What Manner of Love is This?

    (A short talk that I gave at Kyoto Assembly Church on 2010/02/14.)

    Pastor Joseph has given me the privilege to present a short devotional on the topic of my choice. In keeping with the day, the topic of Love seemed appropriate. Honestly, while preparing for this talk, I realized how inadequate I am to talk on the subject. But after reading 2 Cor 3:5-6, I know that although inadequate in myself to do this, I can rely on God who makes us adequate as servants and ministers of His Gospel. So, would I appreciate your prayers as we begin. (PRAYER)

    Can you quote any famous verses on Love? John 3:16? 1 John 4:8?

    In the well-known verse 1 John 4:8, we learn “God is Love.” This simple sentence actually gives us precious information about one of the key attributes of God.  Let’s unpack the sentence. God, the Creator of that we know and can see and beyond, King of Kings, Lord of Lord, The True God who there is none to compare, Righteous, Holy, and Eternal Triune God, is “Love.” So, what kind of “Love?” Is it this romance love that we see celebrated on this day? Is He really some capricious god that arms flying naked babies with bows and arrow to do His binding? Let’s hope not.

    The problem is that in English we use the word “Love” in many different ways. I think the problem occurs in Japanese as well. “I love God.” “I love my Mom and Dad.” “I love my friends.” “Pastor Joseph loves his wife.” “And I love Barbeque.” Somehow we understand, but you can see how it might cause confusion. Thankfully, God insured that the New Testament would be written in one of the most descriptive languages in the world, Greek. As C.S. Lewis explained in his work, The Four Loves, it seems the Greeks actually has four words to describe “Love.” Maybe you know them. Can anyone name one?

    • “Agape” is the most familiar to us because we have been told that its Godly love. In the general use of the word is a love that deeper that just affection or attraction. Modern Greek uses it to mean “true love” and to define parental love. (Lots of references in the Bible)
    • “Eros” is passionate love. The word seems to mean a deeper love than just friendship. This is word that is now associated with romantic love; Erotic. (no known reference in the Bible)
    • “Philia” is normally associated with friendship. To treat affectionately or kindly, to welcome, befriend, to cherish. This is a generalized word that is closest to how we use the word Love in English. (lots of references)
    • “Storge“ is the natural affection that parents feel for their children. Normally only use in the context of the family. (Rom 12:10 “Philostorgos)

    Agape, in a biblical context, normally has a deeper meaning of a self-sacrifical love. “Greater love (agape) has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13). Theologian William Barclay says that “Agape has to do with the mind: it is not simply an emotion which rise unbidden in our hearts; it is a principle by which we deliberately live. Agape has supremely to do with the will.” So, it’s a willful, volitional, thoughtful love.

    So, the difference between Agape and the other types is that all the others are love “because of” the loved one’s qualities. “I love her because she’s beautiful.” “I love them because they’re my friends.” “They love me because I’m their child.” However, Agape is love possibly “in spite of” the loved one’s qualities and merit (or the lack there of) and based solely on the will of the lover.

    Returning to 1 John, it’s no surprise to learn that the Greek word Agape is used here. Actually, the word “Love” is used about 37 times in 1 John and each time it’s based of the word Agape. So, God is Willful, “in spite of” Love. Romans 5:8 shows us that, “God demonstrated His own (Agape, Willful) love towards us, in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.” (Also 1 John 4:9-10) Knowing this, we are commanded as Christians to willfully choose to love God because He willfully chose to love us first (1 John 4:19). In turn, we are to willfully love others because of the willful love God has lavished on us. (1 John 4:7, 8, 11).

    Again notice, this has nothing to do with the emotions but a will choice to love. Are there any practical applications on how can we love others like this? When you have time look at Romans 12:9-12 and 1 Cor 13 for a few suggestions.

    However, I should note that Bible doesn’t just talk about willful love but also the affectionate love of Phileo. Jesus said, “for the Father Himself (Phileo) loves you, because you have (Phileo) loved Me and have believed that I came forth from the Father.” (John 16:27). Although written in Hebrew a similar verse in the Old Testament that expressed this kind of affection would be Zeph 3:17: “”The LORD your God is in your midst, A victorious warrior. He will exult over you with joy, He will be quiet in His love, He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy.”

    We are commanded to choose to (Agape) willfully love God and others. However, Romans 12:10 says that we are to also, “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor;” That phrase “brotherly love” is “Philostorgos” which combines the friendly affectionate “Philo” with the natural familial affection “Storges”… But wait, how can God command such an emotion from us? The key is around a similar command mentioned in 2 Peter 1:7. If you read the verses before (2 Peter 1:1-7), then it becomes clear that as we grow in faith that affection for our fellow brothers grows naturally from thoses first seeds of faith and even leads to Agape love.

    As we wrap up tonight, please allow to be clear. As I was alluding in the beginning, I find that this message is more directed at my poor heart that anyone else here. And I let me testify that since I started attending this church that God has shown His love to me through many of you. If anything, I would ask that you consider what was spoken tonight. Let it encourage each of us as we grow in the love that God has richly poured on us to continue learning how to share that self-sacrificial, willful, love even more with those around us in the days to come.

    Lord bless each of you.