We have spoken before about "love" and how true love is not what many think it is.
We know from Scripture that God is love. God's illustration of love is that He sacrificed Himself for us...even unto His death (John 3:16). This is the standard of love that He calls us to walk in as believers in Christ. He calls us to a life of selflessness, which is synonymous with the expression of God's love (Matthew 16:24; Mark 8:34; Luke 9:23). We may think that our actions or words are motivated by sincere love, but if our own desires, needs, hurts, or wants are at the center of it, then we deceive ourselves.
If we let the world define "love" for us, then we will think that love can motivate us to do even what God forbids. According to popular culture, "love" can justify fornication, adultery, pedophilia, homosexuality, murder, lying, stealing, gossip, anger, unforgiveness, revenge, and a host of other sins. Many crimes against God and man are done in the name of love.
We - and especially our young people - need to understand that not all "love" is the same and not everything we think to be love actually is.
In Pastor Zac Poonen's book entitled,"Sex, Love, and Marriage: The Christian Approach" he says the following:
The New Testament was originally written in Greek and that language has four words for "love" - agape, philia, storge and eros. Of these, storge is used almost exclusively to refer to the love of parents for their children and of children for their parents. Since we are dealing here with love between the sexes, we shall ignore storge and consider only the other three words. Agape, philia and eros refer to three levels of love - which could correspond to man's spirit, soul and body.
Beginning at the lowest level, eros refers to the love of physical passion. It has been defined as "the hot and unendurable desire" and has primary reference to the union of the body of one with that of the other. It is a love based on something physical in one person that can satisfy the craving of another. It is a love that always seeks to receive.
The next word is philia. This is the commonest word for "love" in Greek, and refers to affectionate regard and the love of friendship. The idea is of cherishing. It has primary reference in marriage to the union of the soul of one with that of the other. It is a love based usually on similarity of intellectual and emotional outlook. It means more than physical love but it can still be self-centered, for its satisfaction often comes from the feeling that one is wanted, or that one is a benefactor or a protector of that other needy person.
The third word - which speaks of the highest level of love - is agape. This is the love of God imparted to us by the Holy Spirit (Rom. 5:5). This word has primary reference in marriage to the union of the spirit of one with that of the other. It is a self-giving love - the love of Calvary's cross.
William Barclay in `More New Testament Words', says, "Agape is unconquerable benevolence, invincible goodwill. It is not simply a wave of emotion; it is a deliberate conviction of the mind issuing in a deliberate policy of the life; it is a deliberate achievement and conquest and victory of the will. It takes all of man to achieve this love; it takes not only his heart; it takes his mind and his will as well. It is impossible for a man to have this love unless the Spirit takes possession of him and sheds abroad the love of God in his heart."
A Greek lexicon referring to agape says, "It chooses its object with decision and self-denying compassion. This is love in its fullest and highest form. It has its source in God. The verb-form stands for kindliness towards its object and has reference to the tendency of the will."
...In the married life of a believer, all these loves should exist - but in the proper order - agape first, philia next and eros third. This is in accordance with the teaching of 1 Thessalonians 5:23, which puts spirit first, soul next and body third. This was the order that God intended should exist in man when He created him.
In fallen man however this order is reversed, and therefore even his concept of love is perverted. An attraction of the carnal mind and body of one to the carnal mind and body of another is what this world calls "love". It is just philia and eros - and alas, sometimes eros alone. Yet in God's eyes, nothing is worthy of being called "love" unless it has the agape constituent in it.
The love of God motivates us to deny ourselves for the benefit of others. Anything we do which puts our needs or desires first is therefore not being done under inspiration of the love of God.
If we donate money to a charity, but do so because we want to be seen as generous, then that is not love. If we volunteer to help the homeless because we want others to witness our sacrifice, then that is not love. If love leads us to disobey God - or entices others to do the same - then that is not the love of God.
God doesn't just look at what we do or say, He looks at the heart. A true revelation of God's love will keep us from a lot of heartache and error when it comes to the things of the Lord.
"Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren." I John 3:16