“You learned about the Good News from Epaphras, our beloved co-worker. He is Christ’s faithful servant, and he is helping us on your behalf. He has told us about the love for others that the Holy Spirit has given you.” (Colossians 1:7-8; New Living Translation)
Years ago, Jewish philosopher Eric Fromm (The Art of Loving, 1956) insightfully described different types of love. To paraphrase him loosely:
Infantile love says, “I love you because because I need you.”
Adolescent love says, “I love you in order to be loved by you.”
Mature love says, “I love you for the sheer joy of loving.”
He concluded that many (perhaps most) of us get stuck in adolescent love for a lifetime. Consequently, when someone we love fails to reciprocate that love in meaningful ways, we move on to someone else. Many marriages founder at this point.
Fromm’s most poignant example of mature love is the love of a mother who gives herself unreservedly to her baby, when that small person can offer so little (or nothing) in return. The broken nights as well as the regular cry for warmth, food, and a dry diaper do not seem to diminish this maternal love.
This fairly accurately depicts the development of human love, but there’s good news: Divine love can pour into us and through us, and it changes everything.
Writing to the Christians at Colosse, Paul makes a passing (but vital) comment about “the love for others that the Holy Spirit has given you.”
God grants us the capacity to love beyond human norms. It’s the love that defies logic; an unstoppable love; an unquenchable love. It’s the love that reaches out to our enemies. It’s the love that does not depend on reciprocity. It’s the love of a Savior on the Cross who declares: “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34) Cruciform love.
This “love for others that the Holy Spirit has given you” is neither infantile nor adolescent. It is maternal love on a grand scale. It does not arise from sheer will-power or effort on our part. It flows from a life in step with Christ.
How do we experience and express this kind of love? Only as we abide in Christ and walk by the Spirit. When we are out of step with Jesus, we gradually get out of step with everyone around us.
In our humanity we seem to fall in love and out of love all the time; in our marriages, families, and friendships. Fromm argued that true love is not something we fall into but a decision we make. He was partly right. But the choice is not just for love; it’s for Christ.
Need to restore or rekindle love for someone today? Let’s begin with a life more yielded to Jesus.