“I am not a smart man Jenny, but I know what love is,” said the fairly, simple-minded Forrest Gump. Who would disagree that living our lives in love is the most important calling upon each of us? Maybe Forrest Gump did have it figured out, but I am not sure I have quite mastered living a life of love. I am a work in progress. How about you?
The very subject of love has its challenges. Love means so many different things to each of us. We each were “taught” love as a child and we each “caught” love as a child. Our definition of love varies. Some people started out thinking love was something to be defined in the context of a dysfunctional and at times toxic family environment. Others only wish they had a family. Others came up in a fairly-functional nurturing environment. So here is the problem…when we each say, “I love you,” we actually mean different things. So, how do we get on the same page?
First, we must understand that there is a “love” between people that the Greek language defines as eros love. The underbelly of eros love says, “I want, I need, I desire and I deserve.” Eros love reaches up to pull others down, so they can basically meet our personal needs. Eros love says, “I, me, my and mine” and is concerned with others second. Eros love is what many long for because it temporarily fills voids in our lives. We all have eros love within us on some level whether we admit it or not. If you think you are void of an eros type of love then you are making my point. Eros love denies such an admission. Eros love is something that is exclusively exchanged only between imperfect people. Eros love is an attempt to solve the human dilemma with something that sounds and feels good but doesn’t quite get the job done.
There is another word for love in the Greek language that remained hidden in the dictionary for many years. Nobody seemed to be aware of it or ever used the word “agape” for love. Agape love reaches out and pulls others in. Agape love reaches down and pulls people up. An eros love takes and an agape love gives. Agape love is sacrificial, selfless, patient and kind and is without envy.
When a man and a woman share their wedding vows, an agape love is assumed. Many get married with an eros love only to later realize that it isn’t strong enough to keep the vows. An eros love won’t hold up when the storms come. Eros isn’t supposed to keep a couple together and it doesn’t. Most divorces take place because of a presence of eros love and an absence of agape love and a misunderstanding of the differences. We say, “I love you” and that is supposed to be enough. Eros leads to pain for many. Agape leads to restoration for many.
When Jesus began to teach, he used this unused word “agape” for love. People must have been perplexed. Maybe you are perplexed about this love as well. If you need some of this agape love to share with others, I know where it can be found and enjoyed. Agape love only comes from Christ. He is the only one who possesses agape love. In fact, he is agape love. He doesn’t talk about agape love; he demonstrates it. He reaches down to grab your hand to pull you up. He reaches out to pull you in closer. Christ is patient with you and kind towards you. Those around you want and need an agape love from you. What will you give them? Will you give them a temporary, semi-selfish conditional love or an eternal, unconditional, sacrificial love rooted and established in your friendship with Christ?
One love will only get you by for a season…the other love will radically transform your relationships. What do you want to receive and share…an eros love or an agape love? It is your high calling for your life. How do you want to live it? Human imperfect love leaves you wanting and unsatisfied. God’s love propels you forward into reaching out and pulling up. It’s your life…Christ or no Christ? Eros or agape? Check out 1 Corinthians 13:1-13 and ask yourself if you want the faith to believe God for the even greater love.
Dr. Gary Hewins is the President of Lifepoints, a coaching and consulting ministry to ministry leaders and preachers and the Senior Pastor of Community Bible Church in the picturesque mountains of Highlands, North Carolina.