I was considering what to toss around with you, and I realized that one of the more commonly misunderstood Biblical concepts is the subject of "love"! What comes to YOUR mind when that word is mentioned?
I believe I'm accurate in saying, that for most of us, we immediately think of emotion. Our first thoughts may be of attraction and affection to someone; strong feelings of connection to and appreciation for those special people in our lives.
But isn't love more than that?
The Greeks thought so. They used several different words to express that which we simply bundle into the one word - LOVE!
For them, "love" could mean phileo; a brotherly affection. That's why we refer to Philadelphia as "the city of brotherly love". It isn't because Philly is necessarily such of wonderful place! (No offense)
The ancient Greeks also saw "love" as eros, that physical dynamic which often exists between two people. I doubt that I need to expand on that one…
Another word they used, although rarely I understand, was the term "agapao", which expresses something which often goes beyond the norm of human experience.
In describing it to the Christians at ancient Corinth the Apostle Paul taught that it is; * long-suffering (what a great term!), kind, never envious of others, not ostentatious or prideful, it doesn't behave rudely, isn't easily offended or provoked to anger, isn't self-centered or self-seeking, assumes the best of others, rejoices over righteousness and not wickedness, bears all things (compassionate), believes all things (trusting), endures all things (patient), never fails ( doesn't write difficult people off).
That kind of love is a choice. It is active. Deliberate. Determined!
I can't control my initial emotional reactions to others, but I can make "loving" decisions toward them. I can choose to expect the best from them and commit myself to giving the best of myself to and for them. I can make up my mind, that no matter how unloving THEIR behavior may be, I will endure, overlook trivial offenses, and never ever give up on them.
And I can make decisions based on what is best for the other person, rather than what I might WANT, even if that decision may cost me the relationship.
A good example is the area of parenting. I would really like to be my son's best friend, but for his sake my role is that of the primary authority in his life. My responsibility is to discipline him toward becoming a solid, well-rounded adult, and that will involve some tough choices from time to time. Heart-wrenching though it would be, it COULD even involve decisions which would temporarily interrupt our communication. For example, there are some behaviors for which I would require him to leave the security and comfort of my home. He wouldn't cease to be my son, and my devotion to him would never falter. In fact, that very devotion would be that which motivated to take such harsh action!
Because sometimes this kind of love requires courage and perseverance. Sometimes, far from being warm and fuzzy, this kind of love can be rough around the edges. But it's real. And it lasts.
One last reflection to ponder; the Bible says* that "GOD IS LOVE" .
JUST A THOUGHT…
* 1 Cor 13:3-8, 1 John 4:8
- Pastor Robert Fountain