There are some thoughts that flow naturally and the perfect words paint across paper with ease. And there are others, harder and stranger, that are the thoughts that fill you the most and that you most earnestly want to smack hard over the heads of others, but you just can’t find the words, the right words, words that are the true mixture of what Jesus calls us to speak: truth in love. But that is just the problem—how do we do anything in love when our culture, even the Christian culture, has such a diluted version of what love is anyway. We mess up the lives of others because we don’t know what it even means. In our primal instinct, too often we choose the flight over the fight.
We make messes because of the definition of a single word. Among other languages, the Biblical Greek holds three entirely different meanings and words for love: eros, philia, and agape. Philia is the love of friendship and eros is more or less just physical attraction. Agape love is unconditional love– the kind with which Christ loves his people and to which we are called. And as a Christian body, we can talk about loving people alllllll day until the mess of relationships trickles in and suddenly our messy, messy feelings control way more of our actions than our call to love and we easily betray what we once called love, writing it off on what we feel best. We were never called to feel love. We were called to love. The brutal, fighting choice of love means to choice fight over flight every time. Every. Single. Time.
I’m not saying once a relationship begins that it’s stuck forever, obviously. Part of the human experience is figuring out the kind of person we would want to spend the rest of our life with, usually based on the other two Greek meanings of love: friendship and attraction. And those two types of love usually hold a relationship together for a good amount of time and it is when you are (or are not) ready to surrender to agape, that unconditional fight, that the relationship either makes or breaks. That is simply a part of life.
We would be just fine as human beings if we withheld the word love for only the strongest promise we make. Don’t you dare say you love someone if you’re not willing to live up to the standard to which “love” in its very derivation was called. Don’t you dare say “I love them, but I….” because that’s not what love is. It’s one of humanities greatest flaws, our inability to call it like it is. If you don’t love someone, just say that instead. Just say you didn’t understand what love meant and you’re sorry but you realize now you never really loved them. But don’t taint the greatness and power of the word love for them for the rest of their life. Don’t make a promise (love is a promise) and then refuse to see it through when things get confusing or not as fun or not as easy. It’s not love if you’re willing to give up. It’s just not. And of course, no one can make anyone love someone, but don’t use a language of highest calling for an unfulfilled promise to someone because no one deserves that. You don’t deserve that. Love doesn’t deserve that. Love is seeing someone become a little more of who they were made to be. Love is knowing every battle scar, possibly because some of them are from you. Love is changing and accepting it and sometimes growing up together before it’s ever the time to grow old.
And if it’s really love and that is the language you choose, than choose to follow through. Choose to fight for love to be more than a word that can break a heart.