Love Is A Many Splendored Thing
We just got passed Valentine’s Day. Let me just put it out there…I am not a fan. I see so many, primarily women, who are heartbroken on the day dedicated to love. Not everyone gets flowers, cards and chocolates delivered at their office. Not every person has someone to share the day with in the first place. I personally find myself in a paradox on Valentine’s Day. I have specifically told my husband not to waste money on flowers that will die. (Flowers are expensive and I am not a fan of traditional roses…I’m starting to sound a little high maintenance.) Then I find myself feeling disappointed when nothing appears on Valentine’s day. My poor husband, he is a good man and I love him. Though the trinkets of affection are nice, I will take the love I receive day in and day out over a one day spectacular per year.
Speaking of love, that is what it is all supposed to be about. A day dedicated to reflecting on our love for another. Unfortunately, it has become as commercialized as Christmas. We now have Valentine’s Day movies, aisles of Valentine inspired candy, gifts and cards at the local big box store. It is a crushing money machine. It also becomes a reminder to those who are single or widowed that they are alone. It becomes a pressure in fledgling relationships. Men stress over how to approach Valentine’s Day, ok yes…some just forget. Women anticipate so much from the day that they are riddled with disappointment when those expectations are not met. Let’s be real clear about this…NONE of that is LOVE.
What Is Love?
Did an annoying song just get stuck in your head, my apologies. The question remains, “What is Love”. I Corinthians 13:4-8 is perhaps one of the most recognized passages of scripture, especially at a wedding, regarding love.
“4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. “8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.”
Don’t just skim over that passage. Read it, read it slowly. Do you love your significant other as described in the passage? Do you love God according to that passage?
In true Sue fashion I looked up the definition of love. I have heard throughout my life that the English language has a poor translation for love. It defines love as “a deep attraction” and various versions of that sentiment. I needed to dig further. Enter Psychology Today (https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/hide-and-seek/201606/the-7-types-love). If you have spent time in a church you have heard that in Greek there were many words for the different loves we experience. (This is a little dry and not verbatim to the article.)
1. “Eros: Eros is sexual or passionate love, and is the type most akin to our modern construct of romantic love.” I find it sad that romantic love is equivocated to sexual or passionate relationships.
2. “Philia: The hallmark of philia, or friendship, is shared goodwill. Aristotle believed a person can bear goodwill to another for one of three reasons—that he is useful; that he is pleasant; and, above all, that he is good, that is, rational and virtuous.”
3. “Storge: Storge (‘store-gae’), or familial love, is a kind of philia pertaining to the love between parents and their children. It differs from most philia in that it tends, especially with younger children, to be unilateral or asymmetrical.”
4.”Agape: Agape is universal love, such as the love for strangers, nature, or God. Unlike storge, it does not depend on filiation or familiarity. Also called charity by Christian thinkers, agape can be said to encompass the modern concept of altruism, defined as unselfish concern for the welfare of others. Recent studies link altruism with a number of benefits. In the short-term, altruism leaves us with a euphoric feeling—the so-called “helper’s high.” In the long-term, it is associated with better mental and physical health, as well as longevity. At a social level, altruism serves as a signal of cooperative intentions, and also of resource availability and so of mating or partnering potential. It also opens up a debt account, encouraging beneficiaries to reciprocate with gifts and favors that may be of much greater value to us than those with which we feel able to part. More generally, altruism, or agape, helps to build and maintain the psychological, social, and, indeed, environmental fabric that shields, sustains, and enriches us. Given the increasing anger and division in our society, and the state of our planet, we could all do with quite a bit more agape!” (Keep in mind this is from a science based psychology magazine. Even science has to admit to the influence and need for Agape love in our society.)
5. “Ludus: Ludus is playful or uncommitted love. It can involve activities such as teasing and dancing, or more overt flirting, seducing, and conjugating.” (Maybe this is where the idea that if a boy pulls your hair he likes you.)
6. “Pragma: Pragma is a kind of practical love founded on reason or duty and one’s longer-term interests. Sexual attraction takes a back seat in favor of personal qualities and compatibilities, shared goals, and making it work.” (This to me sounds like a business relationship. We may not like each other, but we have to work together and we respect each other.)
7. “Philautia: Philautia is self-love, which can be healthy or unhealthy.”
In these various words you see components of the love outlined in I Corinthians 13:4-8. Love is far more than warm, fuzzies when you meet someone. It is more than being nice to others. Love is sacrifice. God sent Jesus to die on a cross because he loved us. The sacrifice was made by Jesus and God. God sacrificed his son and the Son willingly sacrificed his life. Can you imagine doing the same?
Let’s jump back to I Corinthians 13:1-3.
“If I speak in the tongues[a] of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,[b] but do not have love, I gain nothing.”
Without love we gain nothing. Prophecy, faith, self-sacrifice are all pointless without love. We speak a great deal about faith. What good is faith, without love? This is how I see it. I cannot have real faith in God or others, unless I love them and accept their love for me. I am not going to have faith in the healing I ask for, if I do not believe God loves me enough to heal me in the first place.
36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:36-40 (NIV)
Jesus himself taught that Love is the greatest command. Verse 40 indicates ALL the law and the prophets hang on these two commandments. Everything hinges on love. The Father’s love for us is where it begins. We should be reflecting the love of God in everything we do. That being said did you really catch Matthew 22:39, “and the second is like it: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”. One thing I have come to realize over the last year is that the Bible says what it means and means what it says. In order to love my neighbor as myself, I have to love myself first. In the Psychology today excerpt they refer to self-love as “Philautia” in the Greek. It is self-love that can be healthy or unhealthy. (Follow me here.) I have to love God first. Then I have to love my neighbor. In order to love my neighbor I have to love myself. The greatest love I can show myself is to leave my burdens with Christ, receive forgiveness and mercy that he offers, and serve God. So in loving God, I love myself and therefore I am able to love others.
Everything comes down to love. We just wrapped a series at church called “Compelled By Love”. The love idea has taken center stage in my thoughts of late. The more I work on the leadership book and research information, the more I see the direct correlation of love in being excellent in our personal, professional and spiritual relationships. The final point of this, love IS a choice. I am so tired of hearing people comment, “You can’t help who you love”. Sure, you may feel attraction toward a person, but love is a choice. Love takes cultivation and effort. You don’t “fall” in love. You charge after it. It is a pursuit that engages your senses. What we so easily call love these days does not measure up to the high marks in I Corinthians 13.
All of this reading, listening and research has led me to ask myself, “What compels me?” I am compelled by love in many regards. It’s not always the agape love that should be my driving force. Sometimes, to my shame, it is a measure of self-love and other times it may be Philia, Storg, or Pragma. What I know, is that the more I respond to motivations of love for others, the more joy fills my soul. The more I serve others, the more I seem to trust God and feel his presence.
Love is not getting “the feels”, butterflies or swooning. Do. Not. Minimize. Love. Do not minimize love to being a physical reaction to an external stimuli to one or more of your senses. Love deserve far more credit. It is powerful. It is eternal. It is the motivation behind the birth, the death and the resurrection. It is the reason we are forgiven. It is the purest way we interact with our Heavenly Father. Do not minimize something that powerful, you will take it for granted if you do.