Here’s a question that could be worth your consideration: are there different kinds of love? I think this is an important question to think about because the kind of love or affection we have for our kids or someone very important in our lives is hopefully very different than the love we have for chocolate, good sleep, enjoyable hobbies, beautiful sunrises, delicious steak (or your favorite vegetarian delight) along with other pleasures and delights.
When I think about our English word, “love,” it’s disappointing that this verb which is commonly used throughout our daily living is sometimes employed without some purposeful reflection. To that end, maybe it would be helpful to take some moments to think about the kinds of love.
In biblical Greek, there are about eight words for our one word, “love.” I’m not going to dive into each of these words – I’m just bringing it to your attention that there can be many kinds of love. In our modern world, we can use “love” to describe our intense feelings for something we really enjoy – hobbies, Christmas, sunsets, etc. “Love” is also frequently used in romantic contexts, particularly around Valentine’s Day. I’ve also this word to describe the immense satisfaction I experience when I do a puzzle with my son – a fun activity with a massively important person in my life.
At the same time, I think we need to consider that God has a different kind of love. I’ve been thinking about 1 John 3:1a and letting the words in this verse seep into my soul. Here are a few translations for you to ponder:
- “See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; . . .” (NASU)
- “See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, . . .” (NLT)
- “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God!” (NKJV)
- “What marvelous love the Father has extended to us! Just look at it—we’re called children of God!” (The Message)
As I’ve been thinking about these words, I’m arrested by the first word, “See” or “Behold,” because it tells me to pause, pay attention and deeply reflect upon something important. When I sit with this phrase, my soul hears, “Sarah, look at the Father’s love for you.” I think that’s significant for each of us because there are a lot of things that capture or demand our attention throughout each day. Perhaps we would find tremendous support and strength if we looked at the love our heavenly Father has for us – letting it become a focal point default with our attention.
Additionally, it’s interesting to me in this verse to see how various translations navigate the Greek word, “ποταπὴν.” They all try to get the English words to reflect a relatively simple word in Greek. The above translations for this word say:
- “how great”
- “how very much”
- “what manner”
- “what marvelous”
Ultimately, this Greek word, “ποταπὴν” means the kind, quality or type of something. So, John is telling us to look with reflection and concentration at the quality or kind of love our heavenly Father has for us.
In the recent week, I’ve been reflecting on these words and find it helpful to think about the immensity (quantity) and intensity (quality) of my Heavenly Father’s love for me. I think this is worth your consideration as well because there is no earthly equivalent to God’s love for us – not in either quantity or quality. I think that we can go down some very dark corridors in our thoughts and emotions when we don’t look at / focus upon the quality and quantity of God’s love for us.
I pray that in this Christmas season, you would experience and fully enjoy God’s immense and intense love for you, demonstrated in Jesus’ birth and human existence!