This is Part 1 of a 2 part series.
Lust, love or true love . . . do you know the difference?
Though our modern culture has lost touch with how to recognize true love, my modest hope is that by the time you finish this post, you will be able to clearly see the difference between, lust, love, and true love and recognize true love when you see it.
As a foundation–a place to start–let’s look at a language other than English to help us out with this. Let’s look at Koine Greek. Why? Because in English, when he says “I love you,” but is only interested in your body, it’s not about love at all. It’s about eros.
The noun eros is equivalent to the English noun “lust.” Lust is a strong desire to possess or own; it is an extreme or insatiable desire “to have.” From eros we get the English word–“erotic”–which has nothing to do with true love. Rather, it is “love” which wants to own or possess you as an object of its desire. So eros may be a form of love, but not love for YOU. His profession of love shows more about self-love and lust, than about any desire for real intimacy with you or commitment to you. You are his object, his toy. You fulfill his need and desire. Of course, eros can be her motive as well. It works in both directions. When eros is through desiring its object, it turns its focus elsewhere–met him/her yet?
Relationships based upon eros (the majority of rap, hip-hop, and Hollywood romances) end in failure, human pain, and worse. Eros invites the wrong spirits into the relationship and bodies of those who “love” in this way may even house those wrong spirits. (More on spiritual connections or “soul ties” in another post).
And guys, when she says she loves you, but she’s unwilling to commit and that she wants to be your friend, you better understand that she’s not talking about true love, or eros, but about phileo. This word is love of a fellow person–as in brotherly love. Phileo–“brotherly love” and Delphos–“city”–are the word roots for the English word “Philadelphia”–“city of brotherly love.” But phileo is not TRUE love either. It is a friendship, companionship kind of love, which is important in a serious love relationship, but is not of itself “true love.” Not that phileo is a bad thing. Brotherly love is never bad, just not enough to build a life-long, lasting relationship upon.
Perhaps it’s phileo that best describes the majority of those short-term relationships built upon things like enjoying sports, or liking the same foods or music, or disliking the same people. But brotherly love usually lacks true, long-term commitment and self-sacrifice–the two values that are the basis for the third and final type of love under consideration–agape.
True love (as in the Princess Bride–“twoo love”) is expressed by the word agape. Agape is the divine love of classic literature. And yes, it truly does exist. This kind of love is the love that is generated by moving from phileo through self-motives, and beyond, into a true and real desire to give. This is true love.
When a group of children were asked what they thought love was, one little girl answered, “Love is when your mommy reads you a bedtime story. True love is when she doesn’t skip any pages.” [even though she’s dog-tired]
Agape love is generous. It gives of itself. Agape is self sacrificial and committed. This is the love that will not take from the beloved. This is the love that lays its own life down to fulfill the life of the other.
Agape is not a 50-50% love–that’s phileo. Agape is 100-100%. In marriage seminars, Marcy and I share that true lovers give 100%. This love is the kind that characterizes great loves–that lasted through decades of difficulty, suffering and separation. Our quick-fix, fast foods–give-it-to-me-now–society and culture knows very little of this love. Any surprise we have the highest divorce rate in American history?
Knowing what true love is frees you from all other forms and forgeries. You can be a true lover and be truly loved. As a human being, you were predestined to be truly loved. So what characterizes true love? Practically, what does it look like? How will I know if I am truly loving someone? For sake of word length, and your attention, I answer this in my next post–Part 2.