What is love? The casual glance in my direction, when her chocolate-colored eyes connected with mine, invigorated my imagination. In my mind’s eye, I imagined a mutual infatuation, and in my daydreams we’d sneak off to a secret place, hold hands, and kiss.
My First Love
If I still had my journal from my early teens, I’d find at least a few pages devoted to my first love.
I was in love. There was no question about it.
Was it lasting love? Living in the moment, I believed my love would never end.
My journal, then, recorded my most fervent prayers. And as far as my first love was concerned, I prayed that she would love me in return.
She never did.
This love that inflames the heart and causes the mind to see nearly every thought with one desire was called by the ancient Greeks as éros. It kindles every romance, and subjects its captives to a relentless flood of pleasurable emotion that permeates ones entire being.
But the darkness of reality eventually overwhelms the light of romantic love, as it does the other common forms of love. Then what is there? Is there a love that lasts?
Is There a Lasting Love?
In addition to erós, the ancient Greeks identified three other types of love.
The affection a mother feels for her newborn baby, that a father feels for his children, or that brothers and sisters feel for each other–the Greeks called this storge.
When people join together and friendships take root around common interests and activities, the tribal loyalty that exists between individuals was named philia.
It’s the third form of love that provides a backbone for the others. Agápe, the unconditional love, gets its uniqueness in that it’s a love of action rather than reaction. Like a garden flower left to itself, erós, storge and philia will wilt or thrive, dependent upon the conditions of their environment.
Romance often loses its flame when reality hits. Family members and friends may part ways over broken trust or disagreements. But where agápe flourishes, all love is not lost.
Agápe sustains relationships when the other three loves can no longer carry the load. Agápe endures. It does the heavy lifting when no other love can. It’s the uncommon love that lasts an eternity.
Love Lived Out Loud
Where John 3:16 records that “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son,” it is agápe love in action that opened the gate to eternal life for a humanity otherwise destined to perish. This is the love of God written about throughout the Bible, and lived out loud by God’s living Word, Jesus. It’s the love that has its complete fulfillment in God, who is its ultimate source.
In 1 Corinthians 13, Jesus’ friend Paul ascribes 7 complimentary attributes to agápe that aren’t found in the other loves. When combined, these characteristics give agápe the power its siblings lack, and that we see so boldly expressed in the life of Jesus as we read the Gospels. But these ingredients of agápe aren’t limited to Jesus–we can have them too.
Agápe waits when every emotion says hurry, and change can’t happen quick enough. Where romantic love can’t live without the object of its desire, where families separated by distance long to reunite, and where enthusiasts anxiously await their next club meeting or conference, agápe patiently waits and sustains these other loves when we’re uncertain that the wait is worth the burden of bearing it.
Agápe never replies in kind to a harsh word, a rude gesture, a hateful slur. It offers kindness as an alternative to those who seem ungrateful, even evil. While its words and actions may be firm, they’re always gentle and gracious–a light that never flickers, that always shines to dispel any darkness that surrounds it.
Agápe looks out for the needs of others as it does its own, and treats others as if they deserve greater respect. It doesn’t demand or even insist on its own way, but always listens. It seeks to understand before being understood.
Agápe gives without expecting anything in return, and it gives more than it keeps.
Agápe never keeps a chip on its shoulder. It’s not resentful. It holds no grudges. It cancels the debt that can’t be paid and allows trust to be restored.
Agápe always tells the truth. It never lies.
Agápe keeps its commitments, persists in honoring its promises, and never gives up hope.
Share Some Love
Cultivate some love today, and invite God to infuse your life with agápe. Give some away, and watch God fill you with more.
Spread some love today and share this post with someone you care about. Maybe you haven’t loved them they way you want to. Share this as your commitment to allow God to transform you into a better lover.
Share your thoughts on love today, and comment below on how agápe is revealing itself in your life.