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We all have such different ideas about love. Is it any wonder we get confused?
Modern Christianity teaches there are three or four kinds of love based on these words used in the bible:
- Agapé: Commonly called “God’s love” or unconditional love.
- Phileō: Commonly called “friendship” love.
- Eros: Commonly called “erotic”love.
- Storgē: Commonly called “natural affection” love.
This confuses people. Considering 1 John 4:8 tells us that God is love, then to ascribe only one aspect (agape) to God is to commoditize love as a product of the church.
To overcome this we must redefine the “shape of God” by showing that there is only one love, with many dimensions and applications. I’ve shown that horizontal love is not only the love between friends, lovers, the cosmos and the things in it, but is the concrete reality of God loving us through the horizontal plane. God is present in the world as the common expression of love found by all people at all times in various ways.
Since love is boundless, we can explore it by going deeper. This is a spiritual process that is not achieved within the intellect or the emotions. It is not an ascent or a goal or a set of rules or emotional benchmarks. It is the process of letting go of ourselves and trusting someone “other” than ourself. Deep love is always a result of kenosis (self-emptying). It’s the same love, but goes beyond low-level obligation or duty. As we go deeper we also go wider.
Once we have expanded, we begin to see love as dynamism, movement or flow. This moves our grasp of God as a stagnant transcendent cosmic being into the dynamic, personal, and cosmic flow that is in and through and beyond all that exists (Acts 17:28). Once that happens, God can be seen everywhere quite easily rather than imprisoned solely within an historical or theological construct or pushed into a future “one day” world.
I recommend Richard Rohr’s transformative new book called The Divine Dance. This book will teach you far more than I can and will expose you to what I have been learning as a student in the Living School.
Love is the basis, impetus, and terminus of everything. We come from love. We exist and are sustained in love, and we are going toward love. We awake from our confusion when we discover that it isn’t us that is doing the loving. Instead, Love that is loving through us. We start small with family, pets and things. Then as we mature, our capacity for love is expanded. As it expands, the Love that loves us, loves through us in deeper dimensions. At low levels, love is a thing, as we go deeper, love is a persona or a “sounding through.” Immaturity loves very little.
Everything flows. Love’s circular rhythm appears in atoms, waves, blood, sound, light, traffic, breath, and seasons. Love flows to us, then through us, and to another, on and on. Happiness is to find and enter this flow. All religion is simply the scaffolding mankind uses to get us in the flow, but it is not the flow. The flow is interrupted by our analysis, emotion, or any effort that takes us out of the present moment.
There is one love, but many expressions. All of it is God. At first I couldn’t see God in this world because my conception (theology) of God was other worldly. Later I thought I could get to God by religion or obeying a set of rules. I gained understanding, but I only got little tastes here and there. Ultimately I discovered that God is too close for me to go there (incarnation). We can’t go to God, but we can flow with God (1 John 1:3). In the flow, everything becomes truer. I let go of me and became more me than ever. We flow as much love as we create space for it by self emptying. Love welcomes us at whatever place we can enter it. Everyday we are much closer than we perceive and nothing is more important.
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart,soul and mind, and love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 37-40