Love Part One
First Corinthians 2: 12, 13, “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things which are freely given us of God, which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Spirit teacheth, comparing spiritual things with spiritual.”
This passage, alongside others, affirms the verbal inspiration of the Scriptures. The words chosen in Scripture were not coincidentally written. They are not words of man's choosing even though taken from man's vocabulary. They are words that Deity, the Holy Spirit, chose by which the will of God is revealed to man. God's will in God's chosen words is what we have in Scripture.
The New Testament was originally written in Greek, a language that has the unparalleled ability to express shades of meaning. Often an entire series of Greek words are used, each expressing a slightly different shade of meaning, but translated by just one English word. Our language, English, does not have this same shading ability as does the Greek. We can, however, learn the shades of meaning and know the will of God.
The English word "love" is used to translate four Greek words, actually more when you consider the various verb and noun forms, We do not have to be Greek scholars to understand this and understand the variance of meanings.
Without question love is the greatest of all virtues. Matthew 22:36, “Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.” Love is the prime characteristic of the Christian faith. It is the canopy or umbrella under which all other virtues find meaning and value. First Corinthians 13:13, “Now abideth faith, hope, charity (love), these three, but the greatest of these is charity (love).”Let us consider these four Greek words that are translated by the single term “love.”
One Greek word translated "love" is the word eros. This word is used mainly to express love between the sexes. It is sometimes used as patriotism, love for country, and even the passion of ambition. But mostly it speaks of physical and sexual relationships. With usage the word has acquired a low, base and immoral meaning, like the English word “lover” is sometimes used to refer to a partner in illicit sexual intercourse. Such love is not compatible with the New Testament or Christianity and does not convey Christian love. Although the word eros is in the Greek language it is not found in the New Testament. Never does Scripture include as love something that is immoral and impure as is often spoken among people today.
Another word is storge, which is a love of a different nature. This has to do with family affection, love between parent and child, sometimes love that people have for the ruler of the nation. A similar idea is expressed is Romans 12:10 where Paul wrote, “Be kindly affectioned one to another.” The emphasis is on the family hood of God's people. The church is not only h an institution, the body of the saved, but also a family in special relationship and fellowship with God and each other.
The word most commonly found in Greek generally that is translated “love” is the word philia. It is not, however, the word used most in the New Testament, but is used in the Greek language generally most often. It has great warmth about it. It means to look upon another with high regard, respect and esteem. It includes friendship, even the respect that should and does exist between husband and wife. It includes physical expressions of love, but the emphasis is more on the closeness, warmth, respect and high regard for each other. Matthew 10:37 uses it. “He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. ”Again, John 11:3,36, concerning Jesus and Lazarus, “Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest is sick… Behold, how he loved him.” The same idea is in the expression of the love Jesus had for John. John 20:2, “…and to the other disciple, who Jesus loved.”
The word translated "love" found most frequently in the New Testament is the word agape. It is the word the Holy Spirit chose to express Christian love. In a few cases philia is used, but that is rare. Agape, and various forms of it, is found over two hundred fifty times; far more than any other. Singularly, the word is rarely used in other Greek writing, we are told. It seems to carry a special meaning that is more peculiar to Christianity. Therefore, to understand Christian love we must delve into the meaning of agape.
We are made to wonder why the other words were relatively abandoned in favor of a word seldom found except in the New Testament. Eros has a definite association with that which is vile, illicit and immoral. Storge is tied mainly to family affections and is not broad enough to include all that Christian love embraces. Philia is used regarding those near and dear to us, such as friends. Agape is a term that is even broader than love for friend, mate or members of the family. Christian love extends in ever-widening circles. Agape reveals how far reaching Christian love really is.
Areas of Love
Certainly love begins in the family (Ephesians 5:23,28,33). Love in the home is one of the very best showcases for displaying Christian love. But love for family is natural and expected. It requires little effort to love kith and kin. The adage, “Blood is thicker than water,” recognizes the natural tie in families. When love is taught and exhibited in the family, however, love outside the family is easier to cultivate.
Christian love goes beyond the family to the brotherhood. First Peter 2:17, ”Honor all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king. " John 13:35, "By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another. " One of the cries of the heathen as they observed Christians was, “Behold, see how these Christians love one another.”It is always a serious handicap to the Lord's church when there is bitter wrangling from within. The church is misrepresented. The church should stand in love and united in love; united on matters of faith where God has spoken, and charitable toward each other in matters calling for human judgment. Woe be to that person or persons who perpetuate strife on matters of a personal and judgmental nature.
But Christian love extends beyond family and brotherhood to include neighbors. Romans 13:9, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. “Galatians 6:10, "As we have opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.” James 2:8, "If ye fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself, ye do well.” Christian love looks upon all people as creatures in the spiritual image of God. There is no unimportant person simply because they are persons.
Even to Enemies
But Christian love, uniquely, extends even to enemies, when such one may have. Matthew 5:43,44, “Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy. But / say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” No matter what one is, what one does, we are to love them. No matter how wronged we have been, or injured, insulted or slandered, the Christian love pities the evildoer. Christian love, like ripples made in a pool of still water when a stone is tossed into it, extends itself in ever-widening circles until it covers all.
Deliberate and Willful
There is no particular virtue in simply loving our kin because this is natural. Loving those who love us is not difficult. Christian love is an emotion, but one that is deliberately called forth. It is a wilful achievement, even if it is against nature to love. Christian love has to do with the heart of man, his intellect, and his mind does not demand love in return in order to love. It is not a natural response, but a deliberate victory of the will that produces certain attitudes and actions toward all mankind regardless of who or what they are.
This is not to say that we love everyone just alike. We cannot do this and it is humanly, mentally and emotionally impossible. This is recognized by the various shades of meaning of love. There are priorities even in love. But it does require a certain special and basic quality and outlook toward others. What is that special and basic outlook?
Here we find the real meaning of agape, the word Deity has chosen most often to express Christian love. Matthew 5:43-48, “Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven; for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For it ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? Do not even the publicans the same? And if you salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? Do not even the publican so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your father which is in heaven is perfect.”
This expresses the extent of love, even to love enemies. God is the leader in love. Why are we to love even our enemies? It is in order to be like God. God sends His rain on the just and unjust alike; on the evil and good. That means, no matter what a person is, God seeks nothing but that person's highest good. This bears repeating! Love means seeking the other's highest good. This is the maturity and wholeness (perfection) that is characteristic of God. This is the very root of Christian love. All else springs from this concept and every other virtue finds its beginning and value in it. This is the canopy under which everything about the Christian faith operates. This is not to say, as some mistakenly contend, “Love is all.” There is much more than love in Christianity. But it does show the underlying foundation of the faith. This is the meaning of agape, that special term that teaches Christian love which means seeking the other's highest good. Future lessons shall focus on this measure of love, what it implies, requires, allows and how it relates to all associations, even between God and man and man and his fellowman.