September 12, 2000
When Sandra married Howard, we wondered what she saw in him. He drank too much, had a coarse sense of humor, and was irresponsible with money. Someone in her family remarked, “Oh, love is blind.”
Is love blind? For sure, infatuation is blind. The preteen with a crush on her teacher does not see the age difference nor the fact that the teacher is just as pleasant to the other students. She is blind to his happy marriage with a partner his same age.
Lust is blind too. It focuses only on externals and physical pleasure without seeing any contrary traits in the other person, traits that demand patience, kindness and self-control. All lust sees is someone that must be possessed, a person that can satisfy the most selfish physical desires.
It is too bad we use “love” for infatuation and lust but this word has broadened even beyond that. “Love” is our word of choice to express how we feel about chocolate cake or the Edmonton Eskimos. We “love” certain television shows and “love” the color of our new car. For us, “love” covers too much and has lost its meaning.
The Greeks used more precise words. For them, lust was Eros (which is the root word for erotica). This was not always a negative word; Eros could describe the strong physical attraction between a man and his wife. However, the Greeks knew Eros could be short-lived.
Another word, philos, described a family or brotherly kind of love. We can remember it by thinking of Philadelphia, the American “city of brotherly love.” Philos described a mutual affection shared by two or more people. When describing friendships, philos meant a two-way attachment without sexual overtones.
Another Greek word for love may have been coined by the apostle Paul. It is “agape.” The Bible defines it by what it is and what it is not. 1 Corinthians 13 says: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”
This kind of love is not blind. How could it be? Agape love is patient, suggesting that those who love this way are fully aware that others have the capacity to drive them crazy. This love is kind, realizing that no matter what other people are like, they will offer kindness.
Love that never envies or boasts suggests that agape lovers have deep, inner contentment. While they are not oblivious to their world (as suggested in the dazed expressions of those who are infatuated) agape lovers are not grasping for anything. They are happy with their life and can concentrate on the needs of others.
Agape lovers are not rude, self-seeking, or quick to get angry either. If love were blind, they would not even notice how some people try their patience, test their temper, demand more than they should, and have bad manners. In contrast, agape lovers not only see shortcomings in others, they are determined to care about them anyway.
Obviously, agape love is a choice. Those who choose to love others in this way are fully aware that the other person has less than loveable characteristics. Rather than letting that turn them off, they turn to God in the face of it. They know God can give them an extra measure of grace and love so they can rise to the challenge of loving anyone, no matter what they are like.
I am not sure that Sandra was filled with agape love when she choose to marry Howard but like the rest of us, she has discovered that infatuation and physical attraction have a short life. To continue loving this unlovable guy, the only way is through agape love. It is shared freely by the only One who can love us perfectly, no matter what we are like.