Monday, September 15, 2014

Agape Love

Love, according to the New Testament, should be a deep, long-lasting commitment to principles, not an erratic, flesh-fed emotion that we are programmed to believe in.  If we put the fleshly feelings aside, we can discover love as God intended.

The Greek word for that kind of love is agape.  Agape depicts the love of God.  It is a very difficult word to translate properly from Greek to English.  Rick Renner describes it very well in “Sparkling Gems.”

"Agape occurs when an individual sees, recognizes, understands, or appreciates the value of an object or a person, causing the viewer to behold this object or person in great esteem, awe, admiration, wonder, and sincere appreciation.  Such great respect is awakened in the heart of the observer for the object or person he is beholding that he is compelled to love it.  In fact, his love for that person or object is so strong that it is irresistible." 

Agape is a love that has no strings attached.  It isn’t looking for what it can get, but for what it can give.  Its awe of the one who is loved is so deep that it is compelled to shower love upon that object or person regardless of the response.  This is the profound love God has for the human race, for He loved man when he was still lost in sin with no ability to love Him back.  God simply loved mankind without any thought or expectation of receiving love in return.

When you love with such a pure love that you expect nothing back in return, it is impossible for you to feel hurt or let down by the response of the recipients of your love.  You don’t love them for the purpose of getting something in return; you shower them with love simply because you love them.

This last paragraph says it all.  We’ve gotten so far away from this kind of love, though, in our “me, me, me” society.  Our relationship with our spouse should be like our relationship with God.  Both have to come ahead of our own “self”.  That is when you arrive to the deepest level of love, the healthiest part of marriage - when your desire is for what is best for your spouse. Any less will result in problems and possibly divorce.  When you convince yourself that what you want is more important than your spouse’s needs, you might as well start packing your bags.  The world will advise you to divorce – and lead you out the door.

The greatest example of agape love can be found in John 3:16.  “For God SO LOVED the world that He gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.”

God loves us SO MUCH that He gave HIS SON to DIE for our sins.  Wow.  That always boggles my mind.  I cannot comprehend sacrificing my child, especially in the manner that Jesus was sacrificed.  Easter is always a very emotional time for me as I try to grasp the depths of the crucifixion.

God thinks so greatly of us, loves us so deeply.  He stands in awe of His creation.  He admires and holds mankind in the highest appreciation.  Yet, when we aggravate Him or sin against Him, He does not divorce us or leave us.  He will always be there for us, no matter what we do.  That is complete unconditional love - agape love.

That is the love we should feel towards our spouse.    Agape love is so deep and profound that it knows no limits.  The highest form of love, it will sacrifice for the one it cherishes.

There are no strings attached to this kind of love.  It expects nothing in return - it only desires to give.  No matter what the response may be, agape continues to love - as God continues to love us no matter what we do or say against Him.

This kind of love can seem impossible, especially when we live in a world that promotes a “what feels good” attitude towards love.  Fleshly love is selfish and self-focused, unable to obtain such a high level of love.

How do we possess agape love?  We already have it.  Because the word of God has been sown into our spirits, we have access to this powerful love.  All we need to do is push that fleshly love aside and release the love of God we carry to share with our spouses and others as God intended love to be.

Monday, September 8, 2014

More Greek Words for Love

While most sources mention four Greek words for love, Ed Wheat also uses the word epithumia in “Love Life for Every Married Couple.” Other sources I’ve looked at concerning the Greek words for love seem to combine epithumia with eros.  Epithumia means “strong desire” - to long for, or covet. Negatively, it is translated as lust in the Bible. Positively, it means desire. Married couples should have a strong physical desire for one another.

Couples (often women) seem to confuse this aspect of love with feelings. Sex is a very important part of marriage and a true indicator of the health of a marriage. When couples allow their negative feelings to interfere with the frequency of their sex life, trouble begins.

Couples that marry naturally carry a physical desire for each other (if they marry for the right reasons.) That desire needs to be nurtured and kept alive for a marriage to survive.  It is very important that we continue to meet the needs of our spouse in order to have a healthy sex life.  (ALL needs - not just sex.)

I’ve talked before about problematic issues with sex, but the bottom line is that you must put your spouses needs ahead of your own - even if you don’t “feel” like it. Men and women get caught in a selfish, vicious cycle of holding back on sex (and other needs) because they allow anger and frustration and the troubles of the day to get in the way. Most of the time, a good roll in the hay will melt away the troubles of the world! We just need to put those initial distractions and feelings aside.

I’m always amazed at the emotional cleansing sex can bring. There may be a wall of worldly garbage between Rick and me that has caused us to ignore physical and emotional intimacy. Once we break through, our bond is powerfully strengthened and we feel closer than ever; we can conquer the world.

THAT is why sex is so important. It continues to reunite you as one when the weight of the world and the old devil threatens to tear you apart. Sex is so much more than a sporting ritual. It is the miracle bond that God gave us to keep a marriage together.

Though not mentioned in the bible, eros is another Greek word for love that the word erotic derives from. Eros means romance, passion and sentiment. It is the kind of love that initially draws a couple together. It is the kind of love people write poems and songs about. It is often called rapture, or exquisite pleasure and can be terrifying because it is all-absorbing.

The problem with eros is that it can change. It is a selfish love.  It cannot last a lifetime on it’s own. It needs a deeper form of love to withstand the difficulties marriage can bring. This is why divorce has become so popular. Many couples have not developed their love any farther than eros. Promises are easily broken when eros disappears.

Even more to come on Greek words for love…

Monday, September 1, 2014

Greek Words for Love

One of the biggest difficulties we face in understanding love is the fact that we use the term so loosely.  We LOVE Oprah.  We LOVE hot fudge sundaes.  We LOVE our spouse.  Unfortunately, many of us are more emphatic about our love for hot fudge sundaes than our spouse.  We too often gage our love according to our feelings.

In the Greek language, there are five different words for our word LOVE.  I want to look at them to show you a broader aspect of what love is.  You will see that there is much more to love than our feelings of the moment.  Feelings are not mentioned in any of these definitions.

Stergo (also called storge) is the Greek word that represents the love for our children and our family.  It means ‘to be devoted’.  Although there are exceptions, we don’t usually divorce our family members.  Some family members may intentionally go for periods without talking, but in a crisis, they will usually join together.  We may not always like the members of our family, may not always “feel” like loving them, but we will always be there for them no matter what. 

Stergo is the love that should be prevalent in a marriage relationship (in my opinion).  We should be devoted to our spouse NO MATTER WHAT happens.  Our love for them should come ahead of our families.  If our love is unconditional for our families, it should be even more so for our spouse.  Many couples seem to have difficulty applying stergo love to their marriage relationship. 

The next Greek word for love is phileo, which means affection.  Phileo also applies to friends and acquaintences, so it is not a deep, passionate love.  It means to be well-matched, loving, compatible or complementary of each other.

Phileo cherishes and shares great affection.  It is a love of relationship - friends who enjoy closeness and companionship.  Dear friends share each other’s thoughts, feelings, attitudes, plans, dreams, time and interests.  A marriage without phileo will be unsatisfactory, even if the couple has a great sex life.   

We should apply phileo love to our spouses as easily as we do others.  Too often we are kind to a complete stranger, yet come home with anger and impatience towards our spouse. 

Phileo is used as the root of many words.  For example, adelphos means brother in the Greek language.  When added to phileo, we have the word philadelphia, or brotherly love.  Anthropos means mankind.  Compounded with phileo gives us the word philanthropia or philanthropist, someone who loves mankind.

Stay tuned as I continue with more Greek words for love on the next posting.