature cries “me first.”
Close relationships reveal whether you’re possessed with selfish or God’s love. Marriage opened my eyes to the depth of true, godly love and my lack of this love for others. Real love hurts and doesn’t come naturally. Real love doesn’t lay down requirements or conditions. Real love forgives even when pride rears its ugly head. Real love is daily, practical, and in the little things. You know the phrase, “the end justifies the means?” Well, when it comes to love, the end is all about the means. It’s all about the in between, the small details.
Here’s some personal examples:
Love is when my husband takes the day off from work to take care of me when I have the stomach bug and have thrown up all over the bath tub. (True story. May it never happen again!)
Love is when my best friend drops off food, unasked and secretively (well she tried, I caught her), from Panera on my door step when I was home caring for my husband.
Love is when I ran my car into a bench and banged up the side door pretty badly, and instead of chiding me, my dad just hugged me and let me cry. He extended grace instead of punishment. (He then proceeded to buy a new car door for me and then paint it to match the rest of the car.)
I’m so blessed to be loved this way. And I’m reminded to love others this way, even though it is so hard. You may be thinking “Isn’t marriage about passion and desire?” Well, yes. But it can’t survive on that. A good marriage is founded on God and a commitment to one another; otherwise it will fail because people fail.
Love is a choice. Love is a verb. It’s about what you DO for others, not about what you receive.
I could write an entire book on this topic, but I’ll leave you with some food for thought: “Love is when the other person’s happiness is more important than your own.” ~H. Jackson Brown, Jr.
I challenge you this Valentine’s Day, and every day, to share agape love with others. Be God’s hands and feet. Be filled with His Spirit. Be love.
Learning to love God’s way,