Sunday, June 28, 2009

Becoming A Better Lover - Part II

Last week - we discussed 3 kinds of love with a marital focus.

This week - the focus is on Agape (gift love) ... becoming a better lover in any/all areas of your life...

Greeks had at least 10 words for 'love'. Agape is the highest form - gift love. This type of love is the essential to any relationship.
(This is selfless, sacrificial, other focused, given without thought of recompense, etc. )

Therefore, early Christians used that word to try to describe the love of God. - (pure, proper, absolute, divine, perfect love)

Christians used Agape to describe:
I. Who God is 1 John 4:8 (His basic character and nature)
II. How He loves us John 3:16 Rom. 5:8 Eph. 2:4-5
(we struggle with the concept... but it's easier when we see it illustrated.)

III. How we ought to love others. John 13:34 1 John 4:11
(we ought to love in this manner or way... after this pattern or fashion)

Some Scriptural observations on Agape...

1. It is God's will/desire for His people Matt. 22:36-39

2. It encompasses all of God's will & desire for His people ... Matt. 22:40
If you keep these two you keep them all.

3. It goes far beyond loving the lovable. Luke 6:32-36

4. It is impartial (not biased, selective) - brother, neighbor, stranger, enemy

5. It must be intentional (decision/choice) - not based on feelings

6. It is active love (expressed love) 1 John 3:16-18 - love not expressed is not Agape

7. It is intelligent love (not blind/naive/foolish/gullible) - Matt. 10:16 Agape is not stupid love.

8. It is appropriate love (often soft, easy, gentle but sometimes tough/harsh) Heb. 12:5-6

9. It is beyond our comprehension (infinite in scope) - Eph. 3:17-19

10. It is never satisfied or completed, never get done loving people Rom. 13:8

Add to that description passage like.... 1 Cor. 13:4-8
And it's overwhelming!!! Who's up to this??? Ans.: Nobody!! - Rom. 3:23

BUT, #1. God knows that
and still #2 He's established Agapy as...
A. the model/pattern forChristian love (loving)
B. the goal for which we strive
C. the measure of our conduct actions/attitudes....
D. the mark of our faith John 13:35

Therefore, we should:
1. attempt to understand it... as it's described in scripture, and as demonstrated by Christ
2. develop our definition of 'love' accordingly
3. seek to imitate it. Eph. 5:1-2
note: imitation is not hypocrisy
hypocrisy is pretending to be something your not. The imitation of agape is trying to be what you are (Christian)
4. strive to achieve it (own it, make it part of self)
5. cultivate it (develop it, preocess of time, growth, maturing
6. model it
7. measure our attitudes and actions by it..

NOTE: you are not alone in your efforts to love properly...
1. some Agape is naturally instilled - Gen. 1:26 - 27 "His image"
2. we are more infused when we receive Christ - "Christ in you"
3. The Holy Spirit is constantly trying to develop Agape within you. - Gal. 5:22 - "fruit"
4. as you learn, grow, disciple your self and develop Christian character, Agape can, should, will increase.

SUMMARY: Agape is partly the work of God in and on you, and partly the work of the believer.
So, do your part, and trust God to do His.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Becoming a Better Lover (marital focus)

We will look at three Greek words meaning love used in the scriptures: Eros, Agape, Philia
(we could name others - the Greeks had more than 10 words for love, but these three will cover the concept)

#1. Eros (need love) - the natural desire to fill (fulfill) self by receiving.
This is generally associated with romantic love. Eros tends to be emotional, intense, stimulating, exciting; it is heartfelt, passionate - maybe sexual, always sensual.
Eros is characterized by: need, desire, longing, hunger.
Eros says: "I want, I need, I desire. I gotta have..... Therefore, I seek, I accept, I receive, I demand, I take......"

Notes about eros:
This is not all bad!!!
1. We are created needy. Gen. 2:18 (physically, spiritually, emotionally, relationally)
2. if we don't receive (what's needed), we do not thrive, and may not survive.

BUT, (because of fallen nature)
We struggle to obtain not only what we need, but also what we think we need!!! (ie: what we want...) - which leads to distortion and perversion of "need love'. Phil. 3:18 & 19

#2. Agape (gift love) - characterized by giving --- meeting needs without thought of return or recompense.
Illustration: a mother's love for her newborn child. She gives and gives out of love expecting and receiving nothing in return.
Christians have expanded the classical usage to describe God's love.
a. God's love toward us. John 3:16, Rom. 5:8
Therefore, b. our love for one another 1 Cor. 13:4-8
and therefore, c. marital/spousal love Eph. 5:25

A Comparison of Eros (need love) and Agape (gift love)

focus is on getting, receiving focus is on giving
seeks self fulfillment seeks mates fulfillment
says "I want, I need" says "what do you want? need?
wants the other person wants the other person's well being
something we fall into (natural, inherent) something we choose (intentional)
we feel we act
mainly of the heart of the head and hands
we marry the one we love we love the one we marry
about passion (my well being) about compassion (other's well being)
strives to dominate strives to cultivate
loves because loves although
comes easily (fall into) must work at it (rise up to)

Note: this does not mean that all eros is wrong!! Therefore, the problem is that it is so easily distorted and perverted.
Also, we are not capable of perfect agape Rom. 3:23

#3. Philia (companion love)
devoted comaraderie, solid, mature friendship, comfortable presence.
A. equals the fulfillment of Gen. 2:24 - "one flesh"
B. equals the consequences of a healthy balance of eros and agape.
C. equals God's intent (plan) for a married couple.

NOTE: philia will develop even in a bad marriage, BUT it won't bear sweet fruit.

General observations on this lesson.

Christian marriage is to be a healthy balance of these three.

#2. to achieve balance you must examine and adjust

Eros A. recognition of legitimate needs
B. control of unnecessary and illegitimate desires

Agape A. understand (God's love, plan, method of love)
B. Pursue it
and C. Do it

Philia A. Desire we do not pursue what we don't value
B. develop - take time, it's a process. also equals result of effort - "leave and cleave" are active verbs.

#3. it takes 2 to adjust a relationship
Therefore: communicate and cooperate

#4. it begins with you

#5. This is God's plan -- it works best with Him in the middle of it!!!