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Sorin Sabou

Letter to the Romans, Nicomachean Ethics, and more

About Love in New Testament

Love is a fact of life. People are able to love. When people are in love they are captivated and they are totally for something or someone. That attitude is seen by others. Love is something that is recognized as such by other people. The New Testament writings speak about love. The main familes of words for love are phileō and agapaō. They are used almost interchangeably, but there are some differences.

Love (phileō, philia)

There are people who love to be seen by others when they pray, or there are others who love the places of honor at banquets, or to be greeted with honor. The disciples of Jesus do not have to follow these examples. These actions and things do not have to be loved. The reason for this is that, in those situations, love is mutilated by pride.
It is good to love the members of your family (father, mother) but the love for Jesus has to exceed the love for parents. The implications of somebody’s love for Jesus is that he/she is loved by the Father, and not loved by the world.
How much somebody loves Jesus? This is the question asked by Jesus after his resurrection. The question was asked three times; the first two times Jesus used the verb agapaō and the third time he used phileō. Peter’s answer was always formulated with phileō. But at the third question, when Jesus uses phileō, Peter felt hurt. When Jesus changed the verb, Peter felt that his answers to the first two questions were not the way Jesus expected them to be. This example of using phileō and agapaō in the same discussion is more than a rhetorical skill from Jesus, but it is a way of teaching Peter that, even if Jesus approves phileō love, he expects from him agapē love. When Jesus switches the term Peter knows that, and is grived.

Love (agapaō, agapē)

Love for God, neighbor, and enemies is commanded using agapaō. But agapaō can be used also for things which do not have to be loved, such as the seats of honor in synagogues, human glory and darkness. So, even agapē love can be misdirected. The agapaō verb is the preferred verb for describing the love of God the Father, and the love of Jesus. We have a continuity with the OT teaching about love in that it is linked with obedience. The obedience to the Jesus’s commandments certifies that Jesus is loved (you love him, if you obey him).
The way Jesus loved is the model to be followed. Jesus love is a love for God and a love willing to die for others. The reason for which the Father loves the Son is that the Son is ready to die for the world. The obedience of the Son is the proof for the world that he loves his Father. The obedience to the commandments of God and of Christ is the element which keeps agapē love well directed. Love in itself does not prevent misguidance, it needs obedience. Love and obedience have to go together and in this way it is kept the genuine character of it.
We are taught by God how to love one another. We have to live our life in faith in the Son of God who loved us and gave his life for us. Christian husbands have to love their wives as Christ loved the Church and as they love their bodies. God proved his love for us by the fact that when we were sinners Christ died for us. This love of God is poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which was given to us. In this way the true love is always a Spirit related love. The fruit of the Spirit is love; and because the Spirit is the Spirit of the Son its fruit will be the formation of Christ in every believer. As the Son gave himself for us to rescue us from this evil age, so the main feature of our character will be the sacrificial love. The nature of true faith is defined in terms of love (the faith which works through love). This love for others is the fulfillment of the Law. We are nothing without love, love has to be part in everything we are and do. Love never fails, it is eternal.
Love has a genuine character only if somebody experienced the cleansing of the soul by obeying the truth. Love leads to a life lived in the light. Love is a proof that somebody is a child of God. Love is the sign of new life and if somebody does not love he/she abides in death.

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