Blog, Living in the Abundance of Christ

Loving in the Gray

“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.
And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-8

There are 4 types of love mentioned in the Bible with 4 Greek words expressing each type:

Phileo – Brotherly love. This love is based on friendship, commonalities, and companionship. It is most often expressed through affection, fondness, or liking.

Storge – Familial love. This is the kind of love we have for our families. A bond with our spouse, children, parents and siblings. It is a natural affection that rests and feels good with that person. Although this specific Greek word is not mentioned in the Bible (only made reference to), the word astorgos, meaning without natural affection (unloving), is mentioned twice.

Eros – Self-gratifying love. This is the kind of love that is to satisfy self. It seeks its own pleasure through passions and lusts of the flesh. Though it can be aimed at another person, it is for the benefit of one’s self.

Agape – God’s love. This love is unconditional towards even those that are unresponsive, unkind, unlovable or unworthy. Agape desires only the good of a loved one. It is the kind of love God extends to us and a love we can have for others when we are in Christ.

Love is so much more than a feeling. It is an action. It is a choice. It consists of things you do. It consists of things you do not do. And yes, love is and can be, a feeling. But it isn’t solely based on feelings. It’s a combination of actions, words, thoughts, motives, efforts, and feelings. Love consists of many things, many aspects, and sometimes many types. Some love is easier than others.

Some love seems effortless in the moment, especially eros, which is a self gratifying love, but usually only lasts as long as the feelings do. Phileo, brotherly or friendship love, may last longer and endure more, as you go through similar seasons with that person, or they become like family. Storge love (family love), gets you through harder situations, like marriage, and raising children.

Love requires not only giving yourself to others, but also withholding certain things from others, like approval. Love is not the facilitating, accepting, or condoning of bad or destructive behavior. This is one reason we discipline our children, and why God disciplines us. This is where love gets hard, when it’s not based on feelings or trying to make the other person happy, but rather setting firm boundaries, telling the truth, drawing lines in the sand, and standing firm.

“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them.” Luke 6:32

I don’t deal in gray. I am a black and white, right and wrong, type of person. Gray is puzzling to me and I’m not sure what to do with it. Some people are better able to deal with these areas than I am. But one area that I have to “deal in the gray” is love. We are all called, in some aspect, to be in relationship with someone who forces us to do this, to love in gray areas.

What are these gray areas? They are often areas of unrepentant sin, things like addiction, and harmful or irresponsible lifestyle choices. They make loving that person difficult. This is the place we are called to love the unlovely. We are called to lay down our own preferences to meet the needs of another. Even when it’s painful. Even when we don’t understand. Of course, we set boundaries; we don’t stay in physically harmful or abusive relationships.

Your heart breaks for the person you love, and for what they are going through. Your heart breaks for your relationship with them, and the damage their actions have caused to themselves, and those around them. Your heart breaks for the way they lash out, and the resentment they show, and when they call love, hate. This is where you need the kind of love that loves the unlovely, that stays, and prays, and stands. The type of love needed is one without conditions (unconditional), and it is one of the hardest places to be. This kind of love has to cover unmet expectations.

How do you get through these hard situations with love, where you are daily, standing firm, telling the truth, saying no, and all while your heart is breaking? How do you get through this? How do they get through this?

God’s love. Agape. He ministers his love to us, helping us to endure, strengthening us to hold firm and fast to him, and bringing us comfort. Then we are able to pour out to others what he has poured into us, and through this they see the love of Christ. Through this, we see the love of Christ, towards us and towards others.

“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.  For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—  but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:6-8

Agape is a hard kind of love for humans to experience, both in the receiving of it, and the giving of it, because it is not something that we are naturally inclined to, like the other types of love. It is only natural love for the Creator of the universe. It is super natural and other worldly to us. This is how he loves us, as only he can, with his great power; super natural to us, and natural to him.

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

This is where faith, hope, and love get real. We have faith in God that he sees us and will meet our needs. We have hope in God that he will answer our many urgent prayers. We have love from God, and love that he pours out to others, through us.  This only comes from him. We cannot do this type of “gray” love without it, without him. This is the only love that gives without expecting in return, and which feels like it only benefits the receiver, it is God’s love towards us (agape). The only way for us to extend this kind of love to others is to have received it for ourselves.

We are able to love like this, in the gray areas, in Christ, because he first loved us in this magnificent way. (1 John 4:19)

“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” 1 John 3:16-18


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