The word "love" may be one of the most delightful words in the English language. It is a word, when pondered, brings to mind the wonderful feelings we have in our heart for those who are closest to us. It may be our love for our parents, brother, or sister, our children, our spouse or a close friend. While our relationship to each of these is different, the common bond is love. But, what is love?
In trying to define what love is, I often go back to the Greek, the same language God used to write the New Testament books of the Bible. In Greek there are three different words for love. One word is “eros.” Eros conveys the idea of love as a physical or sexual attraction. It is the basis for our English word “erotic.” Another Greek word for love is “philia.” This word for love conveys the idea of the love one has for a friend. This is the basis for the word Philadelphia or “the city of brotherly love.”
There is yet another word for "love" in the Bible. You may be familiar with it. It is word "agape." Agape love is the word God uses to describe the love one Christian has for another; the love a Christian spouse should have for another. It is the kind of love God says that we should have for our neighbor. God even uses this word when he tells us to “love your enemy.” This is obviously not the same kind of love we find described by “eros” or “philia.”
The meaning of the agape type of love finds its meaning in God. It is the word God chose to speak of his love for us. Paul speaks of this love when he writes, "God demonstrated his own love for us in this: While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8) Instead of abandoning us because of our sins, God put his love into action by providing us with forgiveness through Jesus, our Savior. "This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins." (I John 4:10)
You and I have experienced this love in a very personal way. We know how much we have sinned. We also know of God’s love for us in Christ. We know that no matter how much we have sinned, no matter how shameful our deeds, God still loves us, loves us so much that he sent his precious Son into the world to suffer and die for our sins. God did that for you and me; he did it for the whole world. Now that’s LOVE!
When we become a child of God and the Lord takes up residence in our heart, it is filled with that love – agape love. It is that love that enables us to love God and those around us in a way that the unbelieving world can’t understand.
Agape love, when present in the heart of husband and wife, turns a marriage into something special. It leads husbands and wives to forgive each other when a wrong has been committed, to live in loving service of their spouse. Agape love moves us to show love to those around us, even those who hate us, use us and hurt us.As our society prepares to give its attention to LOVE on Valentine’s Day, let us, focus our attention on the greatest love of all - God's love for us sinners. It is a perfect love, a sacrificial love, a love that will never fail, love for all. "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life." (John 3:16)