“what’s love got to do with it?” everything! – a personal reflection on human behavior, part 8 (saving the best and surely not the least for last!)

In the realm of human relationships, of all the healthy, helpful characteristics and qualities, attitudes and actions, verily, as I mentioned before, powers, as in abilities or capacities to do something, even more, proficiencies to do something well, love is supreme.

In the English language there is one word for love – love – which is used in numerous ways, meaning myriad things: emotional affection, erotic or sexual attraction, social or familial attachment, and personal investment, and in each form, pertaining to individual, mutual, and communal expressions.[1]

The Greek language has four words, storgé, philia, eros, and agape.[2]

I focus on agape love, unconditional benevolence, often defined as characteristic of God’s being and doing and upon which the Apostle Paul based his great paean in praise of God, 1 Corinthians 13. For, I believe, it is agape love – in its power of selfless, active kindness unlimited by degrees of partiality, unrestrained by the boundaries of personal opinion, even the barriers of prejudice, and unrestricted by any personal notions of merit or deserving – that is the Spirit-breathing, meaning-giving foundation for all other loves. It is agape love – in its proficiency, that is, well-doing of patience, kindness, rejoicing in truth, and bearing, believing, hoping, and enduring all things and its not-well-doing of envy, arrogance, rudeness, irritability, resentment, and relishing in wrong[3] – that covers the sin[4] of our human (thus, always inherently preference-and-prejudice-driven) giving-and-withholding, taking-and-refusing of our personal affections and attractions, attachments and investments.

Now, God knows, I know that I am human, therefore flawed. My ability to act in agape love is boundless, for it is God’s continuous gift bestowed by God’s Spirit. However, my willingness to act in agape love is subject to and limited by the highs and lows of my emotional disposition, the light and shadow of my attitudinal outlook, my physical condition of rest or fatigue, health or illness, my preferential likes and dislikes of time and place, situation and person.

Nevertheless, what I know about agape love, again, is that it is a power and a proficiency to act. And as is true of any power, its use involves choice, my choice, irrespective of my emotional, attitudinal, and physical state, to be patient and kind, to rejoice in truth, to bear, believe, hope, and endure all things and not to be envious, arrogant, rude, irritable, resentful, and to relish wrong.

Do I always choose, against my human, lesser self, to act in agape love? No. Even so, I never can say it is because I can’t. For my faith in God Spirit’s tells me I always have the power. And my hope in God trusts that God’s love will cover my multitude of sins!

 

Footnotes:

[1] Regarding “love” (or, frankly, for any other word), I long have advocated that folks, when seeking to communicate and to avoid misunderstanding, define their terms. For I have come to believe that we dare not assume any two people, no matter how similar in environment and worldview, do or can mean precisely the same thing when employing the same words.

[2] English novelist and poet, academic and theologian, C. S. (Clive Staples) Lewis (1898-1963), in his book, The Four Loves (1958), explored the nature of these loves from a Christian and philosophical perspective.

[3] Here I review the Apostle Paul’s 1 Corinthians 13.4-7 descriptions of what agape love always does and never does.

[4] Here, I think of 1 Peter 4.8, “Maintain constant love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins” and Proverbs 10.12, “Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses.” I do not mean to suggest that love overlooks or disregards the limitations, the sins of our preferences and prejudices toward others. Rather agape love calls, indeed, empowers us to acknowledge our preferences and prejudices, and then to cover them, shielding, protecting others and ourselves from the negativity of our biases.

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2 thoughts on ““what’s love got to do with it?” everything! – a personal reflection on human behavior, part 8 (saving the best and surely not the least for last!)

  1. Paul,

    Thanks for this!! Agape love certainly is hard work!! But as the title indicates, love has everything to do with it!! We definitely all have the ability to love, it’s that willingness to love that trips most of us up. I smile at myself at times when I trip and fall in terms of relationships when I refuse, for all the reasons you listed, to practice agape love. Thankfully I usually pick myself up and go back to square one for the sake of love and relationships. The results are usually so rewarding.

    After reading this, I tried to focus some agape love on Presidential candidate DT. I could only come up with the fact that I love his willingness to put his business pursuits on hold during this campaign, AND that though I don’t begin to understand his way of thinking and his feelings towards women, I do admire his commitment to “his truth”. It seems as if he’d fight to the death for his truth even when he may be the only one who believes it.

    I’ll be more focused going forward because of this blog. I’ve been so focused on the love I recently lost, that it might be preventing me from accepting and embracing the love others are trying to surround me with. Much love to you Paul

    Liked by 1 person

    • Much love to you, Loretta, always.

      When I had the idea to complete (finally!) this human behavior series with love, I laughed aloud at myself. What more can I or anyone say/write about love that hasn’t been said/written? Nevertheless, I continue to think and feel and write. What arose as “new” for me was (1) the distinction between being able to love (for God’s Spirit bestows the spiritual gift of love’s power) and my willingness to choose to exercise that power, which is always limited by my humanness, (2) when I choose not to employ love’s power, I can’t say I couldn’t (that is, that I was unable because, again, the Spirit always grants the gift), (3) the notion of “love covering sin” and what that might mean, and (4) that I trust God’s love to cover my sin if…WHEN I choose not (refuse) to love. In this newness (at least for me) I surprised myself or rather God surprised me!

      Like

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