"You shall know the Truth, and the Truth will set you free"
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Paul Hayden

“_________ Is All You Need”

May 22, 2023

Last week, we started a two-article series about love. This article is the second installment of the series. Incidentally, love is the answer to the 'fill in the blank' above. But what kind of love are we talking about? Unfortunately, in today's agenda-driven world, the message and meaning of love have been lost in translation. So, let's explore what love is, what love isn't, and where love comes from.   

People have ideas about what love is and isn't. Dr. Seuss says, "We're all a little weird, and life's a little weird. And we find someone whose weirdness is compatible with ours, and we join up with them, fall into mutual weirdness, and call it love." Aha!  

Woody Allen humorously notes the following. "To love is to suffer. To avoid suffering, one must not love. But then one suffers from not loving. Therefore, to love is to suffer. Not to love is to suffer. To suffer is to suffer. To be happy is to love. To be happy then is to suffer. But suffering makes one unhappy. Therefore, to be unhappy, one must love, or love to suffer, or suffer from too much happiness. I hope you're getting this down."

Here are some other definitions and characteristics of love. "Love is friendship set on fire." Margaret Walker says, "Love stretches your heart and makes you big inside." Peter Ustinov says, "Love is an act of endless forgiveness, a tender look which becomes a habit." Elizabeth Browning says, "Love doesn't make the world go round; love is what makes the ride worthwhile."

Mark Twain made a statement about love in the context of marriage; "Love is the ideal thing; marriage is the real thing." In other words, love is blind, but marriage is a real eye-opener. The idea of marriage is to move from a bride to a wife and from a groom to a husband. It's one thing to fall in love. It's another thing to stay in love. Why? Real love is a decision. 

Nicolas Sparks says, "Love is more than three words mumbled before bedtime. Love is sustained by action, a pattern of devotion in what we do for each other daily."

The Bible talks about four kinds of love in the Greek language. 

The first is “eros.” Eros is physical attraction, passion seeking satisfaction, romance, chemistry, or lust. Eros is visually orientated. Contrary to popular opinion, eros is part of marriage, not all of marriage.

The second type of love is "phileo." That is a friendship type of love. Phileo delights in each other's company. It is mutual affection, caring, and rapport. Phileo is based on qualities in a person that one finds admirable, attractive, and appealing.

The third type of love is “storge," which is affectionate love. This love exists naturally between family members and friends, such as the warm, unforced love shown between spouses or between a parent and a child.

The fourth type of love is “agape.” Agape is love directed and fueled not by emotions but by choice. It's love in action. It's a permanent commitment to the object of one's love. It's an awakened sense of value in a thing or person which causes one to prize it. Agape love is the highest form of love. God is agape. Agape love is sacrificial love. Agape is the most noble and powerful type of love because it is an act of the will. Christ showed us agape love, when he died on the cross, sacrificing Himself so that we can know eternal life and salvation.

The two most difficult things to get straight in life are agape love and God. That is why God sent Jesus. Jesus showed us what God is like and what love is like. We will never have a correct picture of love without God or an accurate understanding of God without love. Love will keep us together if it's agape love and we want to access and apply it.

So, what does agape love look like and feel like? The scriptures enlighten us in I Corinthians 13.  

“If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing. If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don't love, I've gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, believe, and do, I'm bankrupt without agape love.

Love never gives up. Love cares more for others than for self. Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have. Love doesn't strut, doesn’t have a swelled head, doesn’t force itself on others, and isn’t always “me first.” Agape love doesn’t fly off the handle, doesn’t keep score of the sins of others, and doesn’t revel when others grovel. Love takes pleasure in the flowering of truth, puts up with anything, and trusts God always. God’s love always looks for the best, never looks back, but keeps going to the end.” 

You can’t do this except by accessing God’s strength. 

Jesus said in the last days lawlessness will increase, and agape will grow cold. (Matthew 24:12). We see the fruits of agape growing cold everywhere. Many companies, governments, and people’s optics look great for the wrong reasons. As the scripture notes above, creaking gates and morally bankrupt personalities are everywhere and getting nowhere with God. That's not love. That's lust. Love is a force for good from the right motives.

Can we change this? Sure! All we need is love – agape love! When you serve, go to where the lines are short and accolades few.   

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Ed Delph is a leader in church-community connections.
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