A. One day two men named Bill and Steve were discussing the possibility of love. “I thought I was in love three times,” said Bill.
1. Steve asked, “Thought you were in love, what do you mean?”
2. The man explained, “Three years ago, I cared very deeply for a woman who wanted nothing to do with me, so that wasn’t love, it was obsession.”
3. He continued, “Then two years ago, I cared very deeply for an attractive woman who didn’t understand me, and we weren’t a good match.”
a. “Would you call that love?” asked Steve.
4. “No,” said Bill, “it was mostly infatuation. But then last year, I met a woman while I was on a cruise. She was beautiful and intelligent, a great conversationalist and had a great sense of humor. Everywhere I followed her on that ship, I would get a very strange sensation in the pit of my stomach.”
a. Steve asked, “Well, wasn’t that love?”
b. Bill replied, “Nope, just motion sickness!”
B. Today, as we continue our sermon series on emotions, I want to talk about the emotion of love.
1. Wouldn’t you think that the emotion of love would be the simplest and most straight forward of all the emotions? But that isn’t the case!
2. The emotion of love and living a life of love can be very complicated.
3. For one thing, there are many kinds of love – there’s romantic love, there’s family love and friendship love, and then there’s the things we love – pets and sports, work and hobbies, experiences and places.
4. There are things we should love and things we should not love.
5. Then there’s the question – is love a feeling or a decision? Is it an emotion or an action?
C. Consider all of the confusing messages we get from our culture, especially in the media – movies, television and music.
1. By far the majority of all songs written and recorded are about romantic love and relationships.
2. Here’s a sampling of the messages we get from pop music about love.
3. The title for this sermon is from a song by Queen: “This thing called love, I just can't handle it. This thing called love, I must get ‘round to it, I ain’t ready, Crazy little thing called love.”
4. Then there’s the sappy song by Morris Albert: “Feelings, nothing more than feelings, Trying to forget my feelings of love. Feelings…oh, oh, oh, feelings…”
5. Then there’s the Elvis song: “Wise men say, Only fools rush in, But I can't help falling in love with you.”
6. Or how about Tina Turner’s song: “What’s love got to do, got to do with it? What’s love but a second-hand emotion? What’s love got to do, got to do with it? Who needs a heart when a heart can be broken?”
7. Or how about Debbie Boone’s song: “It can’t be wrong, When it feels so right, ‘Cause you, you light up my life.”
8. Here’s one last example from the Righteous Brothers: “You lost that lovin’ feelin’, Whoa, that lovin’ feelin’, You lost that lovin’ feelin’, Now it’s gone, gone, gone, whoa-oh.”
D. Well, I think we would all agree that love can be pretty crazy.
1. That when you take a chance on loving someone, your heart can be broken.
2. But is love just a second-hand emotion? Is it nothing more than feelings? And if you lose that lovin’ feelin’ is it gone, gone, gone for good?
3. And what about not being able to keep from falling in love and the question: can it be wrong even if it feels so right?
4. See, how do we navigate through all of that confusing and emotionally charged stuff?
5. I think it starts with knowing God and God’s word, and trying to walk in God’s ways.
E. But before we go there, I want to remind us of some important things about emotions in general.
1. Throughout this series, I have been trying to remind us that emotions are a gift from God.
2. God has created us with the capacity to feel in order that our lives might be enriched.
3. And when it comes to our emotions, we need to avoid two extremes:
a. On the one hand, we need to avoid the extreme that ignores or suppresses our emotions.
b. On the other hand, we need to avoid the extreme that allows our emotions to be in-charge.
4. In other words, emotions aren’t the most important thing about you and me, but neither are they the least important thing about us.
a. We can err on the side of making emotions everything and we turn toward emotionalism.
b. Or we can err on the side of making emotions nothing and we turn toward stoicism.
5. The right and healthy approach to our emotions is to take them seriously without handing them the keys to our lives.
6. And perhaps, the emotion where we need that truth more than any is with the emotion of love.
F. So, what does God’s word say about love?
1. Is love a feeling or is it an action?
2. As we examine what the Bible says about love, we will discover that the Bible acknowledges that love is both an emotion and an act of the will.
3. Intuitively, we recognize that emotions are an essential part of love, but they are not the foundation or the determining factor of love.
4. Affections are part of the essence of love, but true love is not a feeling by which we are overwhelmed, rather love is a thoughtful decision and commitment.
G. Many people over the years have talked about the four types of love that come from the four Greek words for love – eros, storge, philia and agape.
1. Only two of those words actually appear in the Greek text of the Bible (philia and agape), but the other two kinds of love are expressed in concept, even if not in word.
2. Let’s spend a few minutes defining and discussing these kinds of love.
H. Let’s start with the concept of eros – which is romantic, sexual love.
1. As I mentioned a minute ago, the word eros does not appear in the Bible, and yet the concept of romantic, sexual love is certainly found in the pages of Scripture.
2. God has given the good gift of sexual love to human beings to be experienced and enjoyed in marriage.
3. It is assumed that the marriages we see in the Bible had the element of romantic love, even though it isn’t mentioned.
a. Think about biblical couples - Adam and Eve, Noah and Mrs. Noah, Abraham and Sarah, Moses and Zipporah, or Joseph and Mary – what do we know about their romantic love?
b. Not much, right? We assume they had warm feelings of love and attraction toward each other. But we don’t know.
c. We know that Jacob loved Rachel, and we can hope that she loved him in return, but their union was hard-won and had many complications.
d. All of those marriages were likely arranged marriages, which is so different from the ways of courtship and marriage in our modern, western times – where romance and attraction play such big roles.
4. When we see biblical examples of romantic attraction – eros – it is often seen in a negative light, like when Samson fell in love with Delilah (Judges 16), or when Amnon fell in love with his half-sister Tamar (1 Samuel 13), or when David fell in love with Bathsheba and just had to have her (2 Samuel 11) – those kinds of “love” are best understood as lust.
5. However, there is one section of Scripture devoted to the beauty and wonder of human, romantic love – the book called the Song of Solomon.
a. Here’s a sampling: How beautiful you are, my darling. How very beautiful! Behind your veil, your eyes are doves. Your hair is like a flock of goats streaming down Mount Gilead… Your lips are like a scarlet cord, and your mouth is lovely. Behind your veil, your brow is like a slice of pomegranate… You are absolutely beautiful, my darling; there is no imperfection in you… You have captured my heart, my sister, my bride. You have captured my heart with one glance of your eyes, with one jewel of your necklace. How delightful your caresses are, my sister, my bride. Your caresses are much better than wine, and the fragrance of your perfume than any balsam. (Song of Sol. 4:1, 3, 7, 9-10)
6. Is there anything wrong with that kind of romantic love? No, of course not!
a. Human romantic love is God-ordained and God-given; it makes life good and exciting.
b. Not only does it add spice to life, but it is essential if we are going to be emotionally well-balanced.
c. But it does have clear limitations and should not be the sole basis of marriage.
d. The emotions involved in this kind of “love” are transient (subject to change) and are easily transferred (subject to temptation).
e. This kind of emotion easily comes and goes and differs in intensity and regularly.
f. That’s why emotions can’t be the engine that pulls the train.
I. Another concept of love in the Bible is the concept of storge – which is called natural affection, or familial affection.
1. It is the kind of emotional love that comes from kinship.
2. God certainly experiences and expresses this kind of love for us insofar as He is our heavenly parent and we are His adopted children.
3. God often expressed this concept in His relationship with Israel.
4. Jesus expressed this concept in relation to Jerusalem when He said that He longed to gather the people of Jerusalem as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings (Mt. 23:37).
5. There are two times when a form of storge appears in the New Testament text and both times is expressed in the negative – to be without this natural affection or familial affection.
6. It first appears in Romans 1 at the end of the chapter where God has given people over to their corrupted minds and lusts which leads to a list of sinful behaviors including being “unloving” or “without natural affection.” (1:31)
7. The second time it appears is in 2 Timothy 3 where Paul talks about the terrible times that will mark the last days where people will be “ungrateful, unholy, without love” or “without natural affection.” (2 Tim. 3:3)
8. When people have natural affection and familial affection, then they have love in their hearts for family members and then they act according to that love.
J. The third word for love that appears in the Bible is philia.
1. This word for love, in several forms – verb and noun, appears about 30 times in the New Testament and is commonly used with reference to friendship.
2. The Greek words philia and adelphos were combined to get Philadelphia – The City of Brotherly Love.
3. Philos was the word used of Jesus’ love for His friend Lazarus (John 11:3, 36) and His love for His disciples (John 20:2).
4. In Romans 12:10, Paul uses an interesting Greek word that combines philia and storge to end up with philostorgoi and can be translated “devoted” (NASB) or “brotherly affection” (ESV).
5. This kind of friendship love is shared between people who are drawn together as friends because of common interests or personalities or mutual experiences.
6. It’s been said that we can’t choose our family, but we can choose are friends, and they become special relationships bound with philia love.
K. Finally, we come to the last of the Greek words for love – agape.
1. Agape is the Greek word for love that appears the most in the New Testament, being used over 300 times.
a. Agape love is the sacrificial, unconditional love of God.
b. In the New Testament, agape is the highest form of love.
2. Interestingly enough, outside of the New Testament, the word was rarely even used.
a. Prior to New Testament times, agape did not carry any special significance as a higher kind of love.
b. Therefore, it’s the New Testament understanding of the unique nature of God’s love—not the word’s usage in the Greek-speaking world of the first century—that gives the word agape its special meaning.
3. Agape is the word that describes God’s love in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world…”
a. Agape is the kind of love that God expects that we will practice - we are commanded to love God (Matt. 22:37) and love one another (John 13:34) with agape love.
b. Agape is the word for love used in 1 Corinthians 13, where Paul says that love is patient and kind, and all those other things he lists.
c. Husbands are commanded to agape their wives as Christ did the church (Eph. 5:25).
d. And it is with agape love that we are commanded to love our enemies (Mt. 5:43-48).
4. This kind of divine love that God has and that we are called upon to practice is not a feeling, but is a commitment to sacrificial action.
a. I like Chip Ingram’s definition of this kind of love: “Love is giving to someone what they need most, when they deserve it least, at great personal cost to yourself.”
b. If God was commanding us to feel a certain way rather than act a certain way, He would be putting on us a burden that we could not bear.
c. God would be asking us to do the impossible, for there is no way we can have a nice, warm, comfortable feelings about an enemy.
5. True agape love is an action, not a feeling – it is choosing to act in the best interest of another person, at the expense of your own interests and regardless of your own feelings.
a. Marriage is able to survive its ups and downs when both spouses determine to love each other regardless of feelings, or personal cost.
b. Church families are able to thrive when agape love reigns.
c. This kind of love wins and conquers – it conquers you first, then it captures the hearts of others.
L. Now, to say that agape love is the highest form of love is not to say other kinds of love are insignificant or trivial.
1. As we have already discussed, God created romantic, sexual love (eros) to be expressed in marriage between husbands and wives.
a. God has created us to live in families and natural or familial affection (storge) is needed.
b. God also created us to be connected to friends (philia)—to live in community.
c. I am not trivializing these other kinds of love by saying agape is the highest form of love.
d. These other forms of love are significant and meaningful.
2. All the loves bleed into each other and overlap in some ways.
a. Some kinds of love can be present simultaneously in certain relationships.
b. I believe that agape love is needed in some measure in every kind of love – eros, storge, and philia.
c. If we remove agape love, then the remaining types of love are too unstable to sustain a relationship.
d. But when our relationships are built on agape love, then all the other loves – eros, storge, and phila – will thrive.
3. All genuine love comes from God because God is love and a biblical definition of love must start with God.
a. If God is love, then we love others best by loving Him most and by loving others the way God loves us.
b. Paul wrote: Therefore, be imitators of God, as dearly loved children, and walk in love, as Christ also loved us and gave himself for us, a sacrificial and fragrant offering to God. (Eph. 5:1-2)
d. Followers of Christ are to be known by the way we love – “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (Jn. 13:35)
4. And where does true love come from? It comes from God and is poured into our hearts.
a. Paul explained it this way: …hope will not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. (Romans 5:5)
M. So, God is love and God’s love has been poured out into our hearts! Praise God!
1. I pray that all of us will know and accept God’s love that has been poured out into us.
2. I pray that we will not only feel that love, but will be able to practice God’s love through God’s power.
3. We desperately need to practice God’s love in all our relationships – marriage and family relationships, in relationships with friends and neighbors, and even with our enemies.
N. In the introduction, I mentioned that there are some things that we should not love, or that we shouldn’t love too much.
1. For instance, we are not supposed the love the world or the things of the world.
a. In 1 John 2, John wrote: Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. (1 Jn. 2:15).
b. The world and the things of the world that John was talking about are the sinful things of the world.
c. He’s not saying that we can’t appreciate the beauty of God’s creation, but that we can’t love sin and sinful activities.
2. Another way to wrongly love is to love any thing or any person more than God.
a. Jesus said, “The one who loves a father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; the one who loves a son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” (Mt. 10:37)
b. Yes, we should love our parents and children very much, but our love for them and the place of priority they have in our lives should never be greater than our love for God and the place of priority that He holds in our lives.
N. Today, I hope we have learned that love is an emotion, but that it is so much more than an emotion.
1. Beyond the feelings of love, love is, first and foremost, a commitment to act lovingly.
2. And it is only with God’s power that we can act lovingly even when loving feelings have grown cold, or are buried under pain.
3. But with God’s help we can keep on living a life of love, whether we feel like it or not.
4. And when we act lovingly, while not feeling the emotions of love, we are not acting hypocritically, because obedience to God’s word is never hypocrisy.
5. Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commands.” (Jn. 14:15)
6. Jesus said the most important commands are to love God and to love our neighbor (Lk. 10:27)
7. Let’s love God with all our hearts and let’s live a life of love.
• Managing Your Emotions, Erwin Lutzer, Christian Herald Books, 1981
• What Are The 4 Types Of Love In The Bible?, Noah Nevils, https://biblereasons.com/what-are-the-4-types-of-love-in-the-bible/
• 3 Kinds of Love, by Mike Livingstone, https://goexplorethebible.com/blog/adults/3-kinds-of-love-session-8-1-corinthians-131-13/