Back in the day, i.e. way, waaaaay back (it seems, somehow, I’ve aged considerably), there was a hit song called, “What’s Love Got to Do with It.” Performed by Tina Turner, and released in 1984, the refrain laments:
“What’s love got to do, got to do with it?
What’s love but a second-hand emotion?”
Reading between the lyrical lines, the song suggests there can be the “thrill of boy meetin’ girl”, a passionate spark that is “physical”, “only logical”, but devoid of emotional devotion entirely.
Considering the legacy of the original “boy meeting girl”, at the beginning, in the Garden, I question if this really is “logical”? There, in Eden, Adam was formed by God, followed by Eve’s rendering from Adam’s rib. Hence, the Bible lovingly records this first ever organ donation. And the two genders have been sidekicks ever since.
What’s love got to do with it? Lots.
Let’s take a look at the Biblical connotation of what love truly is.
You may know that the New Testament was written originally in the Greek language, a tongue that is much more precise that ours. Greek is simply more exacting than English, with much greater specificity about the meaning of their words.
Greek has at least four words which all translate into our one English word, love.
To us, our fondness for pizza, baseball, pets, or our beloved spouse are all referred to as “love”.
The Greek language, however, has different words available, contingent on the type of love being expressed.
Their word, “phileo”, for instance, means brotherly love, as in Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love. There is the word, “eros”, which is a passionate, romantic, emotional love, from which we’ve coined the term “erotic”. Another is “storge”, meaning the love of family. And finally, there is the word “agape”, defined as a covenantal, committed love.
“Agape” is the most common root word translated as “love” in the New Testament scriptures. Eros and Storge are not in the Bible at all; Phileo is in the verbiage on 25 occasions; but Agape appears in the original language 142 different times.
The simplest way to describe “agape” is to say it is “God’s kind of love”; the type of love Jesus demonstrated. In John 3:16, “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”, the word “loved” is from agape.
In John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this, to lay down one’s life for his friends”, “love” is agape. And in 1 Corinthians 13, known commonly as the “love chapter”, all nine times “love” appears, again, is from the Greek root word agape.
Agape love speaks of integrity, commitment, and unswerving devotion. Within marriage, agape can be blessed by deep, emotional connection and passionate, sexual expression, but these are not necessary for agape to exist.
The sharing of agape love is built on the foundation of a marriage covenant, an agreement to love one another irrespective of feeling.
Let’s face it, emotions ebb and flow; are fickle; can be here one day, gone another. It’s been said, “feeling are just feelings, neither good nor bad”. But not agape. Agape is consistent. It is an endlessly enduring agreement to persevere in love, even if favorable emotional reinforcement subsides.
Traditional wedding vows pledge to love one another, “for better or worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, for as long as you both shall live.” In other words, the bride and groom are making an agape commitment before witnesses, to love one another, even when they ain’t feelin’ it.
And that is exactly why agape is God’s kind of love too. The love of Christ is not offered because of fondness, infatuation, blindness, or gullibility. It is not selfishly inclined, emotionally driven, or laden with sexual passion.
Instead, God’s love is the genuinely pure, relentlessly committed, forever binding decision to never give up on us, as long as we’re alive.
Back to Eden, Adam and Eve made the big boo-boo, introducing evil to the world and to all of mankind since. Not once, however, has their sin deterred God’s pursuit of our redemption.
He is not willing that anyone should perish, but wants all, everyone everywhere, to encounter and accept His unveiled agape love, poignantly portrayed in the sacrifice of His only Son for us.
What’s love got to do with it?
Everything my friend; everything.
Dave Hinman is Pastor Emeritus at Dove Church Wilmington. Reach him at [email protected] .