(Image courtesy of http://charleneburke.com.)

God's love is incredible.  It is unconditional.  It is without limit.  It is perfect.  It is timely.  It is always true and fulfilling.

A few Sunday's ago, Pastor Matthew Watkins of Grace Pointe Church in Whiteville, Tennessee delivered a message on the three forms of love in the original Greek: erosphileo; and agape.  Each word differs and only one is truly from God and offers the greatest and most fulfilling experience a human being can know.  But do you know which one it is?  (The answer may surprise you....)

Eros love can be defined as an "erotic love."  It is the romantic love that people feel when attracted to each other in a dating relationship.  It releases hormones and causes our bodies to react when we are around the person we romantically love.  Eros love sounds good, especially in a romantic relationship such as a marriage or even a dating relationship.  But eros love is selfish.  It says, "I want you, but only as long as you fulfill my desires and wants.  Once you stop filling my wants, then I'm done with you: I no longer 'love' you and I'm off to find someone else to meet my desires."  That's how eros love works.  It is deceptive and leaves you feeling empty, whichever side you are on.

Phileo love can be defined as "brotherly love."  The city of Philadelphia got its name from this kind of love.  Brotherly love is a love between friends and seemingly helps bond friends to each other.  But even phileo love is selfish.  Phileo love says, "I will be your friend as long as you give me what I want and need.  As soon as you stop hanging out with me or start hanging out with someone else more than me, we can no longer be friends.  You offended me: I can no longer be your friend."  Phileo love is really no love at all.  Yet there is a love that is real, selfless, and will not leave you feeling used or empty and will keep you from being labeled a bad, disloyal friend.

Agape love can be defined as "unconditional love."  Unconditional love means that there is no way to earn more of it and there is no way to lose any of it.  Where eros love is conditional upon desire and phileo love is conditional upon good feelings, agape love says, "I love you no matter what.  You could offend me, you could do me wrong - but you can't lose any of my love I have for you.  You can work harder, you can treat me better - but you can't make me love you any greater than I already do.  Your past, your future, what you're doing now - it doesn't change the way I love you and it never will."  Agape love is completely selfless, completely rewarding for both parties, and is the perfect way to love.  The most important aspect of agape love, however, is that one cannot love with agape love unless they have the Holy Spirit in them.  This is because agape love only comes from God.  That is why people living in the world go from relationship to relationship, always searching for fulfilling love, but never finding it.  The beautiful thing even for someone with the Holy Spirit inside them is that God is forgiving.  Even if we give in to the selfish forms of love from time to time, we can be forgiven if we repent.  We get to have a second chance at displaying agape love to others after repentance.

Ephesians 5:25-26 says, "Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word..."  This is a beautiful picture of agape love.  The comparison between Christ and His love for the church and a husband's love for his wife is incredible.  Just as Jesus gave Himself up for His Bride (the Church, which are people called by Jesus to join His flock, not denominations or buildings), husbands are to give themselves up - their selfish desires, their pride, even their immediate erotic feelings - for their wives.  Usually this passage in Ephesians 5 is used to show why women should listen and submit to their husbands.  However, this passage speaks twice as clear and even louder for husbands to love their wives.  When husbands give themselves up for their wives, they are leading in the right way - the way of agape love.  When a husband gives up his selfish desires, his wife, in turn, submits to him because she loves him too.  Wow!  And to think that marriage is only a small glimpse of what Jesus did for His Bride!  I am so thankful and overwhelmed by His great and glorious love!

How deep indeed is the Father's love for us!  How vast beyond all measure!  That He should give His only Son to make a wretch like me His treasure!  (Paraphrase from How Deep the Father's Love For Us.)

Love puts others first.