To Love Others

Introduction

In the discussion on Loving God, we focused our attention on the meaning of loving God.    Now we will shift our attention to the meaning of loving others.  I will discuss things such as loving a spouse, loving a friend, and platonic relationships.    I thought it was appropriate to bring this up since the love of God that is in us applies to the love we have for each other.  We will use 1 Corinthians 13 as the basis of this discussion.  Let me highlight the pertinent parts of this scripture.

(1 Corinthians 13:3-8 KJV) And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing. {4} Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, {5} Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; {6} Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; {7} Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. {8} Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.

Let's briefly analyze this scripture so that we can set a foundation for our discussion and at the same time define "love" for this discussion.  First I think I should define the word charity since the King James Version uses the word "Charity" instead of love.  The word "charity" comes from the Greek word agape, which means love, i.e. affection or benevolence.   In otherwords, we can safely say that the word Charity and love are synonyms in this case.

Verse three reveals the importance of actions motivated by love.  This is a very important principle indeed.  Consider Matthew 6:1.  It is not simply the exclusive act that has meaning overall--according to God's system.   What is also important is the motivation for the act.  If you are doing something "good" for selfish reasons then you are simply being selfish even though it produces a good act.

What do these attributes in the above scripture describe?  Where does this love come from that enable us to do the things listed above?  We said that love is God in the discussion article "To Love God".  So we can say that God's Spirit is what is in us such that we are not selfish, trusting, etc.

So again we see that the best way to define love is to point to God.  Look at the attributes of God and then you will see true love.  Let's represent love as a force that is within us.  This love will manifest itself in many ways and it will be applied in different ways.  For example, the love of God that is in you may cause you to sacrifice much for someone else.  It may empower you to help someone beyond what you thought you were willing.  This love force also applies in relationships such as friendships and marriages.  We can categorize the manifestations of this love by evaluating the love siblings have for each other, the love of a married couple, the love of parents for the child, etc.  We will discuss these things below in addition to discussing those things that may be confused as love.

Types of Love

I believe that there are types or applications of love.  Let me go back to early Sunday school concepts to illustrate this proposition.  We learned in Sunday school that there are three types of love: Agape', Eros, and Philos.  These represented Godly, Romantic (erotic), and brotherly love respectively.  You can see right away that this is incomplete.  For example consider the love a mother or father has for their child or the child for his or her parents.  Consider the love between life-long friends.

We will see later in this discussion that true love binds us in relationships.    Love is a force that binds two people together.  This relationship could be a marriage, a friendship, a family, a church, etc.  The common thread is that a relationship is involved and love, in one way or another, binds this relationship.  I am going to discuss the following types (applications or manifestations) of true love.

  • Love between a husband and wife
  • Friendships
  • Love between friends of opposite sexes (platonic relationships)
  • General love for people

We will be able to see how love is involved in these and other types of relationships.    It is interesting that love is not always the same.  I don't love another person the way I love my wife.  I don't love anyone the way I love my mom and dad.   Do you see?  Love shapes itself to the relationship in question and binds it together in the applicable way.

Friends

We love our closest friends.  These are the people who have an unofficial commitment to us.  These are our buddies.  These are the people that we can confide in and trust.  They will stand with us and for us.  They will not hide things from us and will be honest with us.  They share life's experiences with us.    Their life is intertwined with our life.  Friends protect and look out for you.  They are your confidants.  We love our friends.  We cherish the fellowship that we have with them and we strive to maintain that fellowship.    Besides our family, we can trust that our friends will always be with us.

Who are your friends?  Your friend could be your spouse, cousin, father, mother, uncle, the kid next door, or the guy down the street.  It doesn't matter who the person is or how they are or are not related to you.  The fact is that they have grown to be your friend.  They have grown to be loved by in a certain way.

I believe that a "friendship love" binds two people together as friends.    The relationship grows and they grow closer together.  They begin to really care about each other to the point that they are considered equal with family as far as the relationship goes.  This is indeed a type of love.  The two are important to each other--they love each other.  Of course it may not seem proper to say that you love your friend but in essence that is what binds the relationship.   Love binds two people together in a way we call friendship.  Please note that this friendship may be between family members, husband and wife, father and son, and so on.  This love is a particular manifestation of the love of God in us that we call friendship.  Therefore, I propose that friendship is simply a special case or a love relationship.

Pseudo Friendship

Sometimes we use the word friend to describe someone whom we associate with or those who have a more personal interaction then others.  This can be deceiving because it is not true friendship.  True friendship is intimate and a love relationship.   For example, we wouldn't call someone we see everyday on the job a friend even though we may have a very good working relationship.  Those people wouldn't sacrifice themselves for our benefit.   There is no love relationship there.   Therefore, we have to be careful or at least definitive of the term friend.

Marriage

Now love becomes more complicated when we consider a husband and wife.  Why?    Because marriage involves other components then a friendship does.   There are many people who get married who are not bound by a love relationship.   We must consider that different cultures view marriage differently, which make love a non-issue in some though it can sprout and grow later in the relationship.  There are, for example, some cultures that arrange the marriage of a man and a woman.   There are some couples who get married for other reasons besides love.   However, in this particular discussion, I am only going to speak about those unions that have a significant component of love keeping it together.  In this respect, I find that the church provides marriage counseling that, in my opinion, is well off track, inadequate, and mostly deceiving.  Let me give you my thoughts on love between a husband and wife, i.e., a marriage relationship.

What does love have to do with marriage?  That is the second most important question regarding marriage.  The first question is this: What is marriage?    From there a person may ask why he or she should marry someone.  To answer these questions we must look at the Bible.  Here are three scriptures that give us very good insight on marriage.

(Genesis 2:24 NCV) So a man will leave his father and mother and be united with his wife, and the two will become one body.

(Matthew 19:5-6 KJV) And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? {6} Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together let not man put asunder.

(Mark 10:6-9 KJV) But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female. {7} For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife; {8} And they twain shall be one flesh: so then they are no more twain, but one flesh. {9} What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.

What is the common thread that you see in these scriptures regarding the marriage relationship?  The common thread is unity!  Unity implies that there is a bond, that is something that holds the two together to preserve the union.   What is the basis of this union?  The true basis of this union is the marriage commitment or vow.  Again, please see my article on marriage for a more complete discussion on this topic.  At this point I want to discuss the component of love that may lead to this commitment.  There are many things that can lead to a marriage commitment such as a pre-arranged marriage, pressure because a child was produced outside of wedlock, and so forth.  Again, we are going to look at love's involvement in a marriage relationship.   It does appear that love can be behind the commitment to marry.   However, this love involves more things than the love between two friends as we said earlier.  Therefore, a marriage between a man and a woman is a bond, which results in a covenant of togetherness and a life-long commitment.  So what does love have to do with marriage?

Love can grows when a personal relationship grows between two people.  A man will become attracted to a woman and then initiate a relationship or vice versa.  This relationship grows to the point where the man falls in love with the woman and the woman falls in love with the man.  What does that mean though?  This love is characterized by emotional, sensual, and psychological components.  There is an emotional attachment to the person.  The other person may make you feel a certain way.  You become all mushy inside when you think of him or her for example.  You look forward to going out together.  You feel good about the other person.    Before long this love grows to the point where you want to make a life-long commitment of marriage.  What that really means is that you acknowledge that the relationship has grown to the point where you want to commit to it openly.  Wow!    In this case you can see that love in a marriage relationship is very similar to the friendship relationship that we discussed earlier.  That is, it grows from the development of a relationship and it binds that relationship in certain applicable ways.

Love binds the two together and then a commitment is made for a life together.    Please realize that the wedding and all the stuff associated with it are only manifestations or expressions of what has already happened (or it should be).  The two are already "together."  The two are already in love with each other.    They care about each other and their life has become a part of each other.    Now they want to make a commitment by the declaration of the wedding vows.    This is in many ways similar to baptism.  We accept Christ as Lord by responding to the Gospel and then we are baptized.  The baptism is an outward expression of the salvation that has taken place inside.  You have been saved or born again already and you demonstrate this to others by baptism among other things.  For example, I recall the late Pastor Blumentoe telling my wife, Carla and myself that we were already married before we had our wedding.  This, I understood later, was because our life was already merging into one.  The wedding was simply a ceremony expressing that fact.  By saying we were already married was simply stating that we were already one put together by God--Love.

So love is very important in a marriage.  It is not the commitment or the vow that binds two people in holy matrimony.  It is the love for each other that bind them.    I remember a minister stating that two people should not get married because of love.  I strongly disagree now (it seemed logical at the time based on his teaching).   Love binds the relationship.  God binds the relationship.   Marriage comes after the relationship has reached a stage of commitment.   Marriage then becomes simply the next step (not to over-simplify marriage though).   Therefore, love is simply the result of the relationship and its development.   Love is behind it all.   The relationship grows to a point where the man desires to commit to a life together with the woman and vice versa.  So love is the reason that a person gets married.  However, what is important is that the love being spoken of is qualified.

Love in a marriage relationship is the same as we have been describing so far except that it is applied to a particular type of relationship.  The relationship here is a man and a woman who will live their life together because of the union that has developed in their relationship.  Out of this union may come children, partnerships, etc. However, the basis of the marriage is the union made possible by love, which is again made possible by God.  Please see my article on Marriage for more information about my thoughts on this topic.

Please note that the love relationship between a man and a woman in the realm of marriage may induce other feelings as well.  This is why sometimes we confuse love for something that it is not.  For example there is a sexual relationship between a husband and wife.  However, this sexual relationship is not love though one may get goose bumps when thinking about the other.  Love is not emotions.  Emotions are activated by stimulation.  Therefore they are instances of a certain response to stimulation such as infatuation, sexual desires, chemical imbalances, and so forth.    A marriage relationship cannot be effective or fruitful if it is based on sex.   A man can be sexually attracted to any women (though not necessarily covetous).   This doesn't mean that he loves the women and wants to get married.   It simply means that the women in whatever way that arouses him (for example her hair, breasts, legs, smile, hands, etc.) stimulated him.  That is not love.  It is more on the line of lust if you desire and than pursue this woman simply for sexual (physical) gratification.  This does not involve a personal relationship only a physical one on a very short-term basis.  Marriage on the other hand is based on a personal relationship that has grown into a love relationship.

I should also state that some of the expressions of love could exist without love.    For example, a sexual relationship develops between a husband and wife who of course love each other.  Their love and affection for each other is acted out sexually among other things.  However, a man or woman can enter into a sexual relationship without love.  You have the sexual act but not the motivation or expression induced by love.  The motivating component in this case is sexual gratification or physical satisfaction.  I discuss this topic more in my article on Marriage.

So all in all love is very important in a marriage.  The love between a husband and wife is the force that unifies the two.  This love is made possible by God as we said already.  I call this true love since love can be defined in so many ways.

Platonic Relationships

Is it possible for a man to love a woman as a friend?  On the surface it would appear that this type of relationship is impossible.  However, if we consider how we have defined love in a friendship relationship we see that platonic relationships are indeed possible.  I dare say that it is very possible that a man can have a dear friend who is a woman and love her like he would love a friend who is male.  I admit that this type of relationship does have certain possibilities that are not possible in a homogeneous relationship.  However, practically speaking a man and woman can be great friends where their sex has nothing to do with the relationship.  It is similar to a brother and sister relationship in that sex is not an issue.

I have examined myself regarding how I view other women who have made personal contact with me.  That is, they have been a part of my private life.  Usually this is family except for a couple of rare instances.  Sometimes a woman is just like a friend and sometimes they may be perceived as a younger sister.  It was quite interesting to me to view it that way.  However, the same holds true for a male-to-male friendship.  They may view themselves as brothers.  It seems intrinsic for a man to want to cover, protect, care for, and look after a woman.  In this case the relationship is different than it would be in a male-to-male friendship.

In general I believe that a platonic relationship is very possible where sex is not an issue.  However, there are some components whereby this may change.  One day the man or the woman may see the other in a different way.  For example, John may all of a sudden realize how good Susan looks in a certain skirt and top.  This may arouse other things within him besides those things pertaining to friendship.  It may arouse a sexual attraction that a man has for a woman.  This doesn't mean the John all of a sudden wants to have sex with Susan.  It simply means that a different button was pushed and he sees Susan, at least at that moment, in a way that he has never seen before.    This is especially possible in a male-to-female friendship where the two grew up together since childhood.

Basically, I believe that a platonic relationship is only a special case of a friendship relationship.  We give it a special name because the friendship involves both sexes.  Unfortunate I guess.  Should a husband be concerned if he has a female friend?  No.  However, he should be aware of the other attractions that can arise because of the other sex and simply deal with them.  A prosperous friendship does not have to end just because the other party is the opposite sex.    See my article on Sex in a Christians' life for more of my thoughts on this topic.

Love for Others

Love for others is a general love.  It is not personal as in a friendship and the like.  This is where you will help humans in general.  For example, you may love people to the point where you will help during disasters, volunteer your time, and so forth.  This is simply the love of God operating inside of you to love your neighbor.    It is good but it is not as strong as the love you have for a friend or a spouse.   Your love relationship with your friend or spouse may pre-empt any love expressions for people in general.

Love for others means that you care about other people in general.  You have a heart for humanity.  This however, is an impersonal love and not based on a relationship.