“Love” is perhaps the most overloaded word in the English. We use it to describe all kinds of feeling in different relationships. Romantic love. Familial love. Love between friends. Love of neighbor. Love of God. Love of ice cream.
To me this causes all kinds of confusion. We one talks of love we can confuse emotional love such as romantic love with that of the love that is directed out of charity. Thus it becomes difficult to talk about love of neighbor because this word has too many meanings.
The Greeks, who have influenced the thought of modern Western man (despite our best efforts to rid us of that influence) were a lot smarter than we are. They had four, count them, four distinct words for “love”. The one we see describing God’s love is AGAPE. This love they defined as the highest love. It is also called “disinterested love”. Not in the sense of “I really don’t care” but in the sense of total focus on the object of love.
When I first heard from the letter of John that “God is love” I thought it was kind of a hippy way of expressing how much love God has for us. “Duuuuude. God loves so much he practically IS love. Hey man, quit hogging the bong!”.
But actually John is saying that God literally IS AGAPE. Or as brainy theologians say, “The divine attributes(love, justice, etc) and the Divine Essence are one and the same”. And as Paul says, the greatest of the faith, hope and love is love.
This is what it means for man to be made in the image of God. We have the ability to be AGAPE to the world. We are beings made for love. It is not only our duty. It is our calling by nature. It is what we are designed for. And it is our greatest gift.
But AGAPE is disinterested love. That means that in order to be truly who we are designed to be we must be focused on the Other.
Hence we find the paradox of AGAPE. In our to find our true destiny, we must become like God toward God and our fellow man. We must lose interest in ourselves in order to find our true nature. In the search of the Other we find our true destiny. We must be focused not on ourselves, but on God and our fellow human beings.
But if we are designed in this way, why is it so hard to love? Why do we seem so preoccupied with ourselves and our own desires? We have to ask Adam and Eve this one. For in the garden they were tempted to eat of the fruit in order to “become like gods.” Yet in doing so they became less than what they were meant for. Instead of becoming like gods they became less than who they originally were.
So now we struggle to be who we were meant to be, beings of AGAPE. And it is a daily task to lose ourselves in order to find our true nature in He who Is. And like excercise or dieting, if you try to cheat and think only of yourself you only hurt yourself.
AGAPE to all.