The virtue of love has been turned into an enterprise: movies, music, commercials (I recently saw a highly suggestive “Liquid Plumber” commercial!) billboards, and novels, will usually employ some form of love (usually romantic) in an attempt to catch our attention and turn a profit. Valentine’s Day is coming (gentlemen take note!), and many males will be on the hot seat to show love in predictably routine gestures. Chocolates, roses, and cards will be in high demand. I confess that I am to Valentine’s Day what Ebenezer Scrooge is to Christmas. “Ba Humbug!” –as a Christian I can’t help but think we are missing something.
“Maybe the slightly cynical pastor will be assuaged by having four love holidays!?”
There are four terms for love that appear in the Greek New Testament. All four terms are simply translated as “love” (or charity as is the case in the King James). In C.S. Lewis’ book, The Four Loves, he names and expounds the four words; storge refers to a familial kind of love in which the givers and recipients did not choose the other, phileo is the love shared between friends, eros is romantic in nature, and agape is a higher, godly-sort of love.
Thinking of love in a multi-dimensional way makes sense. Valentine’s Day is primarily romantic in nature. This is why my brothers would be “creeped out” if I sent them a card and a box of chocolates with an “I Love You” sentiment attached. We tend to overuse the word and say things like, “I love those shoes” or “I just love football”. Join me in my campaign to protect the word!
I am reminded often as I meet with folks and discuss the intricacies of relationships that we experience the best results when we choose to love. When we wait for love to happen or hope to “fall-in” it (almost sounds like something you step-in), we miss the flowers for the cellophane wrap. God gave of His best to Jesus and Jesus gave His best in return. Love isn’t just pontificated upon by Jesus, it was lived out in His caring for the poor, fatherless, widowed, deprived, shamed, scorned, forsaken, lame, and sick. This agape is what we are to strive for and it is a far cry from being a movie on the Hallmark Channel. The way of agape love that Jesus lived out was the way of the cross.
Lent means “springtime” which refers to a period of forty days prior to Easter. This is a time when Christians worldwide observe practices like fasting. You may hear conversations like, “what are you giving up for lent?” Sacrifice is what brings love out of the murky realm of the intangible and allows it to step into the light of a noonday sun. Let us not miss the point in our observations. Loving sacrificially is our calling if we are to follow Christ’s lead. Empty practices and observances are what our Lord detested.
How will we know that we found this agape love? We can measure it up to I Corinthians 13 for starters. The truest, God-given love “never fails”. My prayer is that we can experience what Paul hails as the greatest virtue today and always.