If you have any desire whatsoever to be even a decent spiritual leader within your family, you will first need to thoroughly understand the foundation of spiritual leadership. I’ll jump straight to the bottom line and tell you that the foundation of spiritual leadership is love. However, to conclude with this statement would be woefully inadequate. The shortcoming of stating that love is the foundation of spiritual leadership is rooted in the English language. In the English language, the word love is over used to the point it runs the risk of becoming a meaningless word.
If I say to you that I love my wife, than later in the conversation I tell you that I love Oreo cookies; how do you truly know what I mean. Certainly the word love in those two statements does not mean the same thing. The English word love means various levels of affection, a person that is the object of affection, or even a score of zero in tennis. Surely you see how the English word love is an inadequate foundation upon which to build spiritual leadership. That said, we must dive into the subject of love to better understand the foundation of spiritual leadership. To better understand, we’ll examine love as it is defined in the Bible.
The New Testament (the second division of the Bible that describes the new covenant or testament that God made with man through Jesus Christ) was originally written in the Greek language. The Greek language has five different words that all translate into the English word for love.
Epithumia is the Greek word referring to a passion or compelling emotion regarding something. A perfect example of epithumia can be witnessed while watching Monday Night Football. The television cameras capture the guys in the stands with no shirts, their bodies painted in their team colors, and it’s fifteen degrees – those guys are demonstrating epithumia.
Eros is the Greek word referring to sexual desire. The English language derives the word erotic from this word. Eros is a physical and sexual attraction. Sexual intimacy is often referred to as “making love”, but more specifically and accurately it should be referred to as “making eros”.
Phileo is the Greek word referring to a brotherly bond or friendly affection. Phileo allows me to honestly tell my closest friends that I love them.
Storgy is the Greek word referring to a familial bond. The love between a brother and sister or cousins represents storgy. This is a blood bond type of affection – a family type of bond.
Agape is the Greek word referring to God’s love. Agape is accurately referred to as an unconditional love. Agape is granted to a person no matter the circumstances.
Now, having itemized the five Greek words that translate into the English word for love, we must focus on the last Greek word – agape. Agape love is the foundation upon which a man must build spiritual leadership of the family. Of the five Greek words, agape love is unique in a very important way. All the other four words for love are based on and dependent upon an emotion. Agape love is not based on emotion, rather it is based on a decision. So when Jesus says in the most quoted verse of the Bible (John 3:16) that God so loved the world, Jesus used the word agape. So we understand clearly that God didn’t just feel good about humanity one day and decide to sacrifice His Son for us. No, God made a decision to love us unconditionally, regardless of our circumstances. It isn’t a love based on how God feels or His emotions toward us.
So, why is this so important to spiritual leadership? Because first your family must be very secure in the fact that your love for them is agape love. To be the spiritual leader of your family, you must first establish a love for your family that is not at all based on emotion or feeling. You must establish a love for your family that is based on a decision and is unconditional regardless of circumstances. Am I suggesting this is easy? No. In fact, it could easily be argued that it is impossible. Impossible at least without the help of the Author of agape love – God Himself. It may not be easy to establish, however leading your family spiritually requires agape love.
Ok great, so I need to have agape love for my family. But how? I’m glad you asked. As I alluded to earlier, I believe God is the only means by which agape love can be demonstrated by us. Allowing God to love our family through us, we need to constantly and consistently be in good communion and fellowship with Him. We must regularly spend time with God in prayer and Bible reading. And during this time with God, we must be honest and open with Him to admit that we can’t love our family as we need without Him and ask Him to equip us to do so.
Which Greek word would you use to describe your current love for your family? What are you doing to establish agape love for your family? The Greek word agape also has a verb tense, so what actions are you taking to demonstrate your agape love for your family? I hope you will share the answers to those questions and your comments in the comment section below.