Budd: The Four Loves (Agape)
Deacon Dorothy Budd (email)
This week is Valentine’s Day and it is no coincidence that in the month of February we are doing our sermon series on C.S. Lewis’ The Four Loves which explores different types of love. One quick trip to the card section of Target or CVS will reveal, even in its current picked over state, that love can come in many different forms.
There are sections for lovers, friends, bosses, children, parents, every sort of extended family members and spouses (broken down into humorous, romantic, or sexy.) There is even a section for pets. (I am not sure whether you are supposed to give those to your dog and pretend he can read, or mail it to yourself and pretend that dogs lick stamps and send cards.) With all the choices I am overwhelmed. I am not even sure what category on the card rack most of the people I should be sending Valentines to fit in. Maybe that is because love is simply too big a concept to be contained in just one understanding of the word.
Last week in the sermon we focused on one type of love. AGAPE, or godly love. Agape is the unconditional love that God has for us and for all of creation. While the Bible tells us God is Love, it does not go on directly to tell us what this love that defines God is. It does however give us myriad examples and illustrations of it at work. We looked at two of the most famous ones, the parable of the prodigal son and the 13th chapter of Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians. Ideally, Agape love should form a divine love triangle with love flowing back and forth between God, us and others in all directions.
But, in the fallen world we live in, our love triangles often get messy. Remembering Paul’s instruction to the Corinthian’s about the characteristic patience and kindness of love can help us keep our triangles in good working order, but there are times I need more concrete help.
One tool which helps me as I try to live in an awareness of God’s unseen, but all important and all-encompassing Agape love, is to cultivate daily gratitude for the gifts God’s love bestows. When I consciously thank God by name for things that are given to me as gifts of his great love, especially small ones, which I usually take for granted, my sense of being God’s beloved is restored and my resolve to be loving is strengthened. Mother Teresa of Calcutta described it saying, “Let the love of God take absolute possession of your hearts, let it become to your heart like second nature, let your heart apply itself completely to increase this love.”
Happy Valentine’s Day!