Before being born again, I spent years studying all aspects of love. I was trying to understand why we love more than what love is. I tackled every aspect of love and relationships, but only through science and psychology.
Without bringing the Bible or religions into the fold, my study kept hitting roadblock after roadblock. The biggest – why would anyone sacrifice themselves for another if this is the only life we get?
After reading numerous books and hundreds of studies, I could only come to one conclusion – and this coming from a lifelong agnostic – God had to be involved.
This ignited a chain of events that years later would find me giving my life to Christ.
My notes could fill books, but I boiled down my findings to a short Bible study that I think captures the essence of what I learned along the way and, more importantly, how my notes fit into the Bible narrative.
6 Types of love
I categorized love into six types. There are many subcategories within each, but for this study we’ll concentrate on just the six.
Ranked in order of importance through people I have polled they are love of: God, self, spouse, family, friends and pets and strangers. I did not include love of inanimate objects to the objection of many. Even I was surprised at the affection for TVs, phones and computers.
Let’s break down the importance of the six:
Love of a higher power: This is God to Christians, but I used higher power to include all religions and secular readers. This gives us a higher purpose than just survival and reproduction.
Love of self: This validates us.
Love of spouse-lover: This gives our lives passion and deeper level of caring.
Love of family: This gives us a sense of belonging and a deeper level of caring.
Love of friends: This gives us shelter when things go wrong and a deeper level of caring.
Love of pets and strangers: This takes to a higher level of compassion and a deeper level of caring.
So, which one should we concentrate on the most? All six! If we master all six, I believe we will fulfill what Jesus said in Matthew 5:48, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
All six can be summed up as God’s love for us, a perfect love (also referred to as holy or agape love). If we are open to God’s love and allow it to rest within our souls, it gives us a higher purpose, validates us, ignites a greater passion within us, provides a sense of belonging, gives us shelter, cares for our every need and is compassionate.
When we were first created, Adam and Eve, we were created by God’s perfect love, to be loved by God perfectly and to love God perfectly.
But we were not content to be loved and to love perfectly. In a quest for power – to “be like God, knowing good and evil” for ourselves (Genesis 3:5).
Even today I feel our quest for knowledge and power often overtakes our desire to love and be loved.
Luckily, God still loves us perfectly.
Maybe that’s why Jesus came to Earth when He did.
As we continued to fall farther away from loving perfectly, maybe it was a ship we no longer could right ourselves. So, God came to Earth Himself to put us on the right path to return to loving perfectly.
If we look at Jesus’ ministry, it touches all six tenants in Matthew. He addresses love of God in the 37th verse: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” He addressed love of self and the other four in the 39th verse: “…You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
Jesus was more than just words, though. He not only told us how to love perfectly, but He also demonstrated it. Not just through His sacrifice, but he showed loving perfectly in an imperfect world is possible through His three-year ministry.
Can we love perfectly? Yes. We have the blueprints in the Gospels. Will we love perfectly? I also believe yes. We started out in perfect love and hopefully, we’ll return there some day.
One thing we can count on right now, however, is God’s perfect love.