Saturday, January 7, 2012

Are there Levels of Love?

Are there different quantities of love we should have towards others - depending on their relative closeness to us? In other words: Is it okay to love some people more than you love other people? Biblically, it's not a matter of loving someone more or less than someone else. For example look at something Jesus said:

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. - Matthew 5:43-45 (

A lot of people think that this means that  you have to be nice to your enemies and not that you have to love them as much as you do your friends.  But if you look more closely - say on that contains a KJV Strong's Concordance - you find out more about what kind of love Jesus was talking about. (Just click on the hypertexted word in the passage to see what the Strong's entries are.

43 Ye have heard that it hath been said , Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. 44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; 45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. - Matthew 5:43-45

If you look at the word "love" as in "love your neighbor" and compare "love" as in "love your enemies" you see that they are coded as the same Strong's number demonstrating that Jesus did not mean to imply different kinds of love for neighbors and enemies. This is significant because Kione Greek is extremely more precise then English. If there was a desire to imply a different kind of love for friends and enemies, there is a Greek word that could have been used rather than "ajgapavw". "Ajgapavw" refers to a deep love that is so "other-centered" that you seek the good of the person who is the recipient of that love - whether or not they deserve it.. That is how God loves us - and in no way do we deserves it. We know that this is what Jesus is referring to because He points out that this is how God loves just and unjust people - the same - to the extent that all enjoy the sun that belongs to Him.

This isn't the same as saying that just because God loves everyone that He doesn't  treat us differently. God does. "Just" doesn't mean that God has to give me everything He give you and vice versa. This also doesn't mean that God expects a man to love all women the same as he does his wife or that God doesn't do more for His chosen people than he does for those "vessels of dishonor". Therefore there aren't different quantities of love  but there is a quality and the way love is expressed. I'm going to write more about this in the future, but here are some more passages to consider.

 10 Not only that, but Rebekah’s children were conceived at the same time by our father Isaac. 11 Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad—in order that God’s purpose in election might stand: 12 not by works but by him who calls—she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” 13 Just as it is written: “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”
 14 What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! 15 For he says to Moses,
   “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy,
   and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”

 16 It does not, therefore, depend on human desire or effort, but on God’s mercy. 17 For Scripture says to Pharaoh: “I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18 Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden.
 19 One of you will say to me: “Then why does God still blame us? For who is able to resist his will?” 20 But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’” 21 Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use?
 22 What if God, although choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction? 23 What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory— 24 even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles? 25 As he says in Hosea:
   “I will call them ‘my people’ who are not my people;
   and I will call her ‘my loved one’ who is not my loved one,”  - Romans 9:10-25
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