“If you judge people, you have no time to love them.” – Mother Teresa
“At the touch of love, everyone becomes a poet.” – Plato
“For it was not into my ear you whispered, but into my heart. It was not my lips you kissed, but my soul.” – Judy Garland
The concept of Love is used for so many emotions that the Ancient Greeks used six words:
- Eros, the erotic love in passion.
- Philia, for close friendship.
- Ludus, a playful love associated with children or a gathering of friends.
- Agape, or selfless love, developed from a Greek custom called “Xenia,” a practice of hospitality that grew out of a presumption that a stranger may be a god in disguise. A forerunner of our own Christian concept of seeing Christ in others.
- Pragma, often associated with long-standing partnerships through patience and tolerance.
- Philautia, a love of self which can be expressed as either Narcissism or as an indwelling security that futher enables Agape.
While our own vocabulary may assume the varied emotional conditions that the Greeks understood, our singular English word fails to convey the very purpose of this most powerful natural and supernatural emotion.
The origin of Love resides in God, predating creation and time.
- God is Love (1 John 4:7).
- God is Good (Mark 10:17).
- God is also Will (Proverbs 21:1, Matthew 10:29, and Ephesians 1:11).
If this is the image and likeness of God then everything he willed is imbued with both Good and Love. We humans are created out of love, destined to exist in the Love of God, which by His nature is all consuming and excludes all that is not Love. This is the original story of Genesis, but when God created man he gave us something that was denied to to the animals: choice. To allow our potential for Love to become whole or complete, to literally make us into His own image and likeness, we were given the opportunity to choose whether we would accept the Love of God or not. We made the wrong choice.
When we turned from God, from his Love, we started down a road of romantic love, retaining some of the features of Agape, or selfless love. More often than not we have settled for eros, the love of passion, which is far removed from what the Apostle Paul acclaims in Corinthians 13:147:
Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek it’s own interest, it is not quick tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
These verses, still often used at weddings, often wilt as fast as the flowers instead of becoming the foundation stones intended to build a marriage that only death would part.
We are not strangers to the pangs of True Love, experienced in fleeting emotional encounters such as the moment you see your husband walking down the aircraft steps on his return from war; or when the doctor hands you your firstborn; the moment your daughter comes to greet you with her degree; the moment you first held your girlfriend’s hand and she grasped it back. These are moments when time stands still and love touches the most tender part of your heart.
Such moments, though real and all too rare, are transcendent and separate us from this world. It is a glimpse of love that we all too easily ignore, a portal through which we can pass to develop a relationship with the Father, so important that Christ went to great lengths to explain it to us.
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15).
“If anyone loves me, he will keep my word; and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our abode with him” (John 14:23).
“Just as the Father has loved me, I have also loved you; abide in my love” (John 15:9).
The famous author C. S. Lewis wrote “To love at all is to be vulnerable.” I recall when I was learning to swim how difficult it was to trust my coach. The older we get the more difficult it can be to learn anything new, for our experience usually reinforces our desire to continue life as we know it. The only barrier to the Love of God is ourselves. We must surrender ourselves to God and trust that the Love of God is a liberating experience that frees us from the constraints of this world.
It is almost as simple as understanding that God is not there, but here. Look not at yourself, but see him – in everything and everyone that is good and true. Place yourself in God’s world and then look back at yourself and see the person he created, out of pure Love. “God don’t make junk.” He made each one of us perfect, able to change the world, through his Love. Trust Him.
We grow in an environment that dictates we must belong to the world, which makes sense of scripture that describes the alternative road as a narrow and difficult path. Then we read Matthew: 11:28-30: “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”
This is no mistaken translation or contradiction. Living in Christ is not as difficult as it sounds for as soon as we turn to God He wants to flood us with gifts: A peace that dispels anxiety – ALL anxiety. A spiritual strength that is calm, resilient and resolute, which protects us from sin and enables us to do what God designed us to do. Patience that embraces delay, problems and suffering. God shows us, by His example that Love is inexhaustible to be given away in full proportion to everyone, all the time.
The law of divine love should be the standard for all human action. This law accomplishes in a person four things that are much to be desired. First, it is the cause of spiritual life. For it is evident that by the very nature of the action what is loved is in the one who loves. Therefore whoever loves God possesses God in himself; for scripture says, Whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him. It is the nature of love to transform the lover into the object loved. And so, if we love God, we ourselves become divinized. –St. Thomas Aquinas