The struggle with Love

I first wrote this when 50 shades of Grey came out but never got around to publishing it, but now with 50 Shades Darker darkening the horizon further of America morality I will do so now.

Love is in the air, everyone is seeking it, everyone knows that it is out there to be found. Maybe around the next bend? It can be hard to define when you aren’t in it and harder to miss when it is gone. It is so evanescent that we need more definitions in order so that everyone can catch it. But when captured what have we actually found?

Jesus loves us this I know for the Bible tells me so. Little ones to him belong they are weak but he is strong.

Yes Jesus love me
Yes Jesus love me
Yes Jesus love me, the Bible tells me so.

A lot Christians knows this song. A lot Christians agrees with this song. But not all Christianity knows what Biblical love is, and the world certainly doesn’t either, yet…

We have the challenge today where the world is trying to use love against us. We also have the difficulty where certain Christians are getting on this particular soapbox and telling the rest of us just how unloving we are.  “Jesus was about love, what’s wrong with two people loving each other? Love is never wrong! Stop spreading hate!” I have to admit the accusation stings a bit. But only for a bit because I can go back and see what the Bible tells me so.

We are concerned with this idea because God does tell us to love himself and to love people, these are the greatest commands after-all. (Matt 22:36-40)  So how does that work, what does that look like?

The Greek words for love used in the Bible are threefold. The first is for us sounding in the english as Agape. This is whole-complete pure selfless God-like love, it is other focused, sacrificing. This is the love from the commandment. This is the way God loves his people. This is the way we are encouraged to love each other. There is a second word for love which is Phileo. Where the city Philadelphia gets its name, the city of brotherly love. The idea of comradery, love among peers, mutual respect and care. This is good, this is friendship. These two: Agape and Phileo are the two words for love used when Jesus asks Peter is if he loved him when he was restoring him after Peter’s denial. Jesus asks Agape and Peter answer Phileo and interesting point. (John 21)

Then we have Eros. This is the word for sexual love. That intimate knowing of a husband and wife. A reserved love. A love shared behind closed doors for the married and blessed by God. The kind of love described that the Song of Solomon reminds us not to awaken before its time. (Song 2:7, 3:5, 8:4) This is why traditionally kids were not allowed to read Solomon’s Song of Songs. We learn that love has a time and a place.

When we are concerned with what the Bible tells us so, we learn that God calls us to try to emulate that first selfless love that gives of itself. We are encouraged to love in Phileo with our common man as that is how a society functions. But our Eros is reserved for a husband and wife.

When we let the Bible tell us so about love we recognize that the love that we are to show the world that Jesus taught was not our personal Eros. Neither is it some all-encompassing progressive cosmic catch-all for the sentiment either. There is yet a fourth word Storge not traditionally considered used in the Bible for familial love, but some have noted it as a conjunction in Romans 12:10 Philostorgos. The point here is our culture, without these tools for language that the Greek employs, has resulted in a combination of the ideas of love into a boundless blob mixing sentiments and meanings for how we feel for one another. It ranks up there with the word spiritual; its broadly tangible yet extremely elusive when trying to nail down. Everybody borrows it not truly knowing what it means, so its definition grows. It has elements of all the Greek words. It has eroticism, it has comradery and it sometimes is even heartfelt. But what we have done here in America is combine all our ideas of sex, lust, desire, comradery and passion into the blanket of love and then try to say that that is what Jesus was talking about while making an appeal to his greatest commandment. Therefore we should be about any expression that falls into such a blanket of meaning and that is what we should pursue and celebrate. We try to latch onto Jesus’ idea of love without understanding language or the intent.

So we have our illusive feelings on the word love, which often has most of the Eros flare to it, and try to press that into how Jesus told us to love God and our neighbor. But God was not telling us to pursue erotic love with God and erotic love with each other and endorsing all such behavior.

We march in the streets over the mistreatment of women and then turn around and celebrate such treatment when it is in a movie. We do this because we do not understand love and demand that it has carte blanche in expression. We get ideas like those in 5o Shades trying to pass abuse off as desirable while hiding behind the word “choice”.  It is as if consent is all that is needed to qualify as what Jesus wants the world to pursue, or at least that all people should condone.

Jesus is not about endorsing passions. Sexual expression doesn’t get a free pass to misbehave because we confuse and misinterpret terms. Paul reminds us that we are to control our passions and if we are unable, to get married. Marriage is God’s solutions to us being unable to control our lust for sexual pleasure. This is only one part of marriage but the institution of marriage is a structure to control our urges and a confine to truly express and develop true marital love. It controls, it curbs, but it also frees and it encourages. Paul says:

2 But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. (1 Corinthians 7)

Paul hopes that people would control themselves and offer themselves to God as he is, but he admits that it is not sin to seek to be married. But he does encourage the believer to be content where they are, he is simply addressing the point that married people have more responsibilities and a divided focus than those free from it. This is what 1 Corinthians chapter 7 is all about. Paul acknowledges the compulsive nature of Eros. But why would you want to control it? That’s not loving! That creates problems and even divorce! Well Jesus spoke to that also.

He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” (Matt 19)

When Jesus defines marriage in Mathew 19 he isn’t just weighing in on a divorce debate between views, he is as he always does, cutting through the dross of man’s opinions and giving God’s view. This is why Jesus appeals to the created order of things. Jesus never simply weighed in on a view but gave God’s truth. 

We need to understand that when the Bible says God is love and wants us to love one another, that this is not a blanket pass for our desires. God was not talking about our personal erotic bent for this, that, and the other. God does not condone all our expressions of erotic love that we dream up. God is not interested in the orientation that our lusts go. We have God’s opinions on sexual practices in Leviticus 18 and the reaffirmation in the New Testament many times over, as well as the conclusion of the Jerusalem council (Acts 15) that such prohibition were still to be heeded.

If we want Eros love then God speaks to that but there are rules that he set for his creation. For a man it is with his wife and for a woman it is with her husband. But the kind of love that God says to love each other universally with is selfless.The kind of love that God encourages is in 1 Corinthians 13. Love is long-suffering. Love is kind. Love is not-self-seeking. Love bears all things, believes all things, endures all things and hopes all things. It does not rejoice in iniquity but rejoices in the truth. We learn that love also has a kind.

When we let God define what love he is talking about we realize he is not encouraging a hippie free love fest with all our strangest sexual appetites as long as everybody is consenting. Love does certain things, and it does not do certain other things. Because it is selfless it is something that is shared, it can be spoken, it must be. Thus we are told to speak the Truth in Love.

Love seeks the good of the other person, love does not simply seek personal gratification. We do not get to make appeals to Christ’s character or actions when we do not understand them.

Jesus says: “There is no greater love than this, he who lays down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13) Love is sacrificial, not self-seeking. Love looks like laying down your life for a friend, spending yourself for another for no benefit to yourself. Love says I am willing to go to my end for the rest of you. There is more Biblical love in Saving Private Ryan than 50 Shades of Grey.

Love may be a blanket word for the world, but that is not what Jesus was taking about.

thank you

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