It’s Mother’s Day in the US. It’s a celebration of the deep affection between a mother and her children. The Greeks in Jesus’s day had a special word for this kind of love: storge.
Storge was the natural affection for members of one’s own family. It can be one of the most powerful emotions. When my children were small, I would have done anything to rescue them from danger. Most mothers would. That protective love doesn’t go away even when babes become teenagers and teenagers grow into adults.
As a daughter, I loved my parents with that same kind of love. My father’s been dead more than 25 years, and it’s almost ten years since my mother died. I still miss sharing my life with them. I will until I die myself.
But as wonderful as the love between a mother and her children is, it’s a pale shadow compared to the kind of love we’re called to as Christians.
We’re called to agape love, an unconditional love that doesn’t depend on human emotions. It’s an act of the will.
As a parent, there are days when our kids are difficult to like, especially during the teenage years. Liking someone is an emotional response. On the days we might not particularly like something our child has done or something hurtful they said or an attitude they flaunt, we still love them. But for most of us, there will be a limit.
Passing that limit can fracture a family beyond the ability of human repair. No one can inflict more pain than a person we love deeply. Sometimes they even mean to inflict that pain.
It’s then that we need the kind of love Jesus calls us to: agape love. Love that’s an act of the will, not an emotion. Love that doesn’t depend on the person deserving our love.
Agape love is what gives us the power to forgive, and forgiveness is what opens the door to restored relationships.
The ability to forgive is a gift from God. It’s an act of love born of God’s Spirit within us. As Paul wrote in the letter to Galatians (Gal 5:22-23):
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. (ESV)
As we celebrate the love within our families, let’s give thanks for God’s presence with us that lets us keep that love strong.