How Wide Does Love Go? By Sam Davidson
What if instead of narrowly defining love, we blessed love in every form?
Just like creativity, the church at times can narrowly define what is permissible, particularly when it comes to love. And, traditionally, love has looked like a heterosexual marriage.
But, love clearly exists outside those boundaries. There is love between friends, love between family members, and love between God and humans. This is why English sucks when it comes to translating the three Greek words used for love in the New Testament:
• Eros is an erotic love, often used to describe sexual feelings between two unequal partners. In Greek mythology, Eros was known as the god of love, lust, and sex.
• Philia is a love like that between brothers, sisters or friends, and is usually nonsexual in nature.
• Agape is a love that is usually thought of as divine, unconditional, self-sacrificing, active, or thoughtful. Plato and other writers of the time used this word when talking about love in a family or between spouses. Sometimes, the Greek version of the Old Testament, the Septuagint, incorrectly translates the Hebrew word for love with agape, even though contextually philia or eros would have worked better.
Those of us who have been in love know that it is a deep feeling that can't be completely captured with words. It is intense and personal and while it definitely has manifestations, it can never be consistently expressed by every person who experiences it. Love between one couple may look like kind words and passionate kisses while another couple may never say a word as their hearts communicate on another level.
And all this makes it even more ironic that the church narrowly defines love. The original manuscripts of its founding document use three words for a thing that can't be captured with a thousand words. Why even bother pinning it down?
If the church truly acknowledged love wherever it existed, it would mean that homosexual marriages would need to be blessed. It would mean that relationships that didn't want to carry the legal ramifications of 'marriage' would need to be supported. This would be a shift from how the church has traditionally viewed the idea of love between people. But it could also mean the church is strengthened as more of God's love could be experienced by more people.
If God is love (1 John 4:8), and love is present in relationships far and wide, then is God not there? Why would the church want to deny that love can be present in places other than where a culturally embedded Paul suggested?
It absolutely boggles my mind as to why the church continually seeks to limit the amount and kinds of people it considers worthy to enter its gates, which leads me to another question: What if instead of thinking heaven can be measured in inches, we thought the gates could be flung open wide to let anyone come in?
Why do we feel the need to keep people out? What are we so protective of? We claim to follow a man who continually stretched the boundaries of what the religious institution thought was possible. Why would that be any different today?
Are we hiding something? Is heaven only a set number of square miles and we're worried there won't be enough room for the golf courses and Christian bookstore? I have no doubt some of us will be completely surprised when we see who's there, so why would we try to keep anyone out by imposing our own mandates about what one has to do to pass through St. Peter's rigorous 5-point inspection process?
Many Christians claim an all-powerful God. I do. And for me, this means that God can do anything - including 'saving' people I don't think are worth saving. Which is why the gates will be as wide open as can be. They need to be if I'm going to get in.