Over the past couple of weeks I have been learning a lot about love. From diving into it at bible study to bible verses popping up everywhere to learning how to show love to the people who cross my world.
One thing I have learned is that love at it’s core is very simple, yet complex all in one. It is simple in terms of the definition and speaking it out of your mouth, but when it comes to acting in accordance with the words that is where it becomes much complicated; or we humans tend to make it that way.
If you have grown up in church or around any kind of christian, you have probably heard 1 Corinthians 13:4-8.
It goes something like this…
“Love is patient. Love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, 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 truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres… Love never fails.”
I feel as though this verse gives us a very good definition of what love truly is. It gives us what it is not but also what it is. Simple and straightforward. Easy enough, right?
Yeah…. not so much.
I think the problem we run into in our culture is that we have one word to describe how much we like something or someone. One word to describe our love for Froyo and hobbies, yet also the same word to describe how much we love our spouse/friend/boyfriend/girlfriend/family. Think about this, the Greek Language has SIX different ways as to how the word love is used.
Philautia: Self love - love for ones self
Pragma: A model of love as two people demonstrate during a lengthy marriage
Storge: Parental-Child love. Also used referencing love for one’s country or favorite sports team.
Philia: Affectionate regard between equals. “Brotherly love”
Eros: “Intimate love” - Mostly of sexual passion
Agape: The love of God for man and of man for God. Used to express the unconditional love of God for his children.
Isn’t that so cool?! Having more than one word to be able to depict every kind of love we feel for different objects and people? How wonderful would that be?! Like, when we are telling someone we love them, but we don’t want to make it weird or like we love them in a “I wanna marry you” kind of way, we can just say, “I Philia love you” (or however it translates, you get my point.) That would take all the guess out of it and that other person would know that they are loved and cared for by a friend.
Unfortunately, the English language only contains one word. Having just that one word is where I believe we get a poor image of what love looks when it comes to relationships. Obviously you LOOOOVVEEEE Froyo and look forward to it, but you wouldn’t put your life on the line for it’s own benefit (Okay, maybe you would but that’s beside the point). At least, not like you would put it on the line for a spouse or a family member (Again, maybe you would, but I’m not judging). I think you get my point, though. That true love is sacrifice, forgiveness, and laying down your life over and over again. I believe that if you truly want to understand what it means to love your spouse or to love God (being the highest acts of love), then you have to dig deeper into the words that are used in love’s definition.
At my bible study the other night, we translated those verses in 1 Corinthians into a more worldly-understood version.
“Love is hard. Love is difficult. Love hurts. Love is painful. Love is sacrifice. Love doesn’t always feel good.”
Social media and movies have depicted love to be easy, self-serving, exceptionally passionate, and butterflies and rainbows all the time. And if the “love” you have isn’t any of those things 100% of time, then it’s just not meant to be. Cause the person God chose for you is supposed to love you 100% of the time and accept you and all your horrible habits, so you can just sit back and not do much, right?
Yeah… there are so many thing wrong with that, but the point I want to focus on is that true, deep, intimate, passionate, giving love is not easy all the time. It means dying to yourself. It means giving to that other person even when cleaning the bathroom is the LAST thing you want to do at the end of a long day. It means forgiving and being patient even when you have been hurt over and over and over. True love doesn’t always feel good. It is hard. Especially if you have never had practice doing it.
But you know what the most beautiful thing of all is?
Love is worth it. Love is a choice and the more you nurture it, the more it will grow, but if you are so focused on how hard and painful it is, it becomes a chore and that is how you kill it. That is why people say they “fall out of love” or that “it just wasn’t mean’t to be”. It was too difficult. It hurt too much. It was exhausting. Don’t you think that is how our heavenly father feels about us, though? He loves us so much that he actually sent his own son to be brutally killed on a cross so that we can have everlasting life. Parents, imagine your son who has never done a thing wrong, being killed to pay off every murderer, thief, and imprisoned person’s debt so that they can be free. Imagine just how much hurt and pain that would cause you. I know what you’re thinking and you’re right. It’s not fair. It’s not justice or making them pay their own debts. That is what true, deep, fatherly love is, though. True love is mercy and grace on those who have done wrong to you. It is forgiving so that YOU can live in peace. Love is never counting rights and wrongs to hold against another person.
It is so hard for us to wrap our minds around this idea, though, because society has taught us, “an eye for an eye”, that you wronged me so I have the right to wrong you back. Yet, we all wonder why the world is spiraling down a hole of violence, hate, crime, and separation. The thing nobody is realizing is that the answer to all of our problems is love. Loving our neighbors, our friends, the people who have hurt us, ourselves. Not a single person the planet DESERVES grace, mercy, and forgiveness. Not you, not me. But that is what it is. Love is undeserving.
DISCLAIMER: One thought I do want to interject is that loving someone can be showing them love from afar. You don’t always have to keep them in your life and take them back, because love is also loving the other person and yourself enough to allow space to heal. If all the relationship is causing is pain, sadness, and destruction, then it is okay to create some separation. This goes for any relationship… parent-child, boyfriend/girlfriend, friend, coworker, even spouse (not talking about divorce in this case).
After all of the conversations and insights I have received about the word, I have come to realize that loving someone or something is a choice. It will never be rooted out of a giddy feeling or emotion, because those are ever changing. Emotions fluctuate constantly, so if you are feeling “love” for someone, because they give you butterflies or they’re cute in the way their eye sparkles when they look at you, then you might want to take a deeper look into if you really do “love” them or if it is simply the feeling that you get when they are around. I am not saying those things are bad, cause they are very healthy and good in any relationship, but only as long as those are not what your love is rooted in. I believe we have the choice to love anybody we want to. Some it will be easier and some will make it a bit more difficult, but at the end of the day love is a choice. One we have to make constantly.
So choose love. Agape love. Every day. Over and over and over again. Because love is worth it.