One would think that nearly everyone has experienced love at some point in their lives. Perhaps love was felt through family members or through that of a close friend. Think back to your childhood. Surely you can find love in those memories somewhere. Maybe you had a grandmother like mine who loved me without measure. A Christmas cookie and a glass of milk on Christmas eve, right before we went to bed. And when mom wasn't looking she'd say, 'Have another." Now that's love!
But what about those who have never felt loved or have experienced nothing but pain in their relationships. Do they even have a proper perspective when it comes to knowing exactly what love is? Do they have faith in love? Or has their life proven to them that love is fleeting or maybe even non-existent?
What about a person whose parents got divorced or whose tempers rage on a regular basis in their household. And what about the unwanted, abused child? Or the ones who are sold into slavery at a very young age? There are many different stories of unfulfilled love in the lives of people in this world.
There is part of an old Don Henley song Boys of Summer that goes like this. "I thought I knew what love was. What did I know? Those days are gone forever. I should just let 'em go but..."
That last word, "but . . " says much about how many of us feel about love. Even though we seem to keep getting burned every time we reach out in love to another human being, there is something deep inside each of us, a God-given hole in our heart, that longs to be filled with love. It is that void that keeps us longing for our heart-holes to be filled.
As a youth leader in my church I have seen my share of teenage "skyrocket" relationships. They blossom quickly but then fizzle out in a few weeks. Some last a few months. Rare are those teen relationships that last years. Sadly, I have seen high school girls "long to be loved" to the point where they give themselves away to a boy, simply as a means of "keeping her man." Many teens equate sex with love. It's not. Often, this "love" ends in a broken relationship with a baby being born into a "family" that never even existed. So strong is our desire to be loved.
I used to think I knew what love was. What did I know.
Since I became a born-again follower of Jesus, the level of love in my life has increased dramatically! To those who don't know Jesus, the feeling is kind of hard to describe. In baseball terms, it would be like a player who has languished in the minor leagues his entire career, thinking he's a big, important, professional baseball player. Then suddenly he gets called up to the big leagues. That moment when he walks out onto the field for the first time - a life-long dream coming true - is kind of what true love is like. That's kind of how it is to love, and to be loved, with Jesus in your heart. When you receive Christ into your heart and surrender your life to him, that is the moment when love explodes . . . and becomes truly unconditional. That is when "love" takes on a whole new meaning.
In this country we love many things. We love our spouses, we love our children, we love our friends and we love our pets. In Wisconsin, we love the Green Bay Packers. In Dallas, "How 'bout dem Cowboys!" And personally, I love warm chocolate chip cookies with a glass of milk. I love my Peanut M&M's (when my wife lets me eat them). Somehow, the "love" I have for my wife gets lessened by my "love" I have for a warm cookie, right out of the oven. That's not right. We need more words for love.
The Greeks have four words for love - eros, philia, storge and agape. The meanings are as follows:
eros - attraction, sensual desire, longing
philia - friendship, affectionate love, loyalty to friends, family, community
storge - affection, as in parents for offspring, relationships within the family
agape - love, unconditional love of God
Everyone, believer and non-believer alike, can experience the first three. Most are content with that. It never occurs to them that there might be something better - agape. That's the way it was for me. I had a wife and 2.3 kids (the .3 is our cat). I thought I knew what love was. What did I know.
Since surrendering all to Jesus, and living my life FOR him, I have been overwhelmed with agape love and the ability to love others that way - unconditionally. Before, truthfully, there were always conditions attached to love. Some were obvious, some conditions stayed hidden. But now, oh my. It's like rivers of living water.
I once asked a question of some high school students in a Bible study, "Who would you die for?" This one student paused and said, "Wow. I'm not sure. I can't think of anyone I'd actually die for." That statement was an all too obvious indicator of their lack of faith. This student had yet to receive the unconditional love of God's Holy Spirit into his heart. If he had, the list would have been rather lengthy.
Each day I wear a black wrist band. On it are written three words - I Am Second . It's a conversation starter really. Many people have asked me what it means. I usually say, "It means Jesus, and everyone else in my life, comes first. I am second. Have you ever experienced the love of Jesus Christ? His mercy and forgiveness? His unconditional love?" I love telling others about His unconditional love.
Love is a word we sometimes use too much or it is something we use for the wrong reasons. But love, the true and best meaning of the word love, is the unconditional love we receive in our hearts from above - the love of God.
May the love of Christ fill your heart and may you spread His love to all you see.
“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself." - Matthew 22:36-39 ESV