On Massage Parlor Wisdom and Five-year-old Agape
“True love, or biblical love, doesn’t need to fill a deficit. True love … is an overflow.”
Love: just some light after-school conversation!
I told him there were all kinds of different words in the Bible for love. And explained a few: philios–which is brotherly/sisterly love and eros–which is sexual love, the kind between a husband and a wife. (Of course he let out a big “yuck!”) Then there is agape–the love God has for the whole world–a love that is based on God’s own character and not on the recipient. In other words, I explained, there’s nothing we could ever do to make God love us less. God loves us because he has agape for us. A love based on his own goodness. It’s relentless. This love will never stop and this is the love that will always win.
My son seemed to understand and went off skipping ahead of me, up the street. A few minutes later, he was jumping up in the air and waving his arms towards heaven.
“What are you doing?” I asked, once I caught up with him.
“I’m just giving God some agape!” he replied.
For me, one of the deeply troubling parts of our world is its hyper-sexualized concept of love. Valentine’s Day is all about love–an infatuated eros kind of love. Many of my single friends think it’s the worst day of the year–where all their fears of being alone and “unloved” come to the fore. So much of society joins in this chorus that without a sexual relationship you are somehow incomplete.
This is simply not true. As amazing as the Jerry McGuire scene “You complete me” is–it’s simply not a healthy version of true love. True love, or biblical love doesn’t need to fill a deficit. True love (the Godly kind) is an overflow. It’s an extension of God himself within us. It’s the fullness of God, a God of love who fills us in every way. That infilling of a holy love–not a distorted kind. Not the needy, emotionally vacant, co-dependent love that needs to be held, gifted and coddled into “feeling a certain way,” reliant on warm fuzzies to make our hearts glad we found each other … but a love that gives freely, lives deeply and doesn’t care about “pay-back” and the amount of money someone spent on a gift, or any gift at all!
Massage Parlour Wisdom
I was doing some chaplaincy in a massage parlour and this subject came up. They said Valentine’s Day is one of their worst days of the year. I asked why? They said it was because they knew all the men they see on this day are mostly all married and on their way to the store to buy something to assure their wives that they “loved” them.
The women I know who work in the sex industry already hate men (and for good reason)–but this time they said they had to physically restrain themselves from being sick to their stomachs as men even asked them for suggestions of good gifts. One of the women actually said to a man: How ‘bout you stop buying sex from me!
What made the women I talk to sick, is the basic understanding that love is something more than showing up with a gift on a certain day of the year. It runs deeper than that. Living an illusion of love is violence to each of us at our core–because we were made by a God of Love for real Love. True love. Not some sham of an erotic connection. Actually, love has a lot less to do with emotional feelings and sexual intimacy than we may ever fully understand.
The kind of love we are after is much deeper than that. And we need to start communicating honestly in a society that is sex-crazed on what true love really means.
I remember a Nigerian student at The War College in Vancouver, walking down the street with an American student. The Nigerian student was excited to have a new friend and instinctively took the other student’s hand in his as they walked together. You can imagine the surprise of the American student!
In Nigeria this is a perfectly normal expression of friendship. And when you actually think of it–it’s kind of beautiful. How sad it was to hear the American student give the Nigerian an “education” on the inappropriate nature of this expression of friendship in Canada. Somehow, when I was listening I was saddened inside–that our emotional connections can’t be solidified with honest interaction and helpful communication. Instead, everything we do, everything we say is judged through a sexual lense.
Chris Hedges writes an amazing (albeit quite a graphic) chapter on “The Illusion of Love in America” in his book Empire of Illusion as he takes a look into the Porn industry and its epic growth as our definition of love sinks lower and lower into the depths of Eros defiled. He suggests that we are simply believing a lie that love is at all connected to sexual degradation because it’s easier to believe than actually trying to live a better way. I think he’s right. And the fact that porn is one of the fastest growing industries in the world–at the expense of women, children and men who fall prey to its lie–is something we really must speak about.
Let’s stand up for Love by getting past Eros and giving out some Agape today. Let’s live for a deeper kind of love.
Living the Truth
I think this will be the secret to really exposing the lie: live the truth. If we want people to understand what love really looks like–we are going to have to show them … modeling a life that is based on agape love–a love that gives and overflows and is generous and open and full. A love that cheers and celebrates others’ successes and desires to see everyone live full, lovely lives. We need to model a love that isn’t stuck in the muck of physical lust and desire–using and taking and holding things for ourselves.
We need to live a different way. We need a deep revelation of this agape love that will saturate and overcome the shallow temptation of lust and attraction.
God help us to live lives full of true Love!
Danielle serves Jesus as the Corps Officer of Crossroads Community in Edmonton, Canada. Her passion is social justice, including establishing human trafficking response teams in local situations and giving leadership to the global team for the Stop The Traffik campaign. Danielle speaks and teaches around the world and has written several books: Just Imagine: the social justice agenda, Challenging Evil and The Liberating Truth: How Jesus Empowers Women. Danielle is married and has two sons.
Image credit: Apple Love, by Dorota Kaszczyszyn