What is Love?

Last month, on February 14th, everyone all over North America celebrated Valentine’s Day. This is a day where couples all over the nation dedicate a single day to their significant other to remember their love for each other and why that person is important to them. But besides the love between a man and his wife there are several different types of love described in the Greek language. According to the Greeks there are four significant types of love which include Storge, Philia, Eros, and Agape. What’s the significance of each of these types of love? What do they mean? Let’s take a look at each one.

Storge is described, in its most basic definition, as love and affection especially between parents and children. It is the natural affection that is felt by parents towards their offspring. Philia means affectionate regard and friendship usually between two peers. It is expressed as loyalty to friends, family, and community. This is why Philadelphia is known as the city of brotherly love. Eros means love through sexual passion or in other words, intimate love. This is the love that is expressed between a man and his wife and this is the love that is most commonly known and celebrated on Valentine’s Day. The last and most important love is known as Agape. Agape means, in the rawest sense, unconditional love. There is only one attribution of this type of love and it is expressed in the Bible as the love shown from God towards man. We see the description of this love and our responsibility towards it in the following verses:

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” | John 13:34-35

That is quite a high standard to set! We have the responsibility to love our fellow brothers and sisters as God has loved us! That means we would have to display agape love to all those around us – through this everyone will know that we are God’s children! Could you imagine what that would look like if we practiced that kind of love? To get a better description of this let’s take a look at some supporting verses from 1 John:

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has seen God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit. We have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world.” | 1 John 4:7-14

Wow that is a lot to take in! This passage takes it a step further and says that ONLY if we love one another we truly have God residing in us! Why is that? God is love and that is the only source that we really understand and experience all these other kinds of love. If we are God’s children, meaning His own offspring, then we should have that SAME love within us as well. What is the proof of this? God proved this unconditional love towards us through the selfless sacrifice of His one and only Son for all of mankind. The one verse that is very familiar to us that describes this so clearly is seen in the Gospel of John:

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” | John 3:16

There was no prerequisite or requirement that had to be met in order to qualify us to receive this love from God. We can clearly see from this verse that God loved the ENTIRE world regardless of race, gender, sins, cultural differences or any other man made segregation we see in our society today. We can go as far as to say that we had no love towards God; in fact we completely hated Him as we read in Isaiah 53:

“He was despised and forsaken of men, A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; And like one from whom men hide their face He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.” | Isaiah 53:3

Regardless of all this, He loved each and every one of us equally, completely, and unconditionally! The responsibility we have towards that as believers, according to 1 John, is to love EVERYONE with that same love! You may think to yourself, how is that possible? There are countless times where my closest friends, cousins, siblings, and even parents have wronged me and yet I am called to love them THROUGH all those things as Christ has loved me!

One way to consider it is to think on your own actions. Think of how many times you have done others wrong, including those who are the closest to you. You may not have meant to hurt them, but in the end you still want them to love you the same way and not view you differently because of your shortcomings. It is difficult and no one is perfect; we are bound to hurt others and be hurt by others emotionally because sin is still very real in the world and we have not yet been made into the perfectness of Christ. But what makes all the difference is how we respond when we have hurt others or been hurt by others. Do we withhold love from that person and make them truly “feel the pain” they have caused or are we quick to forgive them for their shortcomings and to restore our relationship so that we can become stronger believers through it? If it is the latter then we are practicing our faith and showing the world that Christ lives in us; if it’s the former then we are letting Satan overcome us and keep us bitter for the pain we have felt. It is much easier to say and harder to do, but we should be quick to love others and testify our faith through that. So that means even when we are stabbed in the back, talked bad about, or even mocked or put down, we have the responsibility to love those who do that to us.

When we show the love of Christ to those people, the Holy Spirit is working through us into THEIR lives! They see firsthand the response to their actions against us and realize that it is not coming from us alone but from a greater Source that lives within us! The love that we show to others is the greatest testimony of our faith and how we can bring others to Christ; it is much more powerful than whatever words we say to them! Let’s take time to consider in our own personal lives how we can show the love of Christ to those around us, whether that means restoring a broken friendship, making amends with our siblings/parents, or even reaching out to someone in need who is just going through a tough time. Let’s be proactive with the time God has given us to testify of His love and make others known to it! The time is NOW to share with others the Good News of HIS love!

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