Friend, have you ever thought about the meaning of love?
We love cheesecake; we love our dogs; we love going to the beach; we love our spouse; we love God. There are many ways to verbally and physically express our love, making it difficult to define.
Today, many struggle to identify and accept love. I fear I have, at times, allowed romance novels, movies, social media, even the government to define love. But understanding how to love isn’t difficult at all; it’s relatively easy. We can rely on the pages of Scripture to fill our hearts and minds with not only what love is but how we should love one another.
Let’s examine the four different types of love in Scripture: agape, storge, philio, and eros.
Agape love is sacrificial love; the giver of this love is not dependent on the reciprocity of the receiver. This is the type of love described in 1 John 4:8, “ Whoever does not love does not know God because God is love.” Agape love is patient, kind, doesn’t envy or boast. It’s not proud, not self-seeking, or easily angered. It keeps no record of wrongs, and it does not delight in evil bure rejoices in the truth. It always protects, trusts, hopes, and perseveres. It never fails (1 Corinthians 13:4-8).
The only person who has ever shown this perfect display of love is Jesus Christ. He willingly sacrificed himself for humanity, dying on the cross so we could have eternal life. This intense level of love is hard, but, “We love because he first loved us (1 John 4:19). Jesus calls us to love others with this type of love. If we love God, we are to keep his commands and love others as we love ourselves ( Matthew 22:36-40). By loving people, the world will know that we love God (John 13:35). We must be diligent in extending love and grace to our enemies, those who persecute us, who deny Jesus, not just to the those who show us love in return (Matthew 5:44).
Storge love is displayed between a parent and child, siblings, or spouse. For many, this love comes naturally. It is forgiving, consistent, and withstands time. We see evidence of this love when Mary and Martha grieve the loss of their brother Lazarus.
Philia love is shared between close friends. Have you ever had a friend that felt more like family? Sharing a special bond, difficult circumstances, or a deep connection with someone can often result in this type of love. We see this with Paul and Timothy (2 Timothy 1:1-4) and Jonathan and David (2 Samuel 1:26).
Eros is romantic love, the kind expressed between a husband and wife. We don’t see this type of love explicitly identified in the Scriptures. However, the book Song of Songs portrays this type of love. God designed this love for married couples (a man and a woman); we must be careful to protect it and keep it within the confines of marriage.
It is easy to box love into these categories but harder to show love. People are just tricky, you know? I’ve had so much hurt in my life, pain, disappointment, anger caused by people who said they loved me. Am I really to love the unloveable?
What about the absent parent?
What about the gossiping friend?
What about the cheating spouse?
No, God can’t surely mean those people.
As I write these words, I feel the weight of conviction. The Holy Spirit gently reminds me that I am guilty too. Yet, while I was a sinner, an enemy of God, Christ died for me. “For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!” (Romans 5:11). It would be impossible to love our enemies without help, and luckily we have the Holy Spirit. We also have the Scriptures to remind us of the rich love that God lavishly bestows on His children. How cherished are the brothers and sisters who show agape love, offering forgiveness and showering us with grace and affection when we’ve misstepped?
Hold on to these truths found in God’s Word. When you feel incapable of showing love; lean into these verses. If you think unloveable thoughts or find yourself unable to receive love, pray the words below. When the world screams and diminishes biblical love, cling to the Scriptures. And above all else, remember that we can love one another because God first loved us (1 John 4:7).
Love begins with a right relationship with God.
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” (Deuteronomy 6:5)
“As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” (Ephesians 4:1-2)
“Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” (1 John 3:18)
“ A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.” (Proverbs 17:17)
“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” ( 1 Peter 4:8)
“Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.” (Romans 12:9-10)
“Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.” (John 14:23)
“No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” (1 John 4:12)
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