"A Love Born of God"
April 24, 2024, 6:00 AM

Franciscan Fractals: “A Love Born of God”

Contemplating today’s culture with the wisdom of Jesus and St. Francis.

Let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. I John 4:7-8

The word “love” gets kicked around in our culture more often than a football at an NFL game. We all use the term “love” in everyday language. Yet, few know what the word means.

We hear common phrases like, “I love Taylor Swift. I love the sunset. I love popcorn.” Or, “I’m in love, and we are getting married.” Other more neutral phrases are often vocalized such as, “I’d love to retire. I’d love to take a trip. I’d love more money in my retirement.” And then, there are the even more bizarre uses of the word like, “I’d love for s/he to quit this place. I’d love to see that person take a long walk off a short pier.” The word “love” can lose its core meaning in the confusion of our communications.

The Greek language had at least four terms for the word “love,” when the gospel writer John wrote his epistles. When a bond of empathy between two people existed, whether it be between marriage partners or between parents and children, that bond of love was called, “storge.” A love anchored in friendship was called, “philia.” Intimate romantic love was called, “eros.” The fourth type of love was “agape.” Agape is the love of which John speaks in the above passage.

Unlike the meaning of “love” in our culture, the words for love at the time of John were all grounded in some type of affection and concern for others. This concept was rooted in ancient philosophical and religious traditions that transcended mere feelings, and emphasized actions and commitment. Agape was the word used for this strongest type of love. It embraced selflessness, sacrifice, and unconditional care for others.

John used the concept of agape to describe the magnanimous nature, selflessness, and sacrifice of Jesus the Christ. Only a God who could think solely of others, instead of himself, could have accomplished what he did.

Too often we read the New Testament with a watered-down concept of love – one that uses feelings as the sole basis for action. Agape love transcends feelings, and asks a person to do selfless, compassionate actions for others often without regard to a focus on self. Such agape love requires risk taking, and the willingness to accept consequences because “it is the right thing to do.”

Our role model is Jesus the Christ. Following the Way of Christ is the ultimate act of love. It means acting on what love demands – not simply talking about what love requires.

In Christ we not only find strength, but also the comfort to know that Christ understands what we face, since he has already been there. Fear departs and, in the end, we find ourselves in a new kingdom which reveals that love has no limits.

Prayers and Blessings,

Fr. John