One of many problems with the English language is the lack of specificity when it comes to certain words. I think the one that bothers me the most is the word LOVE. It’s too general and encompasses everything from familial love to friendship love and even the full physical desire of sexual love. It’s confusing and has caused a great deal of chaos within our own culture as the meaning of the word can bend upon context and situation, depending upon what we talk about.
So how could it be handled differently? Let’s take look at how the concepts of love are handled in the Greek language. There are 4 different words for love in the language. 1) Sacrificial love (agape); 2) Sensual love (eros); 3) Friendship love (philia); 4) Natural affection (storge). I’m thinking I might actually write a short series about all four types of love, but today we’ll focus on sacrificial love–agape.
Agape (pronounced: a-GAH-pey) is the unconditional, self-sacrificing love and it is a spiritual love where one person continues to hold someone else in high esteem and serve even though there is no guarantee of reciprocation. There is no expectation of receiving anything in return. The famous love chapter of 1 Corinthians 13 uses the word agape when describing what “love is” and what “love isn’t”. This is the type of love often expressed for how much God loves us and is exemplified by the willful and determined sacrifice Jesus displayed for us all by submitting to death upon a cross.
I find my marriage to Caitlin has deepened over the last six months by placing her first in all I do. One of her primary love languages is service, and I admit freely that in the past ten years I have not been the best servant. In many ways I have served her, but it was rarely about putting her first while doing it; my attitude was all wrong.
It’s only been over the last half-year that my own world and perspective have been shaken in every area, and it started with my attitude and relationship toward Jesus and quickly turned me toward my relationship and attitude toward my wife. Our marriage needed to be refreshed, and indeed that happened as we both went through colossal heart transformations.
I guess the simplest example I can give is how our mornings changed. To be perfectly honest, I love sleeping in…or rather, I loved sleeping in. I used to sleep until the absolute last minute before needing to get up and go to work, or even on the weekends I would draw it out as long as possible.
However as Caity and I started making intentional changes to our habits, one of the things I found that helped to serve her everyday was to wake her up with a cup of coffee. I started by planning the evening before, setting the timer on our coffee pot to go off each morning at 5:30am; I would then get up and pour us each a cup and then bring it up to our bedroom and wake her up while placing a hot cup of joe into her hands.
It was wonderful because this simple act of sacrifice showed my wife how much I value serving her–speaking her love language of service. I sacrificed my desire to sleep in and replaced it with a desire to love Caity through service and spend time with her. And our mornings have transformed even more where we now have a regular time of connection through the bible, prayer and conversation. I don’t even miss sleeping in; I’m excited to get up each morning!
Many, many things have grown from there over the last few months as I’ve learned how to lean into the housework and share that responsibility. Tackling special projects around the house have been fun too. Sometimes I start it on my own, only to have her want to jump in and finish it with me (like our new walkway). And other times she starts the projects and I want to help out and so we go at it together (like repainting our downstairs).
As we learn to sacrificially serve each other, we both find our love deepening and expanding into new areas we never thought possible.
And it all started with a cup of coffee.
What does sacrificial love mean to you?
SOLI DEO GLORIA!