Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 1 John 4, verse 7.
The ancient Greeks thought there were four kinds of love: storge, philia, eros and agape. Storge love is the love you share for a family member. Philia is the kind of love you have in friendship. Eros is sexual love, and then there is agape. Agape love is selfless, true love. It’s the kind of love that you have for someone when you’re devoted to them. If you didn’t know this before, you know it now: agape love is the kind of love that God has for us. Agape love is what nailed Jesus to the cross, and agape love brought Him back to life that Sunday morning.
So how does God want us to love each other, and what kind of love should we have? Perhaps the best answer is simply “yes.” The love of Jesus is a mystery, a total mystery, that we can understand but never fully grasp in that we aren’t Him while He is us. You and I aren’t pure love, yet Jesus is. What fuels Him, motivates Him, does and describes everything about Him and the Trinity is love. All real love comes from God, so when we say “I love you” and we mean it, this is from God. We are sharing the love He gives us, the best part of Himself, with someone in the way He intends it. Whether it’s the love in a family, the love between friends, the love between committed lovers, or the selflessness of true love, when we share love, we share God.
And the best part about it is that this is all self-evident. Last Friday, I attended a men’s Bible study where the preacher talked about the Bible being self-evident proof. It is because it is without that being a circular argument. Even people who don’t understand Scripture, and even people who reject God know what love is. They feel it, and I’ve often thought that, when you reject God but feel love, you’re feeling incomplete love.
Maybe this is one reason why, if I’m talking to someone who doesn’t believe in or understand Jesus, the best place to start is the common ground of love. That philia love of friendship, of building a friendly relationship is the best starting point for sharing what you know about God. It’s not something forced, or judgmental, or false: it’s friendly love. That philia can give way to talking about how this man Jesus loved everyone, loves everyone still, and lives to share that love through us.
Even the ancient Greeks knew that.
Lord of love, thank you for who you are and how you love us. Teach me to share your love and to live in such a way that people know your love.