Spiritual Growth: What Is Love?

In this Christmas season everyone talks about love, joy, and peace. But do we really know what “love” is? In the blogging world there is a plugin called “CommentLuv.” It’s a great plugin, and allows others who have blogs to post the link to their own blog after they leave a comment. But I inwardly cringe at the use of the word “Luv”for such a task. The word “Love” (or maybe it’s “Luv”) is tossed around by bloggers, as in, “Give me some “Luv!” meaning “Comment on my blog!”

Now I like comments on my blog and my Facebook page, and would “love” for you to post one and let me know your reaction to what I write! How else will I know what you are thinking? But is this really “love?”

Since this is the Christmas season, it seems appropriate to talk about real love, and its opponent “Unloving.” After all, love was the point of the first Christmas. Jesus humbled Himself and became a helpless baby, and He did it for love! God so loved the world that He gave Jesus to us! The Holy Spirit stands by us, giving us guidance, direction, comfort – and He does it out of love! I would say that even a great comment on my blog, much as I value it, would pale into insignificance beside the God of the universe spending Himself to come and rescue me, a tiny created being. The two are not even remotely in the same category.

You’ve probably already heard this, but biblically there are different kinds of love. There’s the friendship kind of love (phileo). There’s the attraction kind of love, including sexual (eros). And then there is “agape” love, a totally unselfish love that seeks only the other person’s benefit even to the exclusion of oneself.

John 15:9,12 says, “As the Father loved Me (Jesus), I also have loved you; abide in My love . . . This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” Did you catch that? The Father loved (agape) Jesus, Jesus loved (agape) the disciples (all of us), and now His disciples are to love (agape) one another with the same kind of love. That’s a pretty tall order, don’t you think? Since God IS love, it would be pretty hard to come up to loving as He does. But wait! We don’t have to manufacture this kind of love! God has put the Holy Spirit in us. He changes us, grows us into this kind of love.

The kind of love that God grows us into will be patient and kind, it will not envy, it will not be puffed up with pride, it will not call attention to itself, it will be courteous, it will look after the concerns of others, it will endure without retaliating, it will rejoice at the blessings of others, it will always think the best of others, and seek their welfare over one’s own, it always seeks truth instead of falsehood. (See 1 Cor 13)

How do you measure up to this kind of standard? Are there areas of growth in you?

If you are like the rest of us, there are areas in which you don’t measure up. Our spiritual growth toward Love can be sidetracked by what I’ll call “Unloving.” More next time.

Don’t forget to leave a comment and share your thoughts!

About Pastor Sherry

Hi, I'm Pastor Sherry! I'm a Ministry and Spiritual Life Coach, and am committed to helping you Reach For The Summit of your relationship with God. This includes developing or transforming your personal devotional life as well as breaking through barriers such as Fear or Bitterness, that are preventing you from the kind of connection with God that you seek. I'd love to connect with you on Facebook (Pastor Sherry, Reach For The Summit), LinkedIn (Pastor Sherry), and Twitter (PastorSherry1). To receive my monthly newsletter, please sign in to the opt-in box at the top of this page!
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12 Responses to Spiritual Growth: What Is Love?

  1. The strongest aspect of Biblical love that stands out to me is sacrifice. I think of the parable of the good Samaritan: loving his enemy at great personal financial cost, without any expectation of reward in return. Only God can help me love like that.
    Steve-Personal Success Factors recently posted..The Secret Of STANDING OUT With Your Personal Brand

    • Hi Steve, we don’t talk much about sacrifice these days, do we? That’s not the human way of loving. But it’s the way of loving that God can place within us, because He gives us HIS love with which to love others. If He didn’t, 1 Cor 13 would never happen!

  2. Nile says:

    The word “Love” is definitely tossed around and often misunderstood. I agree, there are different loves. In Spanish, there is “te quiero” (phileo) and “te amo” (eros). Each are different levels. A boyfriend might say to a girlfriend… te quiero. A man to a wife…te amo. Quiero from Querer, which is to want. Amo from Amor, to love. It is the difference between like and love.

    These days, it is a breath of fresh air to see people who are unselfish in love.
    Nile recently posted..5 Steps To Building A Business Plan For Your Blog

    • Hi Nile! If everyone loved with agape love there would be a lot less relationship trouble. Marriages would not only survive, but thrive, friends wouldn’t part (emotionally), people would let others pull in front of their car, and so on. But I agree with what you said. It’s pretty rare to see that these days. However, not impossible! I believe that’s where God is leading us — to love like He does.

  3. Paul Reimers says:

    Thanks for this great post Sherry

    I agree that the word love is tossed around a lot which can tend to dilute it’s meaning. I knew about eros and agape, but phileo is new to me as a term. It’s important to have many grades of love (and even luv) based on the context. The Eskimos have something like 20 words for snow, and we try to express so many different things with just the word love.

    I think that context is more important than ever before, especially with Social Media. I had an experience several months ago when a friend on Facebook made a quick comment that seemed to be kidding in nature about a lost chicken. The other comments on this post were making jokes and based on the context of the post and the comments assumed it was light and joking in nature and said something like “It’s all fun and games until somebody loses a chicken”. She wrote something about being on a ranch and I immediately felt bad and apologized to her, as I knew that the context has shifted from “jokey story about a chicken” to “an animal died”.
    If we can be caring and present in both sides of our communication, the full meaning of the message can be sent and felt beyond the words that are used.
    Paul Reimers recently posted..Review of Empower Network – Will This Tool Really Help You Build Your Business?

    • Hi Paul, that’s right. I do remember hearing that Eskimos have many words for “snow.” We use “love” far too often for things that have nothing to do with an intelligent love (“I love strawberries!”). Your story about the context of things makes me wonder how we can be sensitive to others, especially on social media where we can’t see the facial expression nor hear the tone of voice. I felt sorry for the woman who lost a pet. I’m just rambling here, but I wonder what makes us tend to the jokes rather than first considering the possibility that someone may be hurting. Or is that the nature of social media? It’s a thought, anyway.

  4. wow, Sherry, it’s been a while since I have been back to your blog. Did you change your banner? I Love the new one!
    On the subject of love, I think we often interchange the word ‘love’ and its true meaning often depends on the context. If we are talking about the ‘ultimate’ love then, yes it has to be the love we give unconditionally without expectation of anything in return. I do not have children, so for me that ‘love’ is reserved for my dogs (!). However, I would argue that none of us is truly capable of ‘unconditional’ love. There is always a ‘pay off’, a reward, even if that reward is only the personal satisfaction and inner glow we get from feeling ‘good’ about giving that love. What do you say?
    Mandy Swift @ Understanding Online Marketing recently posted..What To Say & What NEVER Say On Video (if you want results)

    • Hi Mandy, welcome back! Yes, I did change the banner. Glad you like it! A friend who lives near where I took that picture has already recognized the mountain. I didn’t think that was possible as this is only a horizontal snippet . . . : )

      Certainly none of us are capable of agape love. That’s why God has to put it in us and activate it within us. Only then will be be able to love others the way God loves us. As for the “pay-off” — good thought! Even the “inner glow” and personal satisfaction can be a pay-off, even when we love with agape love. Maybe the difference is that in selfish love even when we have an inner glow, we still expect the person to do something in return when we need them to, but with agape love we have the inner glow without ever expecting anything in return.

  5. Anna says:

    Beautiful story about love, devotion and even sacrifice! We need to remember all these words especially at the dawn of the coming Christmas:)
    Anna recently posted..cheap dentist

  6. Sophia says:

    I like your post. Yes, the love is important to us and exist in everywhere around us. But there are different loves and also have real love and unreal love. We all need love from the deep heart of others. So at the same time, we should learn to love others from our deep heart.
    Sophia recently posted..Forex Robots Are Dangerous

    • Hi Sophia, and welcome! You’re right about “real” and “unreal” love. In addition to different kinds of love as per the Greek understanding, sometimes love looks like love, maybe even feels like love, but isn’t love at all. It can be simply lust for power or for one’s gain, or it could be an act someone puts on so that they will gain something from someone else. If we all loved each other with agape love we would be looking after the best interest of others — and everyone would benefit!

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