Tonight I wanted to blog about something more meaningful than just the things I’ve done. My faith is very important to me, and love is arguably the foundation of the Christian faith. I’m not a theologian, nor do I (or will I) have all the answers regarding my faith. But I do believe God is love and showers an indescribable love onto His children.
But let's bring it down to us humans and talk about love. This word is used everyday, and probably tossed around carelessly like my cell phone. (That thing is on its third year, which makes it roughly 72 years-old in cell phone years). “I love this show!” or “I love Toffifee!” are examples of expressions we throw out non-chalantly.
Valentine’s Day was this past Monday. How many people said, “I love you” on this day? This phrase is expressed on anything from Tiffany wedding bands to cheesy coffee mugs. But what do we actually mean when we say these words? I believe love can be defined in different ways. The kind of love you express for PVR is probably not the same kind of love you have for a good friend, or for a significant other. (Sidenote: I don’t like the term “significant other” because a) It’s vague, and b) I think it sounds too starchy-collared. Unfortunately I don’t think “That extraordinarily cool person who isn’t me,” would work to replace the term).
I’ve been to Greece, and I still don’t understand a single word of Greek. However, being someone who can speak 2 languages and understand parts of a third, I completely understand the concept of “message lost through translation.” Some words just can’t be translated- maybe it takes an entire phrase to describe it in one language, and one word in another. Language is complex and interesting; it brings people together and pushes them apart... But I’m off topic and running on a tangent. And now let’s talk about Trigonometry… Cosine, Sine... I kid.
So there are 3 Greek words for 3 different types of love. I’m summing up/paraphrasing ideas from here:
1) Eros: This is the feeling of love. Let me paint a picture: You’re on a date, the air is tingling with unspoken attraction, there’s an infestation of butterflies in your stomach and you float through a warm, fuzzy cloud of intoxication. This love includes the passion you feel for someone- the romance: a feeling of excitement and mystery associated with love. This kind of love feels good, but it’s not long-term because it’s based on feelings and depends on your situation. You feel good around this person, so you assume you love him/her at this time. But if tougher times come, or you begin to find certain habits more annoying than cute, you lose interest. You assume you no longer love them. This kind of love is fickle because it’s based on feelings, and we all know how those can change.
2) Philia: This is brotherly love, or the love between close friends. How would I paint this picture? You and one of your besties are spending an evening together. You laugh together, poke fun at each other, and sincerely enjoy the bond you share and the quality time you have with one another. It’s friendly, but not sensual. It’s comfortable, but not inflamed in passion (I realize friendships can be intense, therefore I chose to distinguish the difference between passions by adding that visual adjective). We may love others like a brother or sister, and truly care for them, but this love is still dependent on circumstances. Sadly, friendships break up just like couples do.
3) Agape: This is the way I believe God loves us. This is selfless love. This love is not confined to a situation or circumstance. It has no borders and is not a feeling. Feelings come and go, but this love isn't based on how we feel in the moment. This love is awesome and humbling, because it’s a choice. How can this kind of love be demonstrated? By the way we treat others. If we love someone with this selfless Agape love, we will ultimately seek out his/her well-being and try our hardest to act in ways that are in his/her best interests. E.g. I love her, and I know it hurts her when I do this so I will try my hardest to be considerate of this, and not do it. Learn more about God's Agape love here.
“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 the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”- 1 Corinthians 13: 4-6 (NIV translation)
I think we could all do with more Agape love. The kind of love where we look out for strangers or offer help for nothing in return; where we show a sincere concern for the well-being of others. The kind of love that encourages, and comforts. The kind of love that forgives and doesn’t choose to hold a grudge, but gives second, third and fourth chances.
This kind of love is something we choose to give- it’s grace-based. It’s not about what I can get out of the relationship, but what I can give or provide. This love is not without challenges, and we won’t always feel like loving this way, or want to be selfless. But like other things, I believe love is a discipline and it takes work, along with a progressive reorientation of our attitudes. As verse 6 from the above scripture passage states, this love perseveres through good times and bad. It doesn't give up easily, and is not fleeting- this love is long-lasting. The best part might be that this love is a choice, and we have the ultimate say in how we choose to live our lives and treat others.
I think it’s important to point out that of these 3 types of love, it’s possible to experience more than one at the same time. However, I think the first 2 would only be heightened by the strong presence of the third kind of love, the selfless kind. I.e. Your romantic feelings for someone would be enhanced by the assurance that your partner has a deep, considerate love for you.
There’s a great book out there which I haven’t read: The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman which talks about the various ways we express love: Quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service, words of affirmation, and physical touch.
I mean to read it, but maybe you’ll beat me to it. 5 million people have, so there's something special about it at least...
I would however like to leave you with this thought: How might you treat your family, friends or even strangers in your life differently if you chose to love them agape-style?
Until next time, don’t forget to show yourself some love and take care of yourself!