"In this life there are three great virtues - faith, hope and love. The greatest of these is love." I Cor. 13:13
"By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:35
The greatest of all the commandments according to Jesus is, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself." Matt. 2:37-39
We throw the word "love" around a lot. We love our sports teams. We love a good cup of coffee. We love high-speed internet service. And, we love our God and those who are dear to us.
The Greek language, the language of the New Testament, had several words for love. Philia was used for the feelings of affection between friends. I was born in Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love. Trust me. Eros, of course, was their word for romantic, physical, sexual love. And storge was their word for the love between family members.
Agape (uh-GAH-pay") is the word the New Testament uses to describe the love God has for us. This is the highest form of love - selfless, sacrificial, and unconditional.
"For God so loved (agapeo) the world, that he gave his only Son . .." John 3:16
"As the Father has loved (agapeo) me, so I have loved (agapeo) you." John 15:
"God is love (agape)." I John 4:8
This is the same quality of love that we are called to. "The greatest of these is agape".
Question: What's helpful about having more than one word for love?
Prayer: How profoundly beautiful it is, O Lord, that your very nature is agape. Thank You! Grow within me that I may be a channel of your love. Amen.
The early church took Jesus' words on love very seriously. This fact was not lost on those outside of the church. "See how they love one another!" they said. Take a look at this Second Century, "Letter to Diognetus:"
Christians are indistinguishable from other men either by nationality, language or customs. They do not inhabit separate cities of their own, or speak a strange dialect, or follow some outlandish way of life. Their teaching is not based upon reveries inspired by the curiosity of men. Unlike some other people, they champion no purely human doctrine. With regard to dress, food and manner of life in general, they follow the customs of whatever city they happen to be living in, whether it is Greek or foreign.
And yet there is something extraordinary about their lives. They live in their own countries as though they were only passing through. They play their full role as citizens, but labor under all the disabilities of aliens. Any country can be their homeland, but for them their homeland, wherever it may be, is a foreign country. Like others, they marry and have children, but they do not expose them. They share their meals, but not their wives.
They live in the flesh, but they are not governed by the desires of the flesh. They pass their days upon earth, but they are citizens of heaven. Obedient to the laws, they yet live on a level that transcends the law. Christians love all men, but all men persecute them. Condemned because they are not understood, they are put to death, but raised to life again. They live in poverty, but enrich many; they are totally destitute, but possess an abundance of everything. They suffer dishonor, but that is their glory. They are defamed, but vindicated. A blessing is their answer to abuse, deference their response to insult. For the good they do they receive the punishment of malefactors, but even then they, rejoice, as though receiving the gift of life.
To speak in general terms, we may say that the Christian is to the world what the soul is to the body.