Coptic Orthodox Diocese of the Southern United States

What is Love?

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"Beloved let us love one another, for love is of God, and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love" (1 John 4:7-8).

Love is such a wonderful feeling. We all cannot live without love. Love makes the heart sing of joy and makes your whole existence come to life. God is love and in order for us to be like the image of God, God inserts in us the seed of love so we can learn how to grow in love until we can reach agape love, which is the intimate relationship with God and is the highest type of love.

When God created Adam and Eve, He had an intimate relationship with them and they also had an intimate relationship with each other. But after the sin and the fall, they became of the world, out of the Garden of Eden, laboring and slowly moving away from God. Then love started to take on a different form.

There are many types of love that we can experience during our life‘s duration. Such as the love of God, the love of your parents and siblings, the love of your friends, the love of your children, the love of the people you meet in everyday life, or the love of a special one in your life.

Most of the love builds on good intention (Storage/ Philae) but some are only built on how others treat you or sexual moments (Eros). The highest love anyone can have is the love of sacrificial love, that requires being in touch with God and your spiritual maturity.

"Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth;bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things" (1 Corinthians 13:4-7).

God's love surpasses all love because it is an unconditional love which does not depend on if I am good or bad, deserve to be loved or not. God loves the unlovable people, the outcast people, and unrighteous people. God loves us but does not love our actions if they are wrong and He expects from us the same kind of love for Him and for each other.

Some will ask how can you love everyone the same and be able to put your life for a stranger?

"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life" (John 3:16).

God does love everyone the same but whoever is receptive to His love will gain much versus one who does not care or is not paying attention. And that applies to us too. We love everyone but whoever appreciates and seeks our love will definitely benefit from it more.

God's love magnified through His Son and the sacrificial plan that was displayed on the cross in order to save us and a give us a chance for eternal life. Yet not everyone appreciates or are thankful for what He had done. On the contrary, many people will not accept His love and His offering of salvation and choosing a different path.

Why is true love hard to find?

"Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of the sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night" (Psalm 1:1-2).

Although there are families who strive to keep love and faith alive, many young people are declining from committing to another. Changing the structure of the society has to do with changing the ideas about love. Most of the families are broken and the idea of the big family gets together or staying close to each other disappeared. Love became a trend of I love you today and this moment but not forever faithful. Love of self or protecting our identity is more important than commitment and building a new family.

Where to find true love?

"'And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.' This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater then these" (Mark 12:30-31).

And we can see that clearly in the story in Acts chapter 7 when St. Stephen was accused of blasphemy when he tried to explain to the high priest about our Lord Jesus and they gnashed at him with their teeth, casted him out of the city and stoned him. "Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, 'Lord, do not charge them with this sin.' And when he had said this, he fell asleep" (Acts 7:60).

Agape love comes from God, so the closer you are to Him the more successful you will be to gain this virtue and become a burnt offering in front of God. Agape love is the highest type of love that you can rarely find on earth. It requires love and forgiveness for all, not only the people you know but your worst enemies as well. It entails being able to sacrifice your life for others and give with no expectation. It is not a return of good for good but to be able to give with an open heart regarldess.

Therefore look for someone who can share your values, compliment your life, and be part of helping you to mature spiritually to the ultimate goal of having an intimate relationship with God.

Also in the story of Ruth we can see the work of God in her heart. "But Ruth said: 'Entreat me not to leave you, or to turn back from following after you; for wherever you go, I will go; and wherever you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God, my God. Where you die, I will die, and there will I be buried. The Lord do so to me, and more also, if anything but death parts you and me.'" (Ruth 1:16-17).

I often think of the story of Ruth and how she insists to move forward in knowing God and never to go back to her old town and back to her family way of life. The love of God was magnified in her love of Naomi and wanting to be with her. Therefore God granted her not only her wish but also a godly husband and a son of her own and she became a lineage to the Messiah.

Therefore do not pass on knowing the perfect love of God that surpasses every other love. When you are able to be touched by it, then you will be able to understand how to love and forgive everyone. May the Lord grant us this gift in the duration of our lives.

Written by
Nagwa Abdou

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