How many kinds of love are there? Well, there’s more than one, but I can’t tell you exactly how many there are. What’s interesting to me, as a word nerd, is that the English language only has one word for love, but some other languages have more than one word for it. I find this ironic because American English is a crazy melting pot of words that continues to grow larger and lazier every year, but the fact that we still have one word for love fascinates me.
I don’t know how many words for love Greek has, but there are quite a few. And each one means something different–different words for different kinds of love. There’s family love. There’s romantic love. And then there’s a peculiar kind of love that sounds impossible and that’s the word for love that’s used in Galatians 5:22-23 where the Bible lists the Fruit of the Spirit: “But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!”
If you’ve been around the church you may have heard the term agape. Now, I don’t speak Greek, so I may have spelled it wrong (according to Google Translate, it looks like this: ἀγάπη). But agape love is the kind of love that only can be produced by having God’s Spirit in our lives, and the best definition of that kind of love is found into today’s verses.
Today’s verses are 1 Corinthians 13:4-7.
Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.
If you want to read the whole chapter of 1 Corinthians 13, you should. It’s not long, and it’s revolutionary. But I think verses 4 through 7 really encapsulate what this kind of love is about. Love like this is impossible without God, whether you’re married or single, whether you’re friends or enemies. This kind of love isn’t something that just happens. It’s something you have to choose, and it’s something you have to ask God to help you with.
This kind of love doesn’t come naturally to anyone. Don’t get me wrong. I love people, but I like getting my own way. I don’t like waiting. I want things other people have. I like getting my way, and far too often I hold grudges. And there is a part of me that has a party when someone who’s hurt me gets hurt in return. All of that is natural, but none of that comes from God. None of that demonstrates that I’m living by the Spirit.
So when someone is bothering me, when someone is nagging me, this kind of love is patient and kind to them. When someone else gets something that I want, this kind of love rejoices with them. And when I achieve something, this kind of love is humble about it and doesn’t rub it in people’s faces. This kind of love backs off and lets others set the pace, and it doesn’t keep track of bad history.
But more than anything, this kind of love never gives up and never goes away.
How’s your checklist? Mine’s not doing so well. Granted, in the instances where it’s people I already love, I’m doing okay. But what about people you don’t love? What about people you don’t like? That’s where I start cringing because don’t show them this kind of love, not the way a Christ-follower should. And that’s where I need God’s help.
No matter where you are today, everyone needs this. Nobody has this figured out. None of us can achieve this kind of love, not on our own, but it’s not impossible. If we have the Spirit, we have God in our lives, and nothing is impossible for God.
Why is living this kind of love important? Well, it changes you, for one. Loving like this makes you into the kind of person you need to be. And secondly, it’s a bright, shining beacon to a world without hope that there is something more to life. Christ-followers are called to be different, and living this kind of love is the best way.
So make a choice today. Choose to love those people who you don’t like. Choose to be still and listen to what God is saying about love, about how to love those people, about how to show His love to others. It doesn’t have to be a huge display. More often than not, love is in the small things. A smile. Holding open a door. Bringing someone a flower. Giving someone a hug. A kind word. A listening ear. None of those are world shattering, but they just might be world changing.