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Biblical Love

Most of us who have been in church for any period of time, understanding that the New Testament was originally written in Greek, have heard about the 3 or 4 main words the Greeks used for love. Eros – romantic or sensual love Storge – related to biological bonds Phileo – used of the love for friends or family Agape – the selfless love of the Bible It is often helpful to define a word by giving its opposite. For example, the opposite of emotional love is emotional hate. The opposite of biblical love, though, is not hate. The opposite of biblical love is selfishness. The agape love of which the Bible speaks, the love which defines God (the Bible teaching that “God is Love”), is a love that is not selfish at all. Biblical love is not an overwhelming emotion but is a decision that we choose to make. Biblical love is a genuine concern for another and a desire to see that what is best is done for them. In America, we have settled on the notion that loving someone means that we get an emotional rush from that person or desire them in some sexual way or can be made happy by that person. Biblical love flips these notions on their head, however. I am commanded by Christ to love people in a biblical sense even when I “don’t feel like it”. I am commanded by Christ to love others (to truly want what is best for them, even being willing to sacrifice for their benefit) because God loves me in that exact same way. The Bible not only encourages us to display a self-sacrificing love but even tells us that we will be better off for it. Let me give you an example of why (besides the fact that the Bible says so) that I think that is true. Have you ever noticed that in families, parents seem to be so much happier than the kids are with their relationship? Why is that? In some ways it would seem that the kids would be happier because the parents tend to do a great deal for them, sacrificing (time, money and effort) on behalf of them. But that is actually the point! When kids say they love their parents, there is often a sense of family love or “I love them because of all the stuff they do for me” behind the emotion. But when parents say they love their kids (even non-religious parents who know no Greek), there is usually the notion that they want what is best for their kids and are willing to sacrifice for their benefit. When selfish kids don’t get their way, they will stomp off and declare that their emotions have changed from love to hate. But parents are much less likely to behave this way because their unselfish love is not based purely on emotion. The Bible is calling us to love all people in a way similar to the way that parents love their children (though it is not calling for us to take them in our house and pay for their college). In some ways, this sounds crazy in modern day America, caring about and being willing to give of our time, money and effort to people who may not feel the same way about us or reciprocate any positive feelings or actions. But the Bible promises, and I personally believe, that we are happier when we are less selfish. The more we center our relationships around us and what we get out of them, the less content we are in life. The more likely we are to find ourselves stomping off and pouting a lot. But the more we center our lives around others in true Christian love, the happier we will tend to become with those relationships. Andy’s book, Clear Vision: How The Bible Teaches Us To View The World, can be purchased here.

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