Is love really all you need like our culture tells us?

I’ve never been a big fan of the Beatles.  The music of John, Paul, George, and Ringo is not the

soundtrack of my childhood.  Only of a few of their songs would ever make it into my current playlist.  One of the songs that would be out is “All You Need Is Love” from a non-album single released in July of 1967.  People have sung this song for the last fifty-two years as an anthem of the “Can’t we all just get along?!?” movement.  Throughout the history of the world, man has proven that no, we can’t all just get along.

In today’s world, the post 9-11 “everyone should be inclusive” world we live in, everyone is trying to say that “love will conquer all.”  “If everyone would just love each other, then all of the world’s problems would end.” “You shouldn’t hate anyone, but love everyone.” Sound familiar?  The problem is that the definition of “love” is not the same for everyone who keeps repeating the mantra. I’m here to help.

Definitions of the different types of love

Love is what we need, but not as most people in the world define love.  For a little help, we need to go to the Greek language for some definitions.  The Greeks had four words for “love” because they needed to describe love in different situations.  The four words are “agápe”, “éros”, “philía”, and “storgē.” We find a couple of roots for modern words we have in the English language, “erotic” and “Philidelphia.”

Here are some general definitions:

Eros – In the modern Greek, this word means “intimate love”, or as some people know this word, love relating to our sexual nature.

Philia – The root for the word “Philadelphia”, known as the “City of Brotherly Love” because this is what “philia” means.  “Brotherly Love” defines a loyalty between friends or a love for community.

Storgē – “Love between family members” is the definition of this Greek word.  “Familial love” is a good way to define this word.

Agápe – This is the word used to define the unconditional love of God for man.  

Take a quick look back at these words and their definitions.  Which one looks like it would work the best to cure the ills of a fallen world?  If you didn’t pick Agápe, I’m not sure why. Agápe is the only love that is unconditional and is attributed to God.  The other three are attributed to man. God created all four, but only one will outlast the other three. Only Agápe has the one attribute none of the other three have: Unconditional.

How human love can fail

Can intimate love be conditional?  

Yes.  I have a divorce decree to prove that.  I was told that I was no longer intimately loved in 2003.  

Brotherly love?  

Yes.  Many “brothers” have walked away from me when I needed help in dark times.

Familial love?  

Yes.  I have close relatives that I grew up around who no longer talk to me for reasons unknown except by them.  

Only the love of God is unconditional.  Think about it. What conditions has God set for us to be loved by him?  Go ahead and think about it. Stumped? Let me help. There are none. Man has set conditions through religion, but God has never handed down any conditions that we must meet to enable us to obtain enough favor for him to love us.  

“But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear

him, and his righteousness to children’s children, to those who keep his covenant and

remember to do his commandments.”  (Psalm 103:17-18 ESV)

“Give thanks to the God of heaven, for his steadfast love endures forever.”  (Psalm 136:26 HCSB)

Some who read this will say, “Wait a minute!  That verse from Psalm 103 says that his love is for those who fear him.  Isn’t that a condition?

“In the fear of the Lord one has strong confidence and his children have a refuge.  The

fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, turning people away from the snares of death.”

(Proverbs 14:26-27, HCSB)

Let’s go to another language to help us understand what is going on here, Hebrew.  Fear is not used here to describe being afraid of God. “Fear” in the Hebraic texts comes from “yirah” a noun which is a derivative of “yarah”.  The idea behind the word “fear” in Hebrew is to flow from your gut. We get a queasy feeling in our gut when fear hits. But in this setting, the word “yirah” actually is used to describe flowing from the source.*  Using “fear” in the correct Hebraic contexts looks like this:

  • “In the flowing (teachings and character of God, Yirah Yahweh, teaching – torah, character – ru’ahh) of the Lord, one has strong confidence and his children have a refuge.  In the flowing of God’s teaching and character is a fountain of life, turning people away from the snares of death.”
  • “The steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who (Yirah Yahweh) are in the flowing of his teaching and character.”

God is a giver

If we are in the flow of God’s teaching and learning about his character, his love to us is unending or “everlasting.”  God is not a task master. God is not demanding. God is not an overlord demanding our allegiance. He is a giver. What he has flows out of him in a never-ending stream of life.

The God of the Bible is a gracious and merciful God, who reaches out with an unconditional love.  

His love says, “Live in what flows out of me.  Learn my teachings. Learn my character. Get to know me.  Find out who I am on an intimate level. Learn that I want you to love the people in your community like family.  Love like brothers the people you hang out with. Understand that all of this is wrapped in an unconditional love that requires you to do nothing for me to love you. I gave my son to die in your place to pay the penalty for every sin you have ever or ever will commit.  That’s how much I love you.”

Love is indeed all we need, but it is the Agápe love of God given to us through his son, Jesus Christ, whose death on the cross and resurrection from the grave made it possible for us to know how much God loves us.  We will never be able to wrap our brains around what Agápe love is until we meet him face to face. Until that time, join me in giving away the only love that encompasses the true meaning. Unmerited, yet free through grace.  Agápe.

Prayer to Receive and share God’s love that never ends

Father, show me how to love others as you love them.  Help me understand what it means to Agápe other people, even when I don’t think they deserve to be loved.  Help me to Agápe those who don’t love me in return. Thank you that you Agápe me, in spite of how I have not loved you in return, nor lived my life for you.  Thank you for the free gift of grace, and unconditional love you have shown me. Let my life reflect how your teaching and character flow out of me as I Agápe those around me.  For your beautiful name I pray, amen.

* Understanding of this concept taken from “The Living Words” by Jeff A. Benner, Virtual Bookworm Publishing, ISBN 9781602641143

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Copyright David Shelton 2019. All rights reserved.