The Value of Committed Love

When it comes to defining love our English language is woefully inadequate.  Name virtually anything physical, material, financial, or fanciful and people can be found who love it.  No wonder we have such a foggy idea of what love is.

The language in which the Christian New Testament was written was Greek, the kind spoken by common people in the market place no matter what their national language.  God obviously wanted to give His revelation of truth in a language that could most easily communicate that truth to the largest number of people.  In regarding to "love", the Greek language had four words for love:  philos, agape, storge, and eros.

PHILOS:  Warm, affectionate love.
Philos is the affectionate love of close friends and lovers.  It makes its presence known by deep emotional feelings of fondness.  When I have counseled couples planning to get married I have asked them to give me a definition of love.  A summation of what most of them say would be, "a gushy, warm, gooey feeling that you have for someone."  Almost without exception these lovers thought of love as a warm feeling of affection.  They were experiencing philos love.
The big problem with philos love is that when something goes sour in the relationship it can evaporate quicker than a morning fog when the sun comes up.

STORGE:   Love of our natural kin.
Parents have a natural love for their children and children have a natural love for their parents.  There is a powerful bond that works like a magnetic force between "blood relatives".  A common proverb with which most of us are familiar is, "blood flows thicker than water".  In Romans 12:10 the Apostle Paul combined storge with philos to point out the spiritual family love that true believers are to have for one another, "Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly (storge) love (philos)".

EROS: Sensual or Sexual Love.
Although commonly used in secular Greek eros does not appear in the Bible.  Eros was the supposed son of Aphrodite and Hermes.  The word was associated with motivating sensual desires and sensual activity.  Within the bond of marriage the Bible speaks approvingly of these desires and activities.  Like philos, eros has it's proper place between husband and wife, but it is not the bond that holds the relationship together through the rigors and ordeals of life.

AGAPE:  A love commitment of the mind and will.
Agape love is not a motivation of emotions.  It is a commitment of the mind and will based on values and principles.  It is a choice to make an unconditional commitment that our thoughts, words, and actions will be in the welfare of the person or persons to whom we commit our love.
     Agape love had been in the Greek vocabulary long before the writing of the New Testament, but rarely used.  Like an ill-favored stepchild it was relegated to a dark corner for keeping in case a reason ever arose to bring it out.  Amazingly, it was precisely this word for love that God inspired the writers of the New Testament to describe God's love for mankind.  (See John 3:16 and 1st John 4:10). 
     It was agape love that Jesus used when He taught that the greatest commandment is, "You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind."  He went on to teach that the second greatest commandment is, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself."  (Matthew 23:37-39)..  In addition to the ten commandments God gave through Moses Jesus gave a new one to His disciples, "A new commandment I give to you, that you love (agape) one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another."  (John 13:34).  The entire 13th chapter of 1st Corinthians extols the pre-eminent quality of agape love and closes with these words, "And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is (agape) love."  (1st Corinthians 13:13)

Agape love is characterized by deeds and actions.  When we read about God's love towards us the Scripture emphasizes what God did rather than how He felt.  "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son..." (John 3:16) and "In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation (sacrifice) for our sins." (1st John 4:10).  

Only agape love can be reliably tested.  If words, deeds, and actions are consistently in the best interests of the person(s) to whom love is committed, then there is agape love.  If words, deeds and actions are hurtful then agape love is not present.


Assurance and Security.
It is the nature of all humans to need reassurances of committed love.  That is why Jesus constantly reaffirmed His love for His disciples with His words and actions.  "God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life" was just as fresh in the Apostle John's mind when he recorded those words as they were the first time he heard Jesus speak them.  Jesus continued to give assurances of His love to His disciples.  Space only allows a brief sample: 
"Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment but has passed from death into life."  John 5:24. 
"I am the good shepherd.  The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep." John 10:11.  ". . .And I lay down My life for the sheep."  John 10:15. 
"My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me and I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand."  John 10:27, 28. 
"Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom."  Luke 12:32. 
When Jesus died on the cross; rose again three days later; appeared to His disciples over a period of forty days and then ascended to Heaven they were fully convinced of His committed love for them.

God has given us the revelation of New Testament truth so that we can appropriate His truth and enjoy assurance and security.  "Nothing. . .shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our LORD."  Romans 8:39.
On the human level others need to be constantly reassured of our committed love for them.  Jesus added a new commandment for His Disciples:  ". . .that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another."  John 13:34.  This commandment is echoed numerous times in the New Testament epistles.  Husbands are commanded to love their wives (Ephesians 5:25, 28, 33; Colossians 3:19).  Wives are commanded to love their husbands and their children.  Titus 2:4.  In every case the word for love is a form of agape. . .and unconditional commitment that thoughts, words, and actions will be in the best interest of the person to whom the love is committed.  The end result is that the recipient of this love grows in assurance and security.

Most people think of hope as a wish for something they desire.  The Biblical concept of hope is a confident expectation that what has been promised will come to pass.  Down through the centuries great hosts of people only had a wishful desire about what waited beyond their physical death.  All during the time there were some who had a confident expectation.  The patriarch, Job, gives us the best example:  "For I know that my Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last on the earth; And after my skin is destroyed, this I know, That in my flesh I shall see God, Whom I shall see for myself, And my eyes shall behold, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!"  Job 19:25-27.
How could Job and others have this confident expectation?  The answer can be found in part in the following truths:

The promises and prophecies of God being kept and fulfilled.  According to prophetic scholars some 85% of Bible prophecies have been fulfilled.  In Genesis 3:15, God promised that a godly seed would crush the head of the serpent and in doing so, would have His heel bruised.  The majority of Old Testament Scripture and the gospels of the New Testament are related to the fulfillment of this prophecy.  That fulfillment came when Jesus triumphantly shouted, "It is finished!" on the cross of Calvary.  The Redeemer had come and paid the redemption price for all mankind.  The inspired word of God was fully vindicated.  Three days later Jesus rose again and gave further confirmation.

The working of God in the human heart.  Psalm 19:1-4 assures us that there is no person on earth who does not receive a message from God by the creation God created.  Genesis 6:3 tells us God said, "My spirit shall not always strive with man. . .".  As troubling as that is the statement reveals that God's Spirit had previously been striving with man and was continuing to do so up to that point in time.
"Where can I go from Your Spirit?" is the question raised in Psalm 139:7.  The next five verses make clear there is no such place in all creation.  Jeremiah tells us clearly what His Spirit was doing in the hearts of the Israelite people, "The LORD has appeared of old to me, saying, 'Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you."  Jeremiah 31:3.  The verses that follow tell us that God did all this to give Israel hope in the times of their suffering.

In harmony with this Old Testament teaching Jesus said, "And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself."  The next verses explains, "This He said, signifying by what death He would die." (i.e.. crucifixion).  To those who are not only drawn but actually accept the sacrifice of Christ for their sins Paul writes, "But God, Who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have bee saved)."  Ephesians 2:4,5.  Again, the Apostle Paul tells us that the salvation that Believers receive teaches them to deny righteously and look "for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ."  Titus 2:11-13.

May we take a page from the benefits of God's agape love to us and commit to the practice of agape love in our relationship to God and fellow humans.

Copyright 2002 Thomas E Berry
Scripture quotations from NKJV unless otherwise noted


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