Love Conquers All

Paul, in his first letter to the Corinthians, said, “η αγαπη ουδεποτε εκπιπτει” which means “Love never fails.” Virgil in his 10th Eclogue famously said, “Omnia vincit amor,” that is “love conquers all.” What people forget is the full quote reads “Love conquers all. Let us yield to love.” Love is an amazing and powerful thing love can drive us to do great and powerful things. The Greek word for the form of love that is driven by desire is Eros. Eros is the Greek word that is rendered as amor in Latin. When Virgil says that love conquers all it is the Latin, amor.

Love can drive us to do good. On a personal level, love has helped fuel my efforts for peace and social justice. When I was in college, I followed a woman on whom I had a crush to a peace group. My years there even after she was no longer involved brought my theoretical interest in working for peace into practical action. Later, another love interest of mine kept me accountable and meant I attended weekly meetings on a regular basis. My friendship and later romantic love for Leigh helped to drive me to work on the fight against the death penalty. Let love drive you to do good.

Others do great art for love. A choir director of mine wrote a beautiful requiem for a friend he loved who had died. Requiems are long and involved and complex. In place of a one-time tribute to his friend, he put into the world a piece of music that lives on. Love poetry is one of the most well-known genres of poetry in our society bringing great beauty to us. One of the best known pieces of architecture in the world is the Taj Mahal, which was built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in 1631 to honor his wife, Mumtaz Mahal after her death. There are things even more amazing.

Of all the great things created by love and desire, know that you are the most extraordinary. You are more amazing than buildings and poems and paintings. You are chosen and have been chosen over and over and over again. Not just by your parents choosing to have a child, but by choosing what they want when they chose one another. Each time one of your ancestors looked at the other and saw something they wanted, they were choosing who you would be. They chose your hair color and eye color. They chose the size of your nose and shape of your jaw. They chose whether you are book smart or street smart. They chose your sense of humor. You are the collective choices of your ancestors beyond history, beyond when your ancestors could even speak. You are special. You are chosen

Love, when distorted, can be terrible. In Dante’s Inferno, Dante warns us about love divorced from reason by placing in the second circle of hell great lovers from history blown around tossed and turned for eternity as an echo to how they were tossed and turned in life by their passions. It is said that the beauty of Helen of Troy drove men to war. Hers is called the face that launched a thousand ships. In our own time, we see the dark side of love in the news and Lifetime movies. Love can be distorted into desire without relationship or toxic relationships that make one’s life worse rather than better. When the character in Virgil’s poem challenges us to “yield to love,” surely this is not what he meant. Turn from toxic relationships. Balance love with reason. Find the reasoning that Dante cautioned us about losing in a love based solely on desire.

The love that comes in the form of desire can be balanced with other types of love. In English we tend to use modifiers to define forms of love such as motherly love or brotherly love. In Greek, there are a number of words defining types of love including eros, philia and storge. Eros is a love based in desire. With attraction comes Eros. Eros draws couples together, particularly at the beginning. While lovers may start in a relationship based on desire a mature love includes philia, the love between friends. Philia also comes with shared values and a shared approach to the world[1]. Love between friends helps to make our lives worthwhile. Philia can be enduring and offer stability in your life. Eros can lead to another kind of love when partners join together to form a family. Within families there is a love for our parents and for our children. This love for parents and children, for our families is called storge. The love of a good family can provide great strength. Storge can be strongly associated with need. We need our parents, particularly when we are young. As we age, we may find our children taking care of us. Together, these three types of love can help to form the building blocks for our society. Our regard for one another provides stability. Let your life be filled with many kinds of love.

People struggle to find scripture suitable for weddings. 1 Corinthians 13, while frequently used for weddings, is not directly about romantic love. The word that Paul uses for love in this scripture is agape and not eros. Agape is a sort of love perfectly expressed only by God towards us. As Christians we aspire to show agape towards others. Agape is also translated as charity. We engage in charity when we care for others even when we know they can do nothing for us in return.

Unlike cynical and bitter people may say, people do not just use 1 Corinthians 13 for weddings because they are stupid. Our use of 1 Corinthians 13 as a guide to couples starting out is clear evidence that we want more than a love based in desire for them. We hope for them that they will bear agape love for one another. The love between romantic partners and friends can radiate outwards and warm others by their love.

In the excerpt from 1 Corinthians 13 that you heard today, Paul reminds us of the ultimate goodness of agape. Love is patient and kind. Love is not arrogant nor does it insist on its own way. When we are told, “God is love” in 1 John 4 that word is also agape. God as love reminds us to care for and take care of one another. God is that bond between us.

For many of us the deepest, truest, most unconditional form of love that we receive comes from a romantic partner. We know the love of God for us through that person. We are loved for who we are, but also beyond who we are. It inspires me to tell my wife all of the things I love about her, but it is also what inspires me to say I love you anyways. I tell her that I love her beyond any given detail or aspect of who she is. Her love for me offers me a glimpse of what God’s love is like. Through her I experience God’s love. As my mentor recently reminded me, Victor Hugo said in Les Misérables, “To love another is to see the face of God.”

Love or its lack deeply shapes us. Love knits us together as couples and groups. Love can be the best of who we are. Love inspires. Love takes many forms. Love done well makes for a better society.

What does love or has love inspired you to do?

How has people loving you affected who you are?

How has to loving people affected who you are?

Do you feel the love of God? How do you experience it?



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