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.