Written By: Hannah Kittle
Love. It’s one of the most common words in the English language. We use the word to say that we like everything from that special person to that blouse that girl was wearing. We tend to think of love as something as shown by pictures on social media and movies. Big red hearts, chocolate, gifts, and whatever else people receive for Valentine’s Day. But what if I described love to you as something hard, painful, and something that takes a whole lot of work? What if I told you that love is better described by the words, unconditional and tough? What if I told you that sometimes loving somebody isn’t having that warm fuzzy feeling about someone? Instead it feels you’re using every single ounce of self-control to not yell at that person or shake some common sense into them. Often times we say things like, “I just can’t love so-and-so because of this thing they did to me or because of what they said about me or told about me.” May I make a confession? Those statements come out of my mouth way too much. I really struggle with loving people like Christ has loved me and commanded me to do. I say in the morning before I go to college, “Lord, help me to love my friends, classmates, teachers, and whoever else I come in contact with.” Then I get to school and get into class with them and it takes all my self-control not to speak my mind or shake them. As soon as I think those thoughts though, I feel my conscience prick me. I realize that I’m not loving them the way that Christ has asked me too.
How does God ask me to love? Is there a difference between love as described by the dictionary and the love that God asks me to display? Let’s take a look. Love as defined by the Merriam Webster dictionary is, “a feeling of strong or constant affection for a person; the strong affection felt by people who have a romantic relationship; a person you love in a romantic way.” Man’s definition is basically boiled down to feelings. Love is a feeling that we have when we care about someone and is something that can be traded for hate just as easily as we change our clothes. To the world, love is something arbitrary and when the happy, fuzzy feelings wear away we simply call it quits and walk away. It’s not worth fighting for. Like most things in our society, it’s easily exchanged and replaced by another feeling or another thing that allows us to repeat the cycle all over again.
So what is God’s definition? In the Greek language we find four words, Agape, Phileo, Storge and Eros that are all translated as “love” in the English language. In the Bible we find all except Storge. So if each of them mean love, why are there four of them? Let’s unpack these four words and the differences between them together. Agape is the love most commonly used to talk about the love that God has for us and the love we are asked to exhibit to one another. Eros is where the English word, “erotic” comes from. It’s dealing with more sexual love. Phileo love is better translated as a strong friendship. In English we tend to say this is the kind of love we have for chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream, dark chocolate, Jane Austen movies, shopping, friendships, and whatever else. Storge is used to describe love between a husband and wife, siblings, and parents and children. Three are used in the Bible: Agape, Storge, and Phileo. Agape is the most common type of love we see in the Bible. Let’s take a minute and talk specifically about this kind of love.
Agape love is the love we hear used when it’s talking about God loving us and the love we are commanded to show others. This is the love talked about when Jesus asks Peter three times, “Peter, do you love me?” It’s also the kind of love that God asks us to love others with. This is the kind of love that we need to show others even when it’s the last thing we want to do. Agape love is the kind of love used in John 3:16 where it says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son so that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” Most of the time where “agape” is used it has to with verses where it talks about the love that God had for us that caused Him to send us His Son.
Isn’t that absolutely amazing? God loved us, us insignificant, sinful people, enough to send His Son. His love was great enough to see past man’s sinfulness and rebellion. He loved us enough to have a plan in place that when we choose to sin, He was prepared to redeem us back into fellowship with Him. His love was the kind that can’t be equaled. The ultimate expression of love was on the cross 2000 years ago. We may think that we’ve seen love in a movie or had it given to us by a special someone, but the best and ultimate expression of love was displayed on a cross 2000 years ago by a perfect man who never sinned and yet he bled and died for us to pay for our sin. We think that love looks like hearts, roses, chocolate, and warm feelings when in all actuality love looks like blood, sweat, tears, pain, and agony. The face of love doesn’t look like a movie star or a special other. The face of love looks like a man whose face is the picture of agony wearing a crown of thorns, bearing his own death warrant.
Love is the words, “IT IS FINISHED.” (John 19:30)
This kind of love is the reason that we demonstrate this love by loving even when it’s hardest. We love people even when they cheat off our homework, hurt us, say things about us behind our backs, turn their backs on us, lie to us, and abuse us. Why do we love them? We love them because God loved us. We love them because the same actions that hurt us are the same ones that we’ve done to God. We have hurt, lied to, and turned our backs on God more times than anyone has done or ever will do to us. How can we say that we can’t love anyone when God has shown us so much love?
“Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.” (1 John 4:11) God asks us to do what is hard, not what is easy. He promises us that the life of a Christian will not be easy. But He has made another promise. He has promised us that He will not give us a trial too great to bear. If loving were easy then we wouldn’t have so many verses in the Bible talking about love. 551 times the word “love” is mentioned in the Bible. “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Matthew 5:44-45) Many of the times when “love” is mentioned in the Bible it is used in connection with loving others even when its hard and tough to do so. God’s love is the kind that even when man is still in full-on rebellion against Him, He loves them enough to give them good things. He still causes the sun to shine on the righteous and unrighteous and blesses them. Despite all of man’s shortcomings and failures, He still loves us. Ephesians 2 talks about how even when we were at enmity with God He still loved us enough to make a way to make peace with Him. Even though we deserved death and the wrath of God, His love was enough to break past the wrath He had for our condition.
Love isn’t something easy. It is certainly easy to use the word, but so much harder to live out the word. Sweet girl, as I write these words God is working in my heart. This is a lesson I’m constantly having to learn. I’m always having to learn to love. I’m always having to ask God for forgiveness for not being the loving Christian He wants me to be. Even though it hurts to love, I’m called to love. I’m called to show the same love that God has shown me. Is it easy? No. Is it something I want to do? No. But is it something I need to do? Yes. Let’s work to be loving women of God that change the world by the way we love others around us.
Hannah Kittle is best described as a sinner saved by grace. She currently is a high school senior taking dual-enrollment classes at two different colleges and is headed to nursing. She has a heart for the unsaved, seeks to serve God by serving others, and desires to shine as a light to others to draw them closer to God. Her two life Bible verses are Joshua 1:9 and Jeremiah 29:11-14a
Hannah loves reading, shopping, and being with people whether it be young or old people. She has a calling upon her heart to serve others and to love others even when it’s tough. She believes that God is calling her into nursing or the medical field in general to best accomplish this purpose. She is waiting and praying for the man that God has for her and her heart’s prayer for her life is that others would see Christ through her, her words, and her actions.