Growing up in a musical family has had its benefits over the years. I have many great memories of singing 3 or even 4 part harmonies with my mom, aunts and cousins at every holiday. Because of that “training” (I am using that term very loosely!) from an early age, I can harmonize without knowing where the melody line is going. In fact, if I don’t know a song, it is easier for me to sing harmony than it is to try to sing the melody on the fly.
It has also had its pitfalls. I realized later in life, I had been singing the wrong words to songs. Because my mom is famous for making up her own words and singing them so convincingly, I have learned to take most of what she sings with a grain of salt, so to speak. I remember as a child belting out the first line of the song “Love Is A Many Splendored Thing”, albeit using the wrong words and proclaiming loudly that “Love is a many splendid things”.
Love, So To Speak
Either way, the line of this once famous song doesn’t make much sense grammatically. I actually had to look up what splendored means in the dictionary because it is not a word I use regularly (meaning never!). It means great brightness or lustor, lavish or adorn. In relation to the song, I believe the point of the strange and poetic lyric is simply to express that love can be made manifest in a lot of ways but ultimately it is a beautiful thing when love is true.
Biblically speaking, the greek language uses several words to describe what our english language calls love. Eros is the word which speaks of physical love, passion or desire. Philia is used when referring to affectionate love and friendship. Storge conveys the idea of familial love, most clearly seen in the parent/child relationship.
And then there is Agape. This is an unconditional, sacrificial, and selfless love. It is the word for love which Jesus used when speaking to His disciples…
“Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.”John 15:13
Jesus also declares,
“By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”John 13:35
Again, the word for love used is Agape. Somehow, everyone observing Christians should know they belong to Christ. The unconditional and selfless love adorning the relationships with one another is meant to be a sign.
As defined by Jesus, love is something which can be seen. It isn’t simply a warm, fuzzy feeling, but rather is outward, physical evidence of an inward reality. Colossians 3:12-14 gives a clearer picture of what that might look like lived out.
Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, long suffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection.
Love Made Manifest
The picture painted is pretty clear. As Christians relate to one another, true love will be observable to those around them: Show mercy, kindness, humility, meekness, long-suffering, bearing with one another, forgive one another. These are not easy things when offended or sinned against. And yet, these actions are the very evidence Jesus says will let the onlooking world know that we belong to Him.
If we are not careful, we will try to do these things in our own strength. We need rather to depend upon the Holy Spirit and God’s appointed means of grace to accomplish that which we are commanded to do. Colossians 3 gives some specific ways we can keep our hearts in a place of obedience to the command to love one another:
- Let the peace of God rule in our hearts
- Be thankful
- Let the word of Christ dwell in us richly
- Singing songs to one another and making melody in our hearts to God
- And whatever we do in word or deed, do it all in the name of Jesus
True love seen in the life of a Christian is indeed splendid. When lived out, love adorns the church and gives great brightness to the message of the gospel being proclaimed. It is the evidence that the church belongs to Jesus Christ. As the church displays true love…Agape Love…we put our Savior on display in a world full of people who desperately need to see what true love looks like.