17 February 2018

Life & Sole: God is LOVE!

Valentines day… Which statement best fits your response to it?

“I love it!”

“It is the most depressing day in a year! I hate it!”

“I just don’t get it.”

So soon after Christmas the media starts bombarding us with the pink and red posters trying to sell us heart shaped chocolate, a dozen of the right coloured roses or those ‘cute’ cuddly stuffed animals. Everything is orientated towards couples in love, emotions and romance. How do we survive this day, or in some cases, this month of ‘love’ without distress or undervaluing ourselves as single people? I believe that this is not about surviving but about understanding what love really means rather than following the unrealistic picture which the world presents us with. Let us define love in the Christian context, in the hope that this may help us to see love in another light. Perhaps by the end of this article we will all love February!

“Love; an emotion of powerful fondness and intimate attachment, a virtue representing all of human kindness, compassion, feelings and affections.” (OED) In one instance we have love portrayed as an emotion predominantly focused on romance and sexuality – this is typical of the modern ‘worldly’ definition of love. In another instance we can view love through the viewpoint of the different world religions. For example, the Islamic view expresses love of life as universal brotherhood that applies to all who hold faith. Within Judaism there is the belief that love is about giving without expecting to receive anything in return. While these definitions are probably interesting, do they fully convey the meaning of love? There is something much deeper and fuller – the unselfish and pure love which we, as Christians believe in. The Bible describes four different types of love – storge, phileo, eros and agape. Now you may think, ‘Well this is engaging, but am I being selfish to feel drained by others bathing in romance, sex and love while I sit on my lonely bench of singleness?’ Please do not think that I am trying to downplay your feelings of loneliness, I simply want to express that there is so much more involved in true LOVE. In the Holy Bible love has a different depth, but shamefully we are regularly tempted by the world to go for the easiest options. Please allow me to dig through the scriptures with you to discover this Christian love.

Storge – love with common bonds which unites members of the same family; referred to by C.S.Lewis as ‘affection’. Storge arises naturally in normal human experience and it should stretch from our blood family into our spiritual family as we read in Romans 12:10, “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honour.” In recognising this love in our lives, do we consider it as a love which will bring us closer to God? Sadly we often take it for granted and still look for something really emotional and romantic. Thankfully, for most of us, we experience this love on a daily basis. Therefore let us learn to celebrate it – it must be worthy if God bothered to create it within us! At the very least, let us take time to think about how this can change our view on this month.

Phileo is the ‘platonic’ love; affection between true friends and chosen by lovers. It is enjoyable, a pleasant feeling usually based on shared interests. Put simply, Phileo means friendship and we can read about it in John 16:27 where we read of the love that the Father has for all men; then in John 11:3 we learn of the love that Christ had for individuals and in John 21:15 we see the love the individuals have for Christ. Phileo ties Christian brothers together, as we read in Titus 3:15. I am sure you recognise this love in your life. Most of us have a close friend, but even there is no one whom we can call a true friend, we must always remember that there is Jesus. Therefore do not feel sorry for yourself or try to find aromantic date to simply fill this gap, rather try to find Him as your true friend this month.

Eros – the romantic, sexual love or desire. This is a passionate feeling of romance and is easily associated with infatuation and lust. Eros is hard to control because it is led by our emotions and feelings. This is the love which is associated with Valentine’s day in our modern society. Interestingly Eros does not appear in the New Testament at all. It is inferred in differents part of scripture as a type of the love to be restricted only for marriage (Heb. 13:4; Song 1:13; 4:5-6; 7:7-9; 8:10; 1 Cor. 7:25; Eph. 5:31). However, it must be stressed that the Bible always identifies true marital love as agape (Eph. 5:25).

Agape is the self-giving, unselfish (1 Corintians 13:4-5), allconsuming, indestructible (Eph. 5:29) and unconditional love that does not require anything in return. NOTHING in return! The term ‘agape’ is used in the New Testament 258 times and it is the love God pours on the world, so much so that He gave His only son to die for our sins (John 3:16). Agape is the only kind of love which does not require something from its object, neither beauty, nor same blood, nor same mind. This is the first and greatest commandment from God, to love Him with agape (Matthew 22:37-8). In Matthew 22:39 we find the second commandment; love our neighbour as ourselves. And here is the hard part – God commands us to love our enemies in Matthew 5:44 and Exodus 23:1-5. He is not asking us to have feelings for our enemies or any kind of attachment, rather He is telling us to act in a loving way towards them always. It is not about feelings or emotions, rather it’s about obedience and commitment. By our obedience we know that we love God, as Jesus said in John 14:21 “Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me…”

Ask yourself: ‘Where am I in this picture? Where is God in my life?’ This month, let us concentrate on showing Agape love towards God and those around us. Let us go and love people with this unconditional love, just as God loves us. Let us pray for the ability to love Him and those around with this unselfish love. I am sure He does not want you to sit on the bench of singleness and feel sorry for yourself. This is not God’s plan for you!

God is Love and according to 1 Corinthians 13:7-8, “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.”

Therefore pray, go and love the agape way!

Zuzana Polackova