We have taken the time to examine two differing types of love expressed in scripture; erotic, sexual love as expressed between a husband and a wife and brotherly love that is commanded of us by Christ Himself (Matthew 22:34-39). It has been my prayer that as we journey together and learn more about the different kinds of love God expresses in his word that we will be better equipped to utilize love more fully and appropriately in a world that misunderstands how to receive and give love in a healthy, God-given way. The word love is thrown out so carelessly in our society that it has lost much value, and I desire to see that change and for love to find its strength and power in our world so that hearts will be touched to the core and lives will be changed forever.
As we continue to journey through God’s love, let’s explore the love we should be harboring in our hearts toward our family. The family is the core unit through which God has chosen to display the power of His love. It should be a love that mirrors the unconditional, undeserved love (agape/hesed) that God has for us. Unfortunately, many people find that the love we receive from our family is not love at all, but instead it is often manipulative, conditional with many strings attached, and often hurtful. No wonder it is so very difficult for us to grasp how wide, long, high, and deep the love of God is for us (Ephesians 3:18).
The Lord reveals family love in scripture through numerous examples. There are six words used to express familial love:
Greek – storge – family love, bond among mothers, fathers, sisters, and
– philoteknos – being fond of one’s children, maternal or paternal
love of a child
– philandros – affectionate as a wife is toward her husband, as
parents love their children
– philostorgos – tenderly loving, kindly affectionate towards
Hebrew – aheb – to have love, beloved like, fond attachment or devotion to
– ahab – love between people, husband and wife, mother and
child,friends, affection in a good or bad sense
We are human and our love is certainly not the agape/hesed love that God gives us, which will be discussed in Part 4. When our family hurts us, it is difficult to love them as God requires. There are fights, friction, and distance at times due to our human frailty. There is pain, sorrow, and grief when love is not returned or given to us as our hearts so desperately desire. The one thing we can count on in all of our humanness is the fact that through God’s strength we are able to offer love regardless of how or if our family returns it.
Scripture tells us to love (philostorgos) one another with brotherly love (phildelphia) in Romans 12:10, giving preference to one another. In Part 2 we learned that brotherly love has many outward manifestations such as hospitality, help, self sacrifice, impartiality, and forgiveness. Paul has intertwined familial love with brotherly love. We are being told to step up and give preference to those we call family or brethren. Our love should be given without the thought of it being returned just as God loved us knowing that many would not accept that love nor give it in return.
God even shows us division caused by love in Genesis 37. Joseph was the youngest of 12 sons and his father Jacob loved him immensely. He loved him so much that the other siblings felt it unfair and turned on Joseph. This fatherly love for Joseph (ahab) leaned more toward the bad sense of the word, as it was not given to all the siblings equally. Jacob had favored Joseph with his love and thus set him apart from his brothers. Human love, so frail, so unjust at times, and yet, is all we have. It was through this love for his son that Joseph’s life was set on a path that would indeed change the history of the world and the fate of his family. Despite their harsh treatment of him, Joseph never turned his back on his brothers. He had much grief and sorrow and suffered torment and anguish at times, but when push came to shove, Joseph loved his brothers and brought them life through his power and position at the time.
What a wonderful image God has given us through the story of Joseph. Just as Joseph continued to love his family in spite of all his brothers had put him through, God continues to love us despite when we hurt him, betray him, cast him aside, or blame him for our problems. We are his children (1 John 3:1), not because we love him but because he loved us and gave himself up for us. How often do we sacrifice ourselves—our happiness, our time, our convenience—to love on our families? When they hurt or betray us, do we still offer loving arms of forgiveness or do we sting them back with a vengeful heart? When they lie or belittle us, do we not offer love that builds and encourages them or do we knock them down, attempting to bring them lower than we feel? It is amazing to me that Joseph was able to bring his family life through the power and position he held when they came to him because that is exactly the image God has in my heart. When we come to Him, He is in the position and has the power to give us life and life eternal. Family love is not easy love, nor is it pain free, but the rewards of loving your family without conditions or strings attached will bring your life much peace and joy.
We are called to love our family so that we can be a light, an example of God’s glorious love and riches. In the book of Hosea, Hosea takes has a wife that is unfaithful and impure, an adulterous. But the LORD says to him, “Go again, love (aheb) the woman who is loved (ahubat-sexual love) by a lover, and is committing adultery, just like the love (aheb) of the LORD for the children of Israel.” Aheb is bond between two or more people built out of devotion and attachment. God is using the story of love between Hosea toward his wife Gomer as a picture of his love for us. Hosea is to love the woman who has not shown him love in return, to bring her back to what is righteous and pure, to show her how beautiful love can be. God wants us to be that same light in the lives of our family, revealing to them the righteousness, glory, and perfection found through God’s love. They may hear you say I love you, but the words are meaningless until they are followed through with active love. The strongest impact we can have on our family is to show them God’s merciful love acted out towards them.
Love is the key to the Christian walk but it can be exceedingly hard to love our family, especially when they have done nothing but cause us harm and pain. Christ suffered a horrendous death on the cross. He was beaten, bruised, humiliated, tortured, and suffered shame and disgrace at the hands of the very children his Father created. We are God’s children, siblings with Christ and yet so many reject him, belittle him, and deny him, yet still he loves us still. We need to show that same love by bringing love to the doorsteps of the homes we grew up in, releasing it to our family members who cannot or choose not to return it, and offer love even when it is undeserved. That is indeed the true measure of a Christian…to love.
That is not to say that we open our hearts and lives to more pain or harm from our families. As mentioned in other parts, love is sometimes required to be bold, which means speaking truth and reaching out to guide others into God’s plan and love for their life. Love is also expressed when we offer forgiveness for sins done to us. Love does not mean we must necessarily walk side by side or cuddle and hang out with our families. Love simply means being a reflection of Christ in the lives of the lost and broken. Continue to read scripture and grow in your walk with God, so that you will hear His still, small voice leading you on how to show love and give love with boundaries that keep you safe and healthy.
John 13:34-35 A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another.