I don’t know what you think about when you think of love.
Personally, I think of Westlife (aging myself here), and how a greater boy band may never exist. Westlife sang a LOT about love. Love they had lost; love they could not live without; love they were scared of losing. But one song stands out to me; that song is Flying Without Wings – an unmatched melody ideal for belting out in the shower or on a solo car ride. In the face of such perfection, one reaches an obvious conclusion that a better love ballad has not since been written.
We are ushered into the song with these words:
Everybody’s looking for something
One thing that makes it all complete
You’ll find it in the strangest places
Places you never knew it could be
From the beginning of the song, it may feel like an attack; we know they are singing about love, so is Westlife implying that every loveless soul is wandering around with missing holes, like the cartoon cheese that Tom lays out for Jerry? However, they immediately redeem themselves with the next line, “Some find it in the face of their children.”
The first love they talk about is a familiar love or Storge (in ancient Greek). For most of us, this is the first love we experience. The natural, instinctive love of a parent to a child and vice versa; the love of siblings to each other. This love is so innate to our human experience that even when we are mistreated by family members, we still struggle to detach from them emotionally.
“Some find it in their lover’s eyes.” Eros or erotic love is what most people jump to when we talk of love, particularly in connection with the month of February.
“Some (find it) in the solitary night” – Is it even possible to find love alone? Philautia or self-love is often defined as the love found within oneself. While some see it as a basic human necessity, others see it as having the potential to become a moral flaw leading to vanity. The thin line between self-love and selfishness is sometimes difficult to navigate.
“You find it in the deepest friendships. The kind you cherish all your life.” C.S. Lewis says of Philia or brotherly love, “I have no duty to be anyone’s friend and no man in the world has a duty to be mine. No claims, no shadow of necessity. Friendship is unnecessary… it has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which give value to survival.”
Now we know that what Westlife think constitutes love. But what does the Bible have to say about love? Well, each one has the capacity to bring us closer or drive us farther from the image of Christ. This is where we need wisdom to discern the right kind of love.
In the first book of Samuel, Hannah doubtlessly loved Samuel; whom she had prayed and cried for, with a deep, maternal Storge love. Yet, she still gave him up to the temple of God as she had promised. This is the same way Mary would lay aside her maternal instinct to protect Jesus and allow Him to fulfil what he had been sent to do.
Songs of Solomon has lots to say on the pleasure that can be found within Eros and still warns in Chapter 8 not to awaken passion before its time. In Psalm 139, we find Philautia; the psalmist praises God because he is wonderfully made. Yet in Romans 12, we are admonished not to think of ourselves too highly but to consider ourselves with sober judgement. Proverbs talks about the benefits of Philia, saying that iron sharpens iron and a friend loves for life. But Chapter 13 also warns that a companion of fools suffers harm.
The Bible talks of a last love, the one that Westlife missed out (proof that no one is perfect). Agape is a selfless, sacrificial and unconditional love. Where the other types of love may expect something in return – affection, pleasure, companionship; agape gives unconditionally, simply because it has the capacity. In Romans 5:7, Paul breaks it down – it is rare to find someone who would die for a good person; but Christ died for the unrighteous, knowing fully well that many might, and in fact would, reject Him. This is also the love He calls His disciples to. Loving everyone, even the people who would despise you for it.
So, let us love. But love with wisdom and love as we were created to love, putting everything in its right place and time. Finally, in Ephesians 3, Paul prays that we find the love of Christ so that we may be filled (or made complete) to the fullness of God. In the end, it is love that completes us.
Written by Ugonna Iheme