The Francis Asbury Society

FACE TO FACE: Intimate Moments with God 7/29

Posted on | July 29, 2015 | Comments Off on FACE TO FACE: Intimate Moments with God 7/29

Scripture reading: John 15:9–17

Confused about Love

This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins . . . We love because he first loved us. (I John 4:10, 19 NIV)

Plato’s Symposium is regarded by many scholars as the foundational text for the Western world’s understanding of love. Written around 400 B.C., the book describes a dinner party (a drink-till-you-get-drunk boys’ night out) where each of the guests are invited to give speeches in praise of love. As the wine flows freely, one after another, the men use their greatest oratorical skills to describe the beauties of love. The evening culminates as Socrates and his friends, now drunk, agree that the highest form of human affection possible is homosexual love.

And we wonder why our civilization is so messed up and confused!

The key to understanding The Symposium lies in a short course in Greek vocabulary. The word Plato used for love was eros. Though the Greeks could at times use this term to describe noble dimensions of altruistic behavior, the word generally pointed to a more self-oriented, animalistic understanding. Eros typically referred to those forms of affection that were self-seeking, self-gratifying, and sensual. To love with this kind of love meant to seek those relationships that bring me joy, pleasure, happiness and enhance my sense of self-worth. It is easy to see how the English word “erotic” took its cue from the Greeks. The result for Western civilization has been an understanding of love that is based not in the well-being of the other but in my personal happiness. To say “I love you” means little more than saying “I love the way I feel when I’m around you,” which is another way of saying, “I love me.” Is it any wonder most people today tend to define love in terms of that-which-makes-me-happy?

Thank God for the Gospel of Jesus Christ that introduces us to a radically different understanding of love. Amazingly, the word eros does not even exist in the New Testament! The inspired writers knew that a very different word would be needed to convey the reality of what God had done in his son Jesus Christ. The biblical writers chose the word agape (used over two hundred times in the New Testament) to describe a new kind of love, a love that was virtually unknown until Jesus showed us what it looked like. The chart below describes two very different kinds of “love.”

Eros                                                             Agape
Self-centered                                             Other-centered, self-giving
Based in the feelings                                  Based in the will
Seeks to possess                                        Seeks to give
Finds joy in getting my needs met  Finds joy in seeing your needs met Grounded in the beauty of the beloved                                                                                                    Grounded in the character the lover

Frankly, I know no better path out of our cultural confusion and moral decay than to rediscover the agape-love of God. When that love has been poured into our hearts (Romans 5:5), a cultural revolution will be the inevitable result!

Do not waste time bothering whether you ‘love’ your neighbor; act as if you did. As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him.

point to ponder • If your love for others is motivated by the thought, “What’s in it for me?” then it is not the love that Jesus came to make possible.

prayer focus • Someone who needs to experience agape-love from you.

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