Life gets harder, seasons alter, people move on. It can hurt. A lot. But through it all, we can, and need to, trust in God’s impeccable timing and love to get us through. This past year has been the greatest, and hardest, year of my life. As seen in my previous posts, I started dating the boy I have had a crush on since I was nine. Aside from my family and God, he became my everything. I gave almost everything to that boy; my time, my trust, my dedication, my love; the title of being my first boyfriend, my first real “I love you,” my first kiss. He was a huge chunk of my world and I thought I was going to marry him. God, however, had other plans. Three months have gone by since we broke up, and despite it being some of the most painful times I have ever gone through, they have also been necessary for my growth with God. I was growing too weak. I had placed Bennett as my source of joy and love when it needed to be God all along. My happiness can not rest on the shoulders of a mortal. My joy can only come from God and God alone because He is the only One who can truly love me the way I was created to be loved. We as humans may try our hardest, and trust me, I’ve seen it, but we always fail. Why? Because we’re human. We weren’t created to be the source of love, joy, or peace for other people. We were created to benefit from God’s ultimate love, joy, and sacrifice. And that’s where I stumbled. I gave too much away to someone who could never love me with the unending love of God that I wanted and needed. And I could never love him with the kind of love he was seeking. We both placed each other as the “god” in our lives, replacing the true God and His everlasting, unfailing, unwavering love. We tried, but because we didn’t have God as our focus, and because we weren’t truly founded first in His love, we failed, and we will keep failing, unless we are grounded in Him.
Glenn E. Schaefer wrote
“Our love, however, is easily misdirected. Its object tends to become the creation rather than the Creator; it loses sight of the eternal for the temporal; it focuses on the self, often to the exclusion of God and others. We become idolaters, focusing a part or all of our love elsewhere. We are ‘love breakers’ more than ‘law breakers'”(“Love”).
We as humans were created to love, and to be loved. This year has taught me, however, that we can’t truly love unless we have and seek first the ultimate love, that which comes from Christ. Every other effort we may try will fail until, and unless, we have the Lord as our strength and love. I believe a reason for this is because of the way we see “love.”
To us as Americans, we “love” a lot. We love that girl’s dress. We love our new hairstyle. We love our cat. We love our families. Our love is a “one size fits all” kind of love. It’s become something both powerful and casual and I think that we often confuse the powerful for the casual in our every day lives. We don’t realize the importance of the word as much as we should. In the original hebrew and greek of the Bible, “love” was not just love. There were multiple definitions for the one word we have. There was “phileo” and there was “agape.” Both meant love, but with different definitions and values backing the words.
William Evans defines agape as “the highest, most perfect kind of love (Latin, diligere), implying a clear determination of will and judgment, and belonging particularly to the sphere of Divine revelation”(“Love”).
This is the kind of love that our God has for us. It is the never ending, unwavering love Christ offers us daily, despite our constant failures. It is the kind of love that comes from our Savior giving up His life in order to save ours. It is the kind of love that comes from the Father giving His Son to save His children. It is love to the highest degree and it is the kind of love that we as humans were made to have from our God. It is the ultimate love between Creator and created.
Our love for one another as humans, however, is smaller, weaker, and unlike God’s unending love, our love ends. We love through phileo. It is the love of human to human, not of human to God. Our love is strange, it is not eternal, and it is often based on our own desires and feelings rather than those of the other person. And this is why it fails. It is humanity’s love, and not God’s. It is based on the mortal, on the secular, and on the selfish. I have learned that this love may not always be true love, but a strange, twisted version of it. If we place our trust, our hope, our future in this kind of love, it will not be able to succeed in a way that will be beneficial or healthy. We were made for agape; the unceasing love of God made entirely of love.
1 John 4:7-8 says “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.”
Our God is Love. He loves and He is loved and He is Love. If love is fresh water flowing from a spring, God is that spring. He is the ultimate source of love. No man, no thing, can ever replace or compare with this. His love reaches from one end of the universe to the other. It is never ending, never ceasing, never failing. 1 John 4:9-10 states “ This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” God’s love is eternal because He shows it through His son, Who is eternal. His love is everlasting to everlasting. It is agape; love in the purest form. And yet we choose phileo. Why?
1 John 4 continues with verse 11; “Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”
We are commanded to love. This may seem easy when we think of it in terms of phileo. It’s easy to love with humanity’s feeble, fickle love. It’s not as simple when it comes in terms of agape. That, however, is why God offers us the promise at the end of this verse. “12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.”
If we love one another, and if the God of perfect love lives in us, He will carry out that completion of love in our lives towards others. Then, and only then, can we truly love someone the way they were meant to be loved; with an unselfish, compassionate, kind love. Any other kind of love will fail.
This past year has been a year of joy and love; phileo love. It has also been a year full of hurt and change. I have seen first hand the difference between human’s love and God’s love and I have truly seen that without agape, all attempts at loving will be lost.
I encourage you to dig deeper into God’s agape love because without that, we will never succeed in life or in love. We may try our best, but as experience shows, our phileo love will fail unless it is first founded in the agape love of our Father. Seek Him first and allow yourself to fall into the vast ocean of love He has for you, learning then how to show that love, in return, to those around you.
1 John 4:7-21
7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.
13 This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. 16 And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.
God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. 17 This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. 18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
19 We love because he first loved us. 20 Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. 21 And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.