[Willow Creek Association] 1998-02-25 - Kinds of Love

1 Corinthians 13:13 (NIV) And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

The English language only has one word for love. For example I can say, "I love my wife" and use the same word to say, "I love banana sandwiches" or "I love my kids" and so forth. Obviously I don't love a banana sandwich the same way I love my kids! But, just what is love?

We often look for love in the wrong places. We look horizontally rather than vertically for love. I see folks filling their emptiness with empty love. It just will not fulfill or sustain you. We try to fill our emptiness with "fun fixes," "fun fixes" being, parties, recreation, vacations, temporal thrills and the like. Just what is love?

The Greek Language has five words for love. Eros is sensual love between the sexes. Phileo is friendship among friends -- kind feelings and natural affection. We think of Phileo love being brotherly love. Storge love is love within a family. Love for your kids, parents, and so on. Agapao love is to be totally given over to someone or something. Agape love is lavished on others without any thought of whether they deserve or are worthy of the love. It is totally unconditional love. It proceeds from the one giving the love and not from the attractiveness of the beloved. It is a commitment, not a feeling.

We say we love our spouses, our boy or girlfriends, our kids, our parents with this Agape love. But do we really? Do we really love God with the same Agape love that He loves us with or do we love with conditional love? Want some examples? Glad you asked! We often love "conditionally" without even knowing it.

One type of conditional love is the, "I love you if" do something love. This turns into a manipulative love. Your boyfriend gets angry because you will not give in to his sexual desires. What he is saying is I love you if you go to bed with me. Husbands and wives do this, while we may not say these exact words we imply them by our actions. "I love you if you get a better job", "I love you if you get us a bigger house" "I love you if we take better vacations," "I love you if you stop doing this or that." We do this to God. As long as my health is good, I am successful and all is well in my life, I love you Lord! But when our boat gets rocked … watch out God! Our "love" changes.

Another conditional love we imply and sometimes say is the "I love you because of something" love. "I love you because you are beautiful, because you are smart, because you are popular, because you are talented, ect." We imply to our kids, "I love you because you have good grades, you excel in sports, or some other talent." This leads to fear and insecurity, because the one being loved constantly has to live up to the "because" expectation the one doing the "loving" places on us. I sure am glad God is not like that toward us.

So, where do we find this Agape love? Where do we find as Paul calls it, "A more excellent way." We must go to the source of this love, the source being Christ. Just to keep you coming back... Next week we will look at the 14 ingredients of love that Paul spells out for us and Christ modeled for us.


Father, help us to love with unconditional love. Help us to realize when we imply conditional love. We praise you and thank you for your Son Jesus who came to die for us and to show us a more excellent way. In His Name, Amen.

David