This post is part of “30 days of Giving Thanks” To read more within this series, click here.
In the English language, there is a four-letter word bandied about so casually it has lost its value. I’m not talking about a profane four-letter word; I’m referring to the word “love.”
The Ancient Greeks got it right. They had four different words for love (though I recently read that there are actually six!) The most commonly translated Greek words for love are eros, storge, philia, and agape.
If you are unfamiliar with these terms, I will summarize them briefly in this post. If you want a bit more detail, you can read a brief summary on Wikipedia. C.S. Lewis also wrote a book called The Four Loves, but I have not read it. (It’s on my book list).
Greek Words for love:
eros: “love, mostly of the sexual passion”
storge: “love, affection… especially of parents and children”
philia: “love, affectionate regard, friendship, usually between equals”
agape: “brotherly love, charity; the love of God for man and of man for God.”
All these loves have their place, do they not? I love (philia) my friends, but not in the same way I love (storge) my children.
Have you ever asked yourself, “Where would I be without love?”
Love in all it’s forms can be taken for granted. Let’s take a moment to consider the different forms of love in our lives.
God established the family for many purposes. Familial relationships teach us how to love (at least they should!). I remember thinking it odd that there was a passage in Titus that commanded older women to “encourage younger women to love their husbands, to love their children…” On the face of it, there were a lot of arranged marriages in that time and a woman would have to “learn” love for her husband (and he his wife). But loving their children? Shouldn’t that be instinctive?
If you are a parent, you may be chuckling a bit, because that may not be a surprise.
There are two things to consider. First, women have been aborting, neglecting and abandoning their children for centuries. It’s a bit inconceivable to the majority, but many people love themselves more than their children. Their children are burdensome, inconvenient. Second, parents don’t always use the best judgement in training children. Discipline and training is (or, at least it should be) an act of love. It isn’t fun or pleasurable to punish a child, but it is for their own good. The exhortation in Titus is teach the younger women how to show love. Mothers and Fathers must learn to love their children in the right way. As we raise our children, we gain insight into how God loves us. We, as parents, ought to be shaped by the experience to become more selfless.
In turn, children learn to love their parents. At first it may be a selfish love, but hopefully, over time it grows into an abiding affection. I have seen many people who were once children turn around and care for their aging parents with great love and sacrifice.
I am thankful for this kind of love. Where would I be without the love of my parents or my children? What an ugly place the world would be without familial love!
As we grow older, we learn to make friends. Being a friend takes work, but how lonely would we be without our friends? The Bible says a lot about friendship, particularly in the book of Proverbs.
“a friend loves at all times and a brother is born for adversity.”
The world seems to think that friends stick by each other even when they are in the wrong, but friends don’t let friends do life-threatening or soul-threatening things. I do not like telling a friend they are in the wrong. When I have done it in the past, I’ve lost sleep, gotten stomachaches and even cried. But a good friend looks out for the best interest of their friend. That is genuine friendship love.
The marriage law is one of the oldest laws in existence. God intended marriage to be between one man and one woman for life. Unfortunately, people aren’t content to have things God’s way. There is almost a longing to twist what God wants because it is inconvenient or challenging. Marriage is another relationship that shapes us. Marriage is supposed to be a covenant of committed love. It tests each partner to hold fast through good times and bad. It requires self-sacrifice. It teaches us how to love sacrificially. There is a reason that Paul uses marriage as a comparison between Christ and His church. Jesus laid down his life for the Church and in so doing he demonstrated His great love for us.
My life would be completely different had I not met my other half eleven years ago. It’s been a blessing to enjoy our lives together and raise children together. My spouse has taught me so much and I give thanks everyday for our marriage.
Where would we be without the love that comes through marriage?
The Bible says everything far better than I can, so let’s start with these two passages:
For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man;
though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die.
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
~ Romans 5.6-8, NASB
Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.
In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
~ 1 John 4.8-11, ESV
Let me ask you, parents: If your best friend was dying of an incurable disease and only the blood of your child would save them, would you give up your child? I can guess the answer would be no. You may love your friend, but you don’t want to sacrifice your child… especially if they are your only child.
What if your enemy was dying? Would you give up your life or the life of your child? Again, I’m confident that the answer would be another resounding no.
The problem is, we all choose at some point in our life that we don’t want to walk with God. The only way we can come to Him is through sacrifice. This is a difficult concept for us to understand today because animal sacrifice/blood sacrifice is so archaic. Yet, when there is a war and there is some wrong that needs righting, how is it solved? Oh sure, on occasion countries can talk things out, but history has shown us that it typically leads to war. Someone (usually thousands of someones) make a sacrifice to protect the innocent and the weak. They shed their blood and put their lives on the line. Redemption from evil never comes without a price. It’s a constant pattern.
So, how much does God love us?
This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. You are My friends if you do what I command you.
~ John 15.12-14, NASB
Where would we be without the love of Christ?
What does He ask in return? He asks us to love Him and to love each other. It all seems to come back to love.
Are you thankful for love? The love of family, the love of friends, the love of a spouse… the love of God and His Son Jesus Christ? What greater gift can we receive than to be loved? What greater gift can we give than to love in turn?
Love is one of the greatest lights in a world that is ripped asunder by hate.
I am thankful for agape, storge and philia.
I am thankful for love.