We feel our hearts beat faster, we blush with wonder, seeing them for the first time. “I’m in love!” Really? Is it love or is it more lust?
Many singles confuse love with “epithumia,” the Greek term used in the New Testament to describe following our lust or desires. The epithumia is a natural inclination that directs the thoughts of our heart to what it considers to be something good to pursue and acquire. When we feel this, it is good to pause to remember that our hearts are deceitful, devious, insidious, and dangerously sick with their wickedness. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9 NKJV). Our hearts are therefore in no way reliable in determining what is right, even if our strongest impulses tell us otherwise.
Sexuality is a prime example. While it is not inherently bad, because it comes from God and all that God has created is good. Sexuality is only good if it is practiced within the limits permitted by the Lord-Creator and within the spirit of why it was given to humans. The same goes for eating, drinking, and sleeping. These are all good activities, but not gluttony, drunkenness, and laziness. Sexuality is good, but debauchery is not.
The epithumia directly conflicts with the 10th commandment which forbids lust; it is opposed to the will of God. In the New Testament, epithumia is often used in a negative context (34 times versus 3), which says a lot! Samson’s life shows us how he was constantly animated with epithumia with Philistine women, therefore women forbidden by God to the Israelites (they were not virtuous, according to God). Samson saw a woman, wanted her, took her, then left her. He never built a relationship with these women because his only desire was to take these women to satisfy his animal desire. He was animated by this love epithumia, or what we think of today as love at first sight. Following this momentum, he plunged into the pit of flesh. “For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world” (1 John 2:16 NKJV). And by giving in to the flesh, he missed the purpose of his life, which is to say, he sinned.
The true love that Samson should have shown consists in entering into a relationship and giving oneself (body, soul, and spirit) to a woman according to the heart of God. It is the will, and the commitment, to be his friend, his support, and his help at all times, and to continue this relationship by the symbol of the union of their persons in one flesh (sexuality according to God). Sexuality according to God is one where God is present because there is love-agape between the two partners; love as described in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7.
The connection through the epithumia comes down to appearance. It is ignited by a desire, an uncontrollable feeling, which must be satisfied as soon as possible. The love-agape connection develops through intellectual compatibility and mutual good feelings. Through a commitment that desires attachment of body, but also of soul and spirit. It requires a vulnerability in communication which makes our relationship transparent and deep. That is what produces a strong affection that gives us the desire to offer the best of ourselves for the sake of the person we choose to love. A person we choose to love in their entirety!
Of course, there may be a little spark at the start of our relationship, but that initial flame diminishes over time. Agape love will never die, for God is agape.