10 September 2017
Harvard University conducted a study of adult human development from the time they were teens till they became old and eventually died. The study revealed a remarkable finding that it was not wealth or power or fame that made the most difference to the quality of people’s lives. Instead, it was the quality of human relationships with family, with friends and with community. The 75 year study of 724 men, which is still ongoing, showed that people who had quality relationships tend to live longer, live healthier, were less prone to dementia than those who did not. The people in the study did not have perfect harmonious relationships but rather lived and died knowing that they could count on their partners when they needed them. Although the word love is not explicitly mentioned by the fourth director of the study in his presentation, one can only surmise that they were based on good loving relationships that were durable, and stood the test of time and circumstances.
Apostle Paul also spoke much of the unique characteristic of this Christian value of love. The word for love is “agape” in Greek and before early Church times it was not in common use. Instead the other Greek words for love in common use were “philia” which refers to a fondness between friends often based on some common interest or pursuit, or “storge” which was an affection between parent and child or “eros” which is the passion between lovers or romantic love. “Agape” love was not a love wholly given to emotion. Instead it involves the whole person, a deliberate act of the will, an exercise of the intellect beyond just emotion. “Agape” love is a deliberate, free act that is the decision of the person rather than the result of overpowering emotion.
The greatest expression of “agape” love is God the Father’s love in giving up His Son for us, and the Son’s love in giving up His divine privileges to become human and to die on
the cross for us (Philippians 2:5-8). Jesus set the ultimate model (John 3:16) for us to follow (1 John 3:16). Jesus called upon us to “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (John 13:34). While we are not always called upon to sacrifice our lives for one another, we are able to love sacrificially by giving our time and resources for the greater good of one another. “Agape” love is of such great importance that Paul ranks it above faith and hope (1 Corinthians 13:13)! “Agape” love is evidence of a Christian’s vibrant fellowship with God. Lack of “agape” love for our fellow Christians is incompatible with the Christian faith (1 John 4:20). As we live our Christian lives, let us be directed and led by “agape” love in our dealings with all we come in contact with. We seek to glorify our God of “agape” love in our lives.