In the last issue of COMPASS CORNER I wrote about “The Importance of Relationships.”

This issue I will briefly reflect on the “The Essence of Good Relationships.”


Years ago I was counseling a man who was having marriage difficulties. I asked him if he loved his wife. He said “yes.” I asked him if his wife knew that he loved her. He said “he thought so.” I then asked him how she would  know that he loved her. He said, “I told her that I loved her.” I then asked, other than telling her, how would she know? He said he didn’t understand the question.


Sometimes we get caught in the idea that love is just a feeling or maybe just a few words proclaiming love. However, in a class I teach I have been teaching a passage on love from the Bible. Actually, this passage is a whole chapter (1 Corinthians 13). It called the great love chapter.


I have noticed that we use the word love to mean many diverse things. We say “I love my dog”. We say, “I love my boat, my car, a certain food, the mountains or beach, my job, my wife or husband, and even sometimes our idea of God.” Does the word love mean the same thing in each expression? Hardly. If it does, then we are obviously in trouble, or at least our wife or husband is in trouble. What does the word love actually mean, particularly in a relationship with a person?


Interestingly,  The ancient Greeks had at least four different words we translate love.  It is important to understand the difference between the words, and why the writer of the great love chapter chose the Greek word agape.


 Eros was one word for love.  It described, as we might guess from the word itself, erotic love.  It refers to sexual love.


Storge was the second word for love.  It refers to family love, the kind of love there is between a parent and child, or between family members in general.


Philia is the third word for love.  It speaks of a brotherly friendship and affection.  It is the love of deep friendship and partnership.  It might be described as the highest love of which man, without God’s help, is capable of.


Agape is the fourth word for love.  It is implied that this kind of love is only experienced with God’s help. It is a self-giving love that gives without demanding or expecting re-payment.  It is love so great that it can be given to the unlovable or unappealing.  It is love that loves even when it is rejected. It can be defined as a sacrificial, giving, absorbing, love.  The word has little to do with emotion; it has much to do with willful, intentional self-denial for the sake of another.


From the great love chapter of the Bible we learn :


The Priority of Love (agape)

The Description of Love (agape)

The Consistency of Love (agape)

The Permanence of Love (agape)



The Priority of Love (agape) 1 Corinthians 13 :1-3)

 If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.


The point of these three verses is no matter what gift or gifts I have, without agape that gift or those gifts are just a lot of noise, I am nothing, or that gift or those gifts are  impotent to bring me lasting gain. In human relationships then, I take this to mean: no matter how gifted I am to make the money to build a nice home; no matter how handsome/beautiful I am; no matter how smart, full of faith, or wise I am; no matter how much I do for others; without agape it is all for naught.


In my counseling, for instance, many wives have said the house, the boat, the trips, etc. are insufficient without the love of their husband. Children like all the goodies of prosperity but without the love of Mom and Dad it fails to fill their soul.


The Description of Love (agape) (We will look at just the first attribute of agape this month.)


4 Love is patient, love is kind, and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, 5 does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, 6 does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth;

Love is patient.” or “suffers long,” One author says patience (longsuffering) is that quality of self-restraint in the face of provocation which does not hastily retaliate or promptly punish; it is the opposite of anger, and is associated with mercy, and is used of God.  Patience is the quality that does not surrender to circumstances or succumb under trial; it is the opposite of despondency and is associated with hope,

Another author says this word indicates having patience with people rather than with circumstances In fact, this word is the opposite of ‘short-tempered,’ it means—if we may invent a word—‘long-tempered.”

Even another author offers this thought. “It can endure evil, injury, and provocation, without being filled with resentment, indignation, or revenge. It makes the mind firm, gives it power over the angry passions, and furnishes it with a persevering patience, that shall rather wait and wish for the reformation of the person than fly out in resentment of his conduct. It will put up with many slights and neglects from the person it loves, and wait long to see the kindly effects of such patience on him.”

 We should not be surprised to find that God is described by the term “longsuffering”: “God is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. … “

Before we begin to feel too smug, we are not doing all that well as people. People without any particular faith, people of all faiths, even Christians in our part of the world are not inclined to endure ill-treatment from anyone. How often do you hear, “I wouldn’t put up with that!” Putting up with ill treatment is what longsuffering is all about. We are to put up with one another: “Bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as God forgave you, so also should you” (Colossians 3:13).

James Dobson wrote a book on the subject of “tough love.” Certainly there is a need for tough love in the sense that we must “get tough” with those whom we love, like our children and other family members. We need to sometimes confront someone we love concerning the pain they bring into the home (or even sometimes the office). I would suggest we also need another kind of tough love. We personally need the kind of love which makes us tough enough to handle the grief others give us.

Let’s get tough (strong in love), so we can suffer long at the hands of others and thereby demonstrate agape love.

By Dave Fortune