Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Love and its concept

Love is a word with a very broad and extensive definition. It may be because of this reason that there are many of us who fail to understand its very concept. Or to some of us, because of experiences that are not so desirable, love may have eventually turned out to be just a concept.

Although I don’t claim to be an expert on this this subject, I will try to attempt to discuss this in a manner I so understand and am familiar with.

William Shakespeare, in one of his most famous sonnet wrote about love in so elegant a manner that I cannot help but write a part of it. He wrote that “love is not love which alters when it alteration finds, or bends with the remover to remove. Oh no, it is an ever fixed mark that looks on tempests and is never shaken.” He described love as a “commitment” or so this is how I understand it. And because it is a commitment, it is not altered but instead it is a “fixed mark” that is never shaken. You may say that it sounds so ideal. Yes it is. But shouldn’t it be ideal? Isn’t it right that we should have an ideal, or a standard when we talk about important things such as love? And when ideals are discussed, what could be the best standard of love?

Before I discuss “standards”, it is better to define our terms or definitions first. C.S. Lewis, in his book “The Four Loves” divided love into four categories based on the four Greek words for love, Storge, Philia, Eros, and Agape. Storge is defined as Affection. It is the type of love for those whom we are bound to by natural chance, such as our family. Philia is that of a strong bond between two people who share the same interest. Friendship may fit in this category. I would define Eros as Romantic love, that desire we feel for the opposite sex. It is the sense of being “in love.” And the last one, Agape, is regarded by Lewis as the greatest among the four. It is an unconditional love which is not dependent on any lovable qualities that the object of love possesses. To put it simply, it is “love undeserved.”

If Agape love is the greatest among the four, where could we find this type of love? Where is its source? Just to make a point, let me state that in finding the source of Agape love, I am not saying that the other types of love is not important. But if Agape love is, as Lewis put it, the greatest among the four, then it may be best to learn of this love first in order to understand the others as well.

The term Agape has been used by the early Christians to refer to the self-sacrificing love of God for humanity.

1 Corinthians Chapter 13 describes to us what love is. It also describes to us what love is not. The apostle Paul said that if we do not have love, we are nothing. If this is so, could we interpret that the whole totality of humanity is its ability to love? That without this ability, we are “nothing” as the apostle Paul said? Should it be our highest goal then?

When asked about what the greatest commandment is, Jesus replied “'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."

I may say, that to love is the greatest act there is for us to follow. And the primary object of that love is God. We should love God above all else, and in every totality of our being, that is our heart, soul and mind.

The next question to ask then is “how can we love in this manner?” Our only option is to turn to the source of love itself, or to make it better, to turn to the source of love Himself. A verse in 1 John 4 tells us that love comes from God. And so we are told to love one another. This is how it was written for us:

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 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. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

I recall a quote from author and apologist Ravi Zacharias when he told about the story of his brother marrying someone whom he never personally met before. Ravi’s brother told him “love is as much a question of the will as it is of the emotion, and if you will to love someone, you can.” I have always maintained that love is a commitment, not just an emotion. If love is more a question of the emotion, and that no commitment is involved, what happens then when one day the husband will wake up and “feel” he doesn’t love his wife? Because if it is not a commitment, why is it then that a groom and bride say their vows to each other? Is this part of the wedding ceremony only a farce then? I hope not!

In the apostle Paul’s letter to the Romans, he said that “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” God himself commited to love us even when we don’t deserve such. Even when we were still uncapable of loving Him back. While we were still sinners.

God himself commands us to love Him. It is no wonder why we desire so much to love and to be loved in return. Yet while we seek for love in all directions, the problem is that we seek love in the wrong places. We should learn to seek God so that the void in us may be filled. God is the source of love. He is first and foremost the source of true love. He defined best what true love is, and what love is not. If to love is the greatest act, then the primary object of that love should be the primary source of love Himself, and that is God. Only then, when we learn to truly love God, can we truly love others. Yes, it is ideal, and that is how God intended it to be.

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