Clanging Cymbals and Thrashing Gongs:  Thoughts on Love 

Clanging Cymbals and Thrashing Gongs:  Thoughts on Love  February 14, 2024

There are nine types of love according to the Greeks: Philia, Pragma, Storge, Eros, Ludus, Mania, Philautia, Agape and Meraki. If we have taken any traditional Sunday school class or marriage encounger class, we have seen at least three of these, eros, philia and agape. This week, as we celebrate Valentines Day, I want to write two posts looking at love, one from a broader, contemplative perspective and one from a personal growth perspective.  

What does it mean to love well? 

Love is one of the most if not the most important human emotions. Everyone loves, that is, everyone experiences the emotion of love. A distinction should be made though, that not everyone feels or expresses this emotion. There are many reasons for this, mostly having to do with how one develops and what life circumstances teach a person.  

Patience. My wife and I have been together for twenty-seven years. We have put up with a lot from each other. Both of us are first borns and can be as stubborn as a mule. In my ealier days, when my Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder was at its worse, I was a pain in the ass. I still am, I like to believe less so. My wife could be a saint. The point is love is patient.  

To love well is to understand that we all make mistakes while doing what we perceive to be the right action. Culture, religion, and society all shape us away from our original goodness and we strive to be “good.” To love well is to tune in to our true selves, see ourselves as lovable and loving and then see others the same.  

God is love 

There is a lot written about the essence of what and who God is. For the sake of this post, I simply want to stick with the notion that God is love, I feel that it is just this simple. A few years ago, I was able to contribute to an anthology of essays about God’s love for the theologian Thomas J Ord. He recently coined the word, amnipotence as a way to take a fresh approach to how we see God in his book, The Death of Omnipotence… and Birth of Amipotence.  

Ord feels this new theological concept stresses the importance of love over power when we talk about God.   

If we do not have love 

Something I came across recently in my studies was this notion that the Bible was not written with us in mind. I think this is a deeply important idea considering how we as modern people interpret the Bible. Love is an example of one of these concepts. As previously mentioned, there are several words attributed to love in the Greek. In our modern parlance, we have one word, love, which is seen as an emotional state. The expressions of love, the other words in Greek then in English are more expressions or feelings of love or the subjective state of love. If we do not have love for ourselves, we cannot have love for others. If we consider the words from 1 Corinthians 13, love is patient, kind, is not proud or boastful and does not envy, we get a blueprint on how to love.  

Surprise, I am going to look at this like a behaviorist. If one is loving in a way that is boastful or proud, is this really love for the other, or is this one loving the concept of one loving the other? Meaning are you in love with the idea of you loving someone else or even doing ministry for another person? I feel too often our churches these days do the latter. They love the other because they love the idea of their mission work “saving souls for Jesus.” But is this really love?  

Too often in my office, I work with low self-esteem and self-worth. Inevitably, one who exhibits these traits suffers in their relationships with others. Again, to reiterate, to love others, first you must love yourself.  

Love for a troubled world.  

I come back to lovingkindness: 

May you be safe 

May you be happy 

May you be at ease 

If you do not have love, you are simply a clanging gong or thrashing cymbal. God loves unconditionally. God gets us not because God recognizes our plights, our differences, or our struggles. God Gets us because we were wonderfully made, in love and with compassion. Each hair, each wrinkle, each dimple, each freckle. All were thoughtfully considered by God. Certainly, we can explain this away as genetics, but God gave us this gift to even understand the notion of genetics.  

God loved first.  

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