I hate to disappoint those of you looking for a debate over the recent Supreme Court decision regarding homosexual marriage. However, if you clicked on this link for that reason, then there’s a good chance you should read this post anyway.
So, what is love?
We are constantly bombarded with Hollywood’s presentation of epic love stories where boy meets girl (mostly), they fall for each other, then live a wonderful life. Sometimes, they don’t even need to be single. After all, if we are all helpless victims of love and can’t help who we love, then it’s okay to leave a relationship in order to pursue that new-found love… right?
Depending on your understanding of love, and the core of your belief system, the correct answer for you may be a simple “Yes.”
So, what do I mean? Well, there are four main definitions of love. Depending on the view to which you ascribe, the above examples of American/Westernized, glamorous love stories may be your ideal. Below are the four types of love as described by C.S. Lewis:
- Affection: is fondness through familiarity (a brotherly love), especially between family members or people who have otherwise found themselves together by chance.
- Friendship: is the strong bond existing between people who share common interest or activity.
- Romance: is shared between two people who are (figuratively) face-to- face and absorbed in each other (different than sexuality).
- Unconditional: is the love that brings forth caring regardless of the circumstance.
We use the generic term ‘love’ for pretty much anything, but, in the language of the story of Jesus’ life (Greek), there were specific words used to describe different types of love.
- Storge (affection)
- Phileo (friendship)
- Eros (romance)
- Agape (unconditional)
Unconditional love is the only one of the four that is not always mutually beneficial. The first three provide positive benefit for both parties. They produce self-serving ends, and they are also dependent on the continuation of those benefits.
Affection can be lost over time and friendships cease when one party stops being friendly. Romance is largely dependent upon attraction and a compilation of the first two types of love. Unconditional love is the only type of permanent love.
Who cares? Well, anyone who claims to be a follower of Jesus.
Why? Above all else (race, religion, political views, patriotism, family ties) we are commanded to exhibit unconditional love (or ‘Agape’) for God and others; so, we should probably make sure we are doing it. If we are not following the two most important commands, then we may as well stop everything else we do in the name of Christianity and shut down the church buildings.
Here’s the thing… as Christians, we don’t get to choose to whom we demonstrate this type of love. We love everyone unconditionally in addition to the other types of love or emotions we may/may not feel toward him/her.
Obviously, the command to ‘Unconditionally love God and unconditionally love other people’ has huge implications.
You don’t get to stop loving your spouse because he or she no longer serves your interest, or doesn’t always reciprocate your emotion.
You don’t get to simply write people off, when the relationship does not become mutually beneficial.
Unconditional love is also described as ‘self-emptying’ love. It’s not an accident that Jesus used this specific word, it is also the type of love he demonstrated. He was fully aware of what he was commanding his followers (and also clarifying for adherents to Judaism) to do.
So, as Christians, how do we respond? What does this change for you?
It’s no doubt counter-cultural (at least for Western countries), but culture should carry no weight for those who find their identity in God (except in how we reach out to others).
So, we have two choices:
- Follow the commands
- Ignore the commands
Really, if you ignore the two commands Jesus states as being the two most important, you may as well forget about all the others as well.
Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
When Jesus stated, “There is no commandment greater than these,” he was saying there will not be justification for claiming that following God has somehow interfered with your ability to unconditionally love others. No excuses.
So, are all types of love equal?
Obviously not, my premise was silly to begin with. The unconditional, self-emptying love God shows us that we are to demonstrate to others is far superior to that of any other.
Christians should be lovers to which there is no comparison.