FAMILY AND MARRIAGE: There are many different kinds of love

September 16, 2018

“I am good, but not an angel. I do sin, but I am not the devil. I am just a small girl in a big world trying to find someone to love.” — Marilyn Monroe

“Jesus replied, ’Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. The second most important is similar: Love your neighbor as much as you love yourself.” — Bible

What is love? I find it interesting that when you do a search in the online Encyclopedia Britannica for the word love, 4,927 items are found, one of them being “love (emotion)”. However, when you go to that location you get the following message: “This is a directory page. Britannica does not currently have an article on this topic.”

Is love really that hard to define? The word is certainly a common one, probably used by all of us sometime during the day. We express love for everything from pancakes, to football, to our spouse. One site has published 67,631 love quotes. That’s a lot. So what do we mean when we use the word love?

The English word for love is translated in a variety of ways in other languages. There are at least five different Greek words that mean love in English. One source lists 28 words from other languages that try to capture all the nuances of love.

Traditionally people fall in love and get married. Kind of makes us wonder if we really understand what we are falling into.

The Bible mentions four kinds of love: eros, storge, philia and agape (we’ve talked about them in the past.) Dr. Ed Wheat, in his book “Love Life for Every Married Couple,” points out that all these forms of love, when viewed properly, are necessary for a fulfilled life. The challenge is to view and apply them according to God’s design.

The first three words for love above have primarily a horizontal focus; they reflect how we see people and the world around us. The fourth word agape has both a horizontal focus and a vital vertical focus; it means unconditional love, and the vertical component is God’s unconditional love for us. The unconditional component of love is perhaps the most difficult to comprehend – and to apply. We can understand a good feeling towards those people and things that please us. That’s usually what we call love. But unconditional love is something very different. It means we love with no expectation of anything in return.

Dr. Wheat offers four principles which help us understand what unconditional love is.

1. “I can learn what love is from the Word of God. It is rational, not irrational. I can understand love and grow in the understanding of it throughout my lifetime.” Agape love is demonstrated to us through Jesus. He makes that kind of love very clear – “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”

2. “Love is not easy or simple: it is an art that I must want to learn and pour my life into. I can learn how to love.” Unconditional love is something that must be learned. We may begin our marriage with the desire to love our spouse unconditionally, but our selfish nature soon rises up and it takes major effort to overcome it. Simply put it costs us our life, because we must love our spouse as much (and maybe more) than we love ourselves.

3.“Love is an active power that I control by my own will. I am not the helpless slave of love. I can choose to love.” God has given us the ability to choose. Our emotions can sometimes be very powerful, but they come and go. Love is commitment much more than just emotion.

4.“Love is the power that will produce love as I learn to give it rather than strain to attract it.” When we learn to give in our marriages rather than just expect to receive, that unconditional love will grow.

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