It’s February... The “Month of Love”!

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. The stores are filled with all sorts of special gifts and cards specifically designed to express love. Restaurants are booked with reservations. The pressure to find that “perfect” gift is intense. Flower deliveries increase, with red roses being the popular choice. Romance movies are in high demand. In school, students exchange Valentine cards or wear red, pink, or white. When I was growing up, this was the perfect time to give a mixed tape of favorite love songs or maybe to pass a note –

Do you like me, yes or no?

It’s a total Celebration of Love!

And, honestly, I rebel against it!!! (Okay, I did paint some hearts on a couple of my fingernails…)

So, I was thinking about these “types of love”. I remember learning that there’s three words used in the original Koine Greek (don’t I sound so smart?!) to describe several versions of love that we feel for different people in a variety of situations. Those three words are: Agape (Uh-GAH-pay), Philia (FILL-ee-uh), and Eros (AIR-ohs). But then, to my surprise, I found out that there were actually four basic words for love when I began digging deeper! The fourth kind of love was Storge (STOR-jay). I thought it funny that I‘d never learned about that kind... Must not have been that important??

Want a brief rundown or refresher? Here you go!!

Storge is family love; it describes the naturally occurring, unforced type of love or affectionate bond between family members. It is used only a couple times in the NT. The next love is philia, or phileo love, and it refers to brotherly love or friendship, being used about 25 times in the NT. Then, we come to eros, which refers to a sensual or romantic love, generally of a sexual nature.

And then, I got “very studious” (SO proud of myself!) Researching eros, I found out that it was never used in the NT! It was, in fact, a Greek word that was used at that time, but never utilized in the Bible. Hmmm… Fascinating!!!

Okay, okay! Yes, it could be said that Song of Solomon is very much about eros (where we get the word ‘erotic’). This kind of love is truly fabulous (and should be FULLY enjoyed inside the marriage relationship that God designed!!! I’m married… that’s why I can say that!) But this can never take the place of or be mistaken for storge love. And it’s important to note that it wasn’t specifically used in the Bible.

And that brings me to the last type of love (which is also my fave!!!)

It’s agape

Agape is God’s perfect, immeasurable, incomparable, unconditional love. It’s more than simply an emotion. It is a sentiment that demonstrates itself through actions. Yet, it’s not contingent upon merit or worth. It’s sacrificial. It never fails. It never gives up. It is doing things for the benefit of another person, having an unselfish concern for another and the willingness to seek the best for another. It’s what Jesus did on the cross. It’s how God loved the world, referenced in John chapter 3. It’s how we’re supposed to love one another, revealed in John chapters 13, 14, 17, and more! Paul used it SIX TIMES in 1 Corinthians 13! Another interesting fact is that this term was rarely used in non-Christian Greek literature. That’s because this is a unique love.

God doesn’t just “have” agape, He “IS” agape!!!

See, the “month of love” or Valentine’s Day, only focuses on one type of love – one not even referenced in the Word! And this kind of love is what many people consider the “epitome of love”.  But, there is truly so much more encapsulated within love –

Love is not a feeling; it is an act of your will, and a choice that you make.

When asked, Jesus says that out of all the commandments, the greatest (or most important) commandment is love – to love God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is to love others as you love yourself. (Mark12:28-31) Love for God and love for others should motivate us. And not just any kind of love – but agape love!

How much hurt in this world could be healed if we simply followed these commands?

How much change could we affect if we really took these two commandments to heart?

How much more impact would the Body of Believers have if we walked in this kind of authentic love.

Sometimes, I choose to read a version of the Bible that many scholars don’t appreciate. (And yes – please, don’t build your theology upon it!) But, I do so love 1 Corinthians 13; and it is especially beautiful in the Passion Translation – here are verses 4 through 7:

Love is large and incredibly patient. 

Love is gentle and consistently kind to all. 

It refuses to be jealous when blessing comes to someone else. 

Love does not brag about one’s achievements nor inflate its own importance. 

Love does not traffic in shame and disrespect,

nor selfishly seek its own honor. 

Love is not easily irritated or quick to take offense. 

Love joyfully celebrates honesty and finds no delight in what is wrong. 

Love is a safe place of shelter,

for it never stops believing the best for others. 

Love never takes failure as defeat,

for it never gives up.

Sometimes, love is keeping quiet and simply listening.

Sometimes, love is providing or being a safe place for someone to share the deep things of the heart, knowing they won’t receive judgement or condemnation.

Sometimes, love is encouraging someone, reminding them that all hope is not lost.

Sometimes, love is providing that shoulder for someone to cry upon.

Sometimes, love is pausing your busy-ness to just “be there”.

Sometimes, love is standing in the gap, praying with or for someone.

Sometimes, love is helping someone walk in genuine forgiveness.

My sweet mother (who is with the Lord) suffered much in her life, much injustice… She had been broken, shattered, abused, and struggled with her own worth. She sincerely believed that she did not have much (if anything) to offer to the Lord. But she read 1 Corinthians 13… and she got to the last verse where it says,

“These three remain: faith, hope, and love.

But the greatest of these is love.

And her prayer became:

    Lord, I really don’t have much to offer.     But if I can do anything, let Your love flow through me.

    Let others feel Your love in me.

He heard her. He answered her. And He poured His immense love into her. Anyone who met her was overwhelmed by the love of Jesus. If she hugged you, you were surrounded by a love so tangible. She loved unconditionally. Without measure. It was demonstrated in her actions. She never gave up. She continued to believe regardless of what she saw. She always forgave, because she didn’t allow anything to staunch the flow of His love from streaming through her life. She was never quickly irritated or provoked to anger. She never held offense, although she had every “right” to hold on tightly. She always rejoiced in righteousness and truth. Because love does cover a multitude of sins.

And this was the example that I witnessed from young till she went Home to her eternal reward…

In my life, I have always tried to emulate that. My hubby says often, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” And that’s one of the ways we love the Lord – to love others. We’re supposed to be the answer to the world!!! Love doesn’t require you to “be ready”. I Corinthians 16:14 says, “Let everything you do be done in love – motivated and inspired by God’s love for us.” We just need to operate in love.

Today, I had such an amazing opportunity to share that love with a precious lady – a sister in the Lord, who I only met three days ago. She has been walking through days that have been dark, difficult, and discouraging. There have been personals trials. Hurt. There has been pain. Confusion. Physical battles. Loneliness. All she needed was someone who truly loves with the love of Christ to stop, to come along, to listen, to encourage, to pray over her, and to hug her (because you know hugs bring healing!!!) Someone who was willing to sacrifice the busy-ness of their schedule to offer a little time to hear her… NOT because I am so great. Definitely not! And goodness, no!!

But because how many times have I received that type of love from someone else – or from Him? What if that “little bit of time offered up” is what will make the difference in someone else’s life?? For them to get a breakthrough? To be healed and restored? To walk in freedom and the ABUNDANT LIFE available in Love? Because I set out to love, to not judge, to listen, and to share truth, it turned into a testimony, a friendship could be formed and freedom will be the result…. All because I took the time to love – with the same love that He loved me. And there’s nothing better than that!!!

John 13:34-35 says,

“I am giving you a new commandment,

that you love one another.

Just as I have loved you, so you too are to love one another.

By this everyone will know that you are My disciples,

if you have love and unselfish concern for one another.”

In this month that celebrates love, let us celebrate the agape with which Jesus went to the cross.

Let there be something that separates us from others. Let there be agape that motivates all that we do. And let us be known as His because we genuinely love!!!

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Loneliness is a common human experience that transcends age, occupation, and social status. Even in the context of church ministry, where pastors and leaders are surrounded by a congregation, it’s possible to feel isolated and alone. This article explores the unique challenges of loneliness within church ministry and offers strategies that I myself am using to combat it.

The Loneliness Paradox

At first glance, it might seem paradoxical that individuals in church ministry, who are often surrounded by a community of believers, can experience loneliness. However, ministry can be isolating for several reasons:

Role Expectations:

​ Pastors and leaders are often seen as spiritual guides, and there’s an expectation that they should have it all together. This can make it challenging for them to admit their struggles, including loneliness.

Lack of Peer Relationships:

​ While pastors and leaders have strong connections with their congregations, they may lack close peer relationships within their own ministry circles. They often shoulder the burdens of others but may not have someone to share their own burdens with.

High Stress Levels:

​ The demands of church ministry, including sermon preparation, pastoral care, and administrative tasks, can lead to high stress levels. This stress can exacerbate feelings of loneliness and isolation.

Strategies to Combat Loneliness

  1. Seek Accountability:

    Pastors and leaders should actively seek out mentors or peers with whom they can build accountability relationships. These relationships provide a safe space to share struggles and receive support.

  2. Prioritize Self-Care:

    Ministry can be all-consuming, leaving little time for personal well-being. It’s crucial to prioritize self-care, including regular exercise, rest, and time for hobbies that bring joy and relaxation.

  3. Establish Boundaries:

    Set clear boundaries for work hours and responsibilities. Overextending oneself can lead to burnout and increased feelings of loneliness.

  4. Foster Peer Connections:

    Create opportunities for pastors and leaders within your church community to connect and build peer relationships. This can be done through small groups, retreats, or regular meetings specifically for leaders.

  5. Spiritual Discipline:

    Deepen your spiritual discipline. Regular prayer, meditation of the word, and reflection can provide a sense of connection with God, helping to alleviate loneliness.

  6. Professional Counseling:

    Don’t hesitate to seek professional counseling if loneliness becomes overwhelming. Therapists can provide guidance and support to address these feelings.

Loneliness in church ministry is a real and challenging issue. However, with awareness and proactive steps, pastors and leaders can combat these feelings and create a more supportive and connected ministry environment. Remember that it’s okay to seek help and that you don’t have to battle loneliness alone. By prioritizing self-care, seeking peer relationships, and deepening your spiritual discipline, you can find greater fulfillment and connectedness in your ministry journey.

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