“Dear Friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God.” ~1 John 4:7
Much has been written about the different forms of love within the Greek language. So, I would recommend reading C.S. Lewis’s The Four Loves to really appreciate the nuances of what we mean by “love.”
The other day, however, I was struck by the idea of how to make someone love us. Children, teenage romances, marriages…everyone at every stage wants people to “love” them. But how do we make somone love us?
Quite frankly, it is probably the easiest to make someone lust-love us (erotic love) through our dress and speech. That is accomplished by our actions directed towards them. A look, a smile, a brush of an arm.
Then we possibly make someone share a brotherly-affection by sharing an experience together. This bond is formed through a shared mission and value together, so we can make someone love us by showing up and working together. This is probably where love resides in many marriages, as Titus 2:4 describes a trainable type of affection for one’s spouse and children.
However, the form of Love that God demands of us is a much higher form than eroticism and affection. The form of love we are called to show our spouses, our children, our neighbors, our bosses, our enemies and even ourselves is called “Agape-Love.”
William Barclay says this love:
“means no matter what one does to us, no matter how he treats us, no matter if he insults us or injures us or grieves us we will never allow any bitterness against him to invade our hearts but will regard him with that unconquerable benevolence and goodwill which will seek nothing but his highest good.”
How can we make someone love us like that? If the start of the definition is “no matter what one does” by its very nature Agape-Love cannot be earned, bought or made.
All we can do is receive this love.
So what do we do.
We receive the Agape-Love of God the Father
We receive the Agape-Love of Jesus Christ.
And as we receive this love, we suddenly become less needing of others’ love. As we absorb God’s love, we are freed up from having to “make” others love us. We stop trying to earn their love. Then, strangely, as we reduce that pressure and expectation, suddenly others begin to see a glimmer of that Agape-Love. By releasing them, they experience unmerited Agape-Love.
In doing so, we have reversed the flow of love.
Imagine the transformation if rather than trying to make someone love us, we tried to out agape-love others. The question becomes not “How can I get them to love me?” but “How can I love them better?”
However, remember Agape-Love is not always recripricated. God loved us not because we offer him anything. He simply loved us.