Category: Cultural Commentary Written by Jim Denison
Wal-Mart has tracked more than a thousand similar instances this holiday season. Kmart says strangers have paid more than $1.5 million in layaway contracts for other people across recent years. Toys "R" Us recorded 794 "layaway Santa" visits last year. An Oklahoma City woman recently paid 10 to 20 accounts at her local Wal-Mart. An anonymous giver in Maine spent $2,000 to pay strangers' bills at a local store.
In our Advent series, today we come to the theme of love. In The Four Loves, C. S. Lewis explores the Greek words we translate by the single English word, "love." The first is "agape," which can be defined as gift-love. It is love given because I want to give it, not because I need to give it and regardless of what you do with it. "Agape" is selfless, sacrificial gift-love.
The other three words are all need-love—love we give because we need to love and need to be loved. "Storge" is affection. When it is refused, it stops giving. If you give to your family or friends out of affection for them, but stop giving when they refuse you or your gift, you are not acting from "agape" but from "storge."
"Philia" is friendship, the need for relationship. As with "storge," when "philia" is refused, it stops giving as well. And "eros" is desire, the need for emotional experience and gratification. It can be sexual, but is more than sexuality. As with "storge" and "philia," when "eros" is refused, it changes from into something else—hatred, apathy, etc. When this happens, you are not acting from "agape" but from "eros."
Only "agape" is gift-love, given because we want to give it, regardless of the way it is received. Only gift-love is constant and consistent. And so gift-love is the only foundation upon which our families and relationships can be built to last.
Such love is a "fruit of the Spirit" (Galatians 5:22), the result of the Spirit's work in our lives. Its source is the One who would come at Christmas as our "Everlasting Father," literally "a Father forever" (Isaiah 9:6). He is always a Father to us, one who forever loves us as only a father can. No circumstance can change his love. He is a Father, not an employer, general, or owner. And a father is obligated to love his children, simply because they are his children.
When last did you receive your Father's gift-love? Who will receive yours today? Does the world need more "layaway Santas"? Would you be one?