Friday, February 16, 2007

Loving No Matter What

C.S. Lewis penned these powerful words about love. "To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable."...

Its amazing how often the word love is misused. We often use it in place of infatuation, a strong liking or even a desire to get to know better. Truth be told that we often have no idea what we are talking about when we tell another person that we love them. Love in its truest form is sacrificial. It gives way more than it receives even to the point of hurt.

We are designed to love and really can’t function properly without it. We are genuinely miserable without experiencing true love but on the same hand we are often brought to our highest points of frustration by the ones we love. However complete love allows us to move beyond the frustration hurt and pain that are commonly experienced in relationships to continue in the joy that God intended for that relationship bring into our lives.

The question is how, how do we continue loving no matter what? The answer is actually easier than you might think. There are two keys to growing your love relationship through difficult times. First, understanding what true love is and secondly, understanding how to truly forgive when you have been hurt.

In general we live in two types of love relationships, Eros and Philia. Its pretty easy to identify which type of love matches each of our relationships but it isn’t always easy to understand the full measure of that love.

For example, Eros is the type of love that describes our romantic/marriage relationships. We know it best as an attractive or sensual type of love but if that is our only understanding of it then we are missing out because there is so much more to it.

Eros can easily be defined as a selfish love based on the way the world understands it but in reality it is a giving love. It was Eros that not only initially attracted you to your spouse but it was also the motivating factor in your desire to be united in marriage. Think about that for just a second. Because of this kind of love you not only desired your spouse (selfish) but you also desired to give yourself to him/her in marriage. The concept of giving out of our romantic love is reinforced through the bible.

1 Corinthians 7:4: The wife's body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband's body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife.

Ephesians 5:22: Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord.

Ephesians 5:25: Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.

When your romantic/attractive love fails to be sacrificial or giving then it will also fail to survive through the most difficult times of your marriage relationship.

However romantic relationships aren’t the only ones that have the potential to bring both joy and hurt in our lives. Many of us have been hurt by our closest friends and then find years later that we were hurt worse by the severing of that relationship than we were by the actual hurtful act.

Philia is the word used to describe brotherly love which is the type of love that we enjoy with our closest of friends. It is the type of love Paul uses when he referred to the church in the book of Philippians.

Philippians 4:1
1Therefore, my brothers, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, that is how you should stand firm in the Lord, dear friends!

There is nothing romantic or sexual stated in that text. It is just a man longing to be with his friends whom he genuinely loved as though they were his own flesh and blood.

This is also the type of love that Jesus enjoyed with Peter, James and John. Remember that John is often referred as the disciple that Jesus loved. It was these three men who not only shared in all the great moments with Jesus during his three year public ministry but also were with him during the lowest point of his life at the Garden of Gethsemane.

Keep in mind that Jesus was fully human and experienced all the emotions that came with his humanity. He enjoyed the company of his friends and understood what it took to make a friendship relationship work. Understanding that, Jesus gave us the ultimate example of what it is to be a friend.

John 15
12My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.

Once again we find that giving and sacrifice are crucial elements to not only enjoying but also continuing a relationship that is based on brotherly love.

Now the key to loving not matter what is not just understanding Eros or Philia love but also understanding and living Agape love.

Agape love is the way that God loves us. It is unconditional love that allows us to say, “I may not like you at times but I will always love you!” That is exactly the way that God views you and me. He doesn’t like the sin in our lives but He does love us. God’s love is not based upon who we are or what we do but solely on who He is. We are God’s creation and as I said last week there is absolutely nothing we can do to cause Him to stop loving us. That is Agape love!

Understanding Agape love and living it will allow you to repair the hurt done and continue on in that relationship.

I can hear you right now, “But you don’t understand what they said or did to me.” You are right I don’t and while I acknowledge that hurt will many times sever a relationship, forgiveness always provides a way to bring it back together. Remember if your love is unconditional then it isn’t based on the other person it is based on you.

If our relationship with God was based on us then we would be in a lot of trouble because we allow sin to come between us and God on a daily basis. Some of you have been hurt more than once by your friends or your spouses and even though you desire to see that relationship continue you are at a loss as how to make it happen.

Look again at God’s example. Jesus didn’t die for the righteous he died for the wicked so that they may become righteous. He died for you and I in the midst of our rebellion against Him.

Romans 5:8: But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Look at that, while we were still sinners! We have this misconception that God only loves those who love Him but the truth is that not only does he love everyone He loves everyone in spite of their sin.

Knowing that sin would sever the lines of communication and damage the relationship God made a way for us to receive forgiveness and be restored to the full benefits of that relationship. Follow what I am saying here.

1) We are the ones who have the sin problem.
2) God loves us in the midst of that sin.
3) Our sin is direct rebellion against God
4) God is the one who paid atonement for our sin.

The power of God’s forgiveness is humbling. He offers us what we don’t deserve over and over again in spite of the fact that we are the ones hurting him.

Whether it is your spouse, child or friend they are going to hurt you at some point. The key to repairing that hurt and mending that relationship is not what they offer in retribution but what you offer in forgiveness.

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