As a part of my reading for my theology class, I have thoroughly enjoyed reading The Artful Dodger by my professor Alan Scholes. It has been an entertaining, narrative of his skeptical journey through college of becoming a Christian. The chapter I just read through tonight discussed the different types of love described in Greek. The following excerpt is, what I think to be, an incredible metaphor of how God’s love can be demonstrated in an earthly relationship.
“The human personality is much like an onion… each of us is incredibly complex and has many layers.
Let’s suppose, for the sake of illustration, a guy named Brandon has 100 layers to his personality. He may not reveal more than the outer four or five to most of his friends and acquaintances. To his closest friend he may reveal down to layer eight or nine. Brandon himself may not be aware of what he is like further down than, say, layer 15.
It’s important to understand that we are not, as some educators and philosophers think, basically good at the core, with a thin veneer of evil that society has placed in our top few layers. Neither do I believe that humans are completely evil at the core with a few pretty layers of phony facade on the outside.
Statements in the Bible, such as ‘There is none who does good, there is not even one’ are not communicating that we are completely worthless with nothing good in us. Rather, the Bible tells us that all of us are far less than God originally intended us to be and have no hope of reaching our full potential without His life in us. The clearest statement of this truth is found in Romans 3:23, ‘for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God’.
You see, God originally created man and woman totally good and beautiful, but when we chose to turn away from God, we were polluted by layers of evil interlaced among the good down to our very core. It is as if we were created as beautiful mirrors to reflect God’s beauty. Now the mirrors are marred and scratched, but not destroyed. The image of God can still be seen, though dimly and imperfectly.
… during courtship and the early part of marriage, each partner delights in discovering more of the other and in revealing deeper layers of him- or herself. But inevitably, after a few years, a few months or, in some cases, a few weeks, one partner strikes a layer that is unpleasant, a layer fouled by the pollution of sin.
Perhaps at layer nine of her husband, the wife finds a streak of meanness she never imagined during their courtship. She recoils in disgust and surprise and feels, perhaps unconsciously, ‘I’m not sure I want to explore any deeper; layers one through eight are so pleasant.”
Or perhaps her husband, having a pretty good idea of what resides at layer nine, senses her approach and, not wanting his wife to be repulsed, prevents her from knowing him more deeply. In either case, the marriage stops growing. And since eros easily becomes bored with the commonplace and familiar, soon there is nothing new left to discover in levels one through eight and the ‘thrill’ is gone.
… Instead of recoiling at the ugly level nine, agape says, ‘I choose to love you regardless of whether you turn me off or on.’ Agape sees level nine for what it is, accepts it as a part of the loved one and penetrates right through to level 10 and beyond.
And then a marvelous thing can happen; the mate discovers that at level 10 or 11 there is a wonderful trait, made in the image of God, that she had never guessed was there. And she falls in eros love with her husband all over again. The experience of her unconditional love at level nine also frees him to be willing to allow her into a deeper level of his life.