In addition to the word agape, the Greeks had another word for love, phileo, which is defined as “brotherly love.” For example in Romans 12:10, Paul uses phileo when he writes, “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love.”
What does brotherly love look like? Brotherly love is sacrificial, the willingness to lay one’s life down for their friend, as Jesus so clearly demonstrates for us.
But many people feel they can’t love like that. Or perhaps people read the active description of agape love in 1 Corinthians 13 and think, “Whew…that is some crazy love. That’s deep, that’s hard, and I don’t know I can do that.”
Maybe that’s because we forget how much God loves us, maybe we don’t understand how to love ourselves. God loves you.
Do you know how valued and special you are? You are loved!
And that brings me to the classic story of The Beauty and the Beast.
In a blog post here the author makes a helpful connection between the Gospel, the good news of Jesus, and the story of the Beauty and the Beast. The author writes,
“The wonder of the gospel is not the love of the beautiful; it’s when Beauty kisses the Beast. The Beast isn’t loved because he has changed; the Beast is changed when he is loved. Joy doesn’t come when he’s loved for his beauty; joy overwhelms him when he is loved in his hideousness. If the Beast were loved for his beauty, it would be an unbearable burden. Any day he might be scarred, and soon he will certainly be a wrinkled old man.”
What can it look like for you and I to live with that kind of love flowing from our lives? Allow yourself to bask in the truth that God loves you even in your beastliness. In Romans 5:8, Paul makes this point clearly when he writes, “God demonstrates his love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
The author of the article continues, “God’s love isn’t vague sentimentality, but it cost him his most precious treasure to turn us into his prized possession; the story line of the Bible is God’s Search and Rescue mission to find the dying Beast and kiss him into joyous life.”
The author suggests that numerous famous stories in the Bible include God’s heart for the “beast”:
- How Abraham was an idol worshiper and God loved him and pursued him;
- How Joseph was a narcissistic boy and God loved him and pursued him;
- How David was a murdering adulterer and God loved him and pursued him;
- Paul was a persecutor of Christians and God love him and pursued him.
God reaches out in love to all, no matter how beastly we are. In turn, he calls us to allow his living-giving love to grow in our lives, and flow out of our lives to those who are difficult to love.
Who do you look at as beastly in your life? Who is difficult? Who has hurt you? Who is awkward? Who is your enemy? Who do you hate?
God wants his kind of love to be growing in you toward even those people. Walk in step with the Spirit, who can help us grow God’s love in our lives. Treat people how the Spirit would treat them. Notice what Paul writes about this in Ephesians 5:1-2, “Be imitators of God, as dearly loved children, and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us!”
Love requires sacrifice. Love requires awareness. Love requires intention. But as we rest in and learn to understand how beloved we are, and then as we interact with others in that spirit of the beloved, we will be walking in the Spirit more and more. Again, walking in the Spirit is not a promise of ease. It can actually be hard work to love, even those who are mostly easy to love. It can be exponentially more difficult to love those who we find difficult. But we have the promise of knowing more and more of God’s presence, of his empowerment to love even the unlovely.
How can you grow more love this week? Who will you ask to pray for you? Who will you ask to check up on you, to hold you accountable, perhaps, in taking action steps to love, especially to love those who you find unlovely? Who you can encourage when you see love flowing out of their lives as they walk in the Spirit?
Let’s conclude with Paul’s amazing prayer in Ephesians chapter 3. Notice God’s work, Father, Son and Spirit, to encourage the growth of his love in us.
“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”