This is Part 2 of a 2 part series. Click here to read Pt.1
So what characterizes true love? Practically speaking, what does it look like? You may ask, “How will I know if I am truly loving someone with the third type of love you mentioned in Pt. 1–agape love?”
For centuries, western men and women have had one major source for their definition of true love. That source is the best selling book of all time and tops every list today–selling so many copies that the New York Times bestseller list doesn’t even list it anymore (otherwise, it would always be at the top). That source is the 66 books of the library known as The Bible.
I have not come across a better definitinon anywhere than the one given in the “First Letter to the Corinthians,” by the Apostle Paul. What many people do not understand is that the apostle was writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. In effect, what Paul has given us is God’s view of true love. This love is the love that was built into us. We don’t know why, but all of us long for true love. We are moved by romantic movies and brought to tears when the handsome prince sweeps the servant girl up in his arms and proposes to her. Why? What’s being touched inside us? Our response, if our hearts are still soft, come from deep within, from the place where we are made in the image of the God who has declared Himself to be LOVE.
“So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.” (1 John 4:16, ESV) [emphasis mine]
Love and the Creator of agape love are intimately indivisible. So what does God list as the characteristics of true love?
“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away.” (1 Corinthians 13:1–8, ESV)
More specifically,God says, through Paul, that true love is:
- More important than language (human and spiritual)
- More important than supernatural attributes like:
- prophetic powers
- understanding of all mysteries and all knowledge
- More important than faith
- More important than charity and sacrificial giving
- Glad to see the best for others
- Gracious, and well-mannered
- Not self-seeking; does not insist on its own way; lays down its life for the other
- Not irritable
- Not resentful
- Does not take joy in what is wrong or in the suffering of others
- Joyful with what is true
- Willing to bear all things (carries the load)
- Willing to believe the best in every situation
- Always hopeful
- Always persevering, enduring
- Everlasting, never-ending
Impossible? No, this description defines true love . . . and this love really exists. But the only way we can love in this way is if our hearts are transformed by the God, who created us to love in this way. He is the One who can heal us to love deeply from the heart.
In Him, all our damage can be healed. We can be delivered from self and filled with His Spirit of love. If true love is possible, would you want to live even another minute without experiencing what you were created for?
This is the love God has for us. And this is the love He floods our life with . . . if we’re open. And if we’re willing to invite Him into the center of our love and affection. If so, He fits us to be filled with divine love–agape–and loves others through us.
I can tell you–from having experienced love apart from Him, and true love for another with Him at the center–that there is no comparison.
Because God has loved me, I can now love selflessly with the love I have recieved from Him.
My wife loves Jesus first and loves me with the love that fills her life from Him. This is a love beyond human effort. This is the same love God loves me with. And by it, I am healed and whole. This is true love and after 33years of marriage, it unfolds to be deeper every day.
I hope that you will not settle for less than is possible. I hope you are better able to recognize and evaluate what kind of love you are giving and receiving.
QUESTION: Have you given or received true love? Tell us about it.
- Lust, Love, or TRUE Love? (davidcalves.com)
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.
“You mean I can’t just decide I want to be a Christian and be “born again?”
Scripture teaches that our minds are darkened. We cannot perceive the things of God with unaided reason. No “decision” for Jesus will ever produce the spiritual birth that Jesus said is prerequisite to knowledge of God and entrance to the Kingdom. Neither Jesus nor the Apostles ever described the new birth as a “decision.” All we can decide is to agree with the Holy Spirit and the Word regarding our need before God. We must agree with him that we are spiritually destitute. And that we need him. That we don’t know how to love him sufficiently to produce lasting change in our lives. This is an important truth, because it explains the missing component in the American Gospel.
Somewhere along the line, the Gospel became infected by the notion that a relationship with God could be attained by human effort, apart from revelation–God personally “revealing” himself to a human being. Proclamation included making a “decision” for Jesus. And dispensing with emotion. Unusual since throughout the Bible we see that God is a God of emotion. He created emotions.
You cannot approach God on your own terms. Without His previous action in personal experience, we do not have in us that love that produces devotion and obedience. He must “reveal” Himself to us.
The Bible, God’s own Word, says it this way:
“I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5, ESV)
Here Jesus told his disciples how they could bear fruit. They needed to stay in close relationship to him (and God’s love). They needed to be connected. For apart from love (and proximity to Him through Christian community) they would not produce fruit worthy of the kingdom.
In the following verse, the Apostle John says it more directly:
“We love because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:19, ESV)
Scripture teaches that “His Love Comes First.” His love–a prior revelation of Himself, His heart, His values.
I believe that the lack of an experience of God’s presence and love explains in part the shallowness of much “so called” Christianity. This love-deficit is behind poll figures that claim that 84% of adults who claim to be Christians; 40% of Americans claim a “born again” experience.* Yet fewer than 21% believe that Christian community is vital to their faith.** They do not discern the Body–recognize the Family of God as important in their spiritual growth. Many who claim to know God have no passion for him or the people and values He loves.
The Barna Group shares these interesting trends:
On the one hand, four out of five self-identified Christian adults (81%) say they have made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is still important in their life today. More than three out of four self-identified Christians (78%) strongly agreed that spirituality is very important to them. Yet, less than one out of every five self-identified Christians (18%) claims to be totally committed to investing in their own spiritual development. About the same proportion of self-identified Christians (22%) claims to be “completely dependent upon God.” Those figures help explain why a majority of self-identified Christian adults (52%) believe that there is much more to the Christian life than what they have experienced. Without a full determination to live like Christ and for Him, the path to complete transformation is blocked.**
“Well, if the love begins with God, then what can we do?”
We can desire to know Him. We can place ourselves in an “environment of grace” by being with others who know Him. Or by reading his book, the Bible. We can listen to those whose lives demonstrate that they have a relationship with God. As we do, and as others pray for us, God meets us.
The Bible says it this way, “Draw near to God and he will draw near to you.” Begin to do the things that you think please Him. As far as it is in your power, keep a clear conscience. From time to time, focus your thoughts on Jesus Christ. Think about his life. If you can find a copy of the Jesus film, watch it. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal the Father’s love to you.
“But isn’t this my behavior or actions before God’s love?”
Yes and no. You are simply seeking. God’s promise is that when you seek (and keep seeking) you will find. When you ask (and keep asking) it will be given. When you knock (and keep knocking) the door will be opened to you. Seeking, asking, and knocking are not the same as approaching God intellectually, then making a decision. Our intellect can only take us so far in our search for God. Reason and will can place us on the path. Only love takes us the distance. And His love must be prior.
That is why He gave Himself to us in His Son, Jesus. And as we gaze at his life, death, and resurrection, we see the Father-Heart in Christ. Jesus came to reveal the Father’s love.
Revelation is always the initiative of God:
“All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”” (Luke 10:22, ESV)
God’s Love Comes First! If you have not already–at whatever stage you are along your spiritual journey–ask Him to reveal himself to you. You will not be disappointed.
QUESTION: Has he revealed his love to you, personally? Do you know yet, in experience, how deeply you’re loved by Him?
©2012, David C Alves
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Barna Quote Source: