Personal love is an option of life in friendship, family, and marriage. Impersonal love is the imperative in the Christian Way of Life. You are commanded by the Word of God to love everyone.
There are two Greek words for love generally found throughout the Scriptures: 1) “Agape” - mental attitude love, based on your virtue and integrity (impersonal love) 2) “Philos” - rapport love or compatibility, based on the virtue and integrity of the object of your love (personal love).
Agape love is constant, non-emotional and unconditional. Agape love is not drawn out by any excellence of its object. Divine agape love is based on God’s integrity (complete, honest, pure, virtuous love based on truth) and His virtue (strength of character). Divine agape love expresses the deep, constant love and interest of a perfect God towards imperfect, and therefore unworthy, objects (unbelieving mankind). Upon faith in Christ, this love and interest has the potential of producing in these now perfect and worthy (positional sanctification) objects (believers) a love towards God. In turn, God’s love is able to produce in the life of the believer virtue-love towards others. Virtue-love is a synonym for divine agape love. Virtue-love is love based on the virtue of the one doing the loving. This virtue-love desires to see others come to know the source of this love. (I John 4:18-21)
Under the control of the Holy Spirit, this divine agape love can be reproduced in the life of the believer. This unconditional love, whether exercised towards believers or unbelievers is not emotional; it is a matter of the right mental attitude. It does not depend on the “love-ability” or compatibility of the object. This love seeks the welfare of others. Agape love is impersonal love. (Romans 13:8-10, 15:1-3; Galatians 6:10; Colossians 3:12-13)
Philos love can be developed for God and others by building rapport and compatibility based on knowledge of Bible doctrine. This rapport must be based on divine agape love resident and operational in the soul of the believer to be successful. In other words, divine agape love must come first. A relaxed mental attitude is an attitude free from mental attitude sins. (Romans 12:9-10; I Corinthians 2:16; I Thessalonians 4:9; Hebrews 13:1; I Peter 1:22, 3:8)
Personal love for God, a function of the Royal Priesthood, is developed through the consistent intake of Bible doctrine. Personal love depends on the virtue of the object of love. Impersonal love, a function of the Royal Ambassadorship of the believer, is the application of this Bible doctrine displayed in the life of the believer. Impersonal love depends on the virtue of the one doing the loving.
Having the right attitude requires the proper use of personal and impersonal love. Those who we personally love don’t always exhibit virtue and integrity. Therefore, sometimes we need to apply impersonal love to this person. Personal love is reserved for a few - God, a spouse, family members and/or friends. Personal love for God must precede impersonal love. As personal love for God grows within the framework of our spiritual life, our impersonal love will increase within our Christian life. (I John 4:21)
The instability of personal love for other human beings is often the source of many problems, most of which are self-induced; e.g., problems of conflict and antagonisms, or arrogance and jealousy, of guilt, of self-pity and hypersensitivity. Personal love in romance can be the producer of jealousy, vanity, bitterness, hatred, self pity, implacability, guilt and revenge. For example, falling in love with someone is often a matter of physical attraction. Being attracted to someone or being motivated by looks, etc. is devoid of virtue. Personal love in romance or marriage without virtue often has no stability and no perpetuation.
Personal love minus the virtue of impersonal love to provide the capacity to love often reaches its peak rather quickly, making a mockery of marriage. Personal love complicates life by combining the problems of two people, which intensifies their stress in life. The weakness of personal love for another is based on the existence of too many factors for its success and perpetuation, namely, the continued attractiveness of the object.
The pressures of human antagonism, hostility and animosity demand the utilization of problem solving devices. The problems of personal love, romance, and friendship demand problem solving devices. In all cases, the problem solving device is the function of impersonal love on the part of the spiritual adult. Wrong priorities and wrong emphasis in life result in believers becoming losers. The loser manufactures his/her own problems but has no problem solving devices to cope with life. Inevitably, a believer with no problem solving devices becomes a casualty in life, divorced from reality, and all too often becomes psychotic or neurotic.
Personal love without virtue means surrendering your happiness to the object of your love. The other person now controls your life and happiness. Reaction to others means you have given control of your life to someone else. Only virtue-love can protect you from this. Your happiness must not depend on others, but this cannot be avoided unless you have virtue-love from metabolized Bible doctrine.
Personal love for mankind falls into three categories, all of which are optional: 1) Friendship is an optional love between men or women (2) Romance is an optional love between a man and a woman (3) Marriage is an optional love between a man and a woman.
Optional love means that the Bible does not command a believer to enter into these personal love relationships. Personal love is an option in life. In other words, you are never commanded to have a friend, to have a romance, or to have a marriage. These options, though condoned by God (not commanded) are options you choose for yourself.
Personal love is discriminating and selective because it is based on rapport with the object. The more particular you are in personal love, the better. Impersonal love is non-discriminating. Anyone can fall in love or make a friend. Yet impersonal love requires the advance to spiritual adulthood before it becomes an effective problem solving device.
Without the virtue of impersonal love, personal love in the human race is vulnerable and weak. It is influenced by too many factors which hinder its perpetuation. So personal love in friendship, romance, or marriage cannot be sustained or perpetuated without the problem solving device of impersonal love. All human and personal love relationships depend on virtue for their success as well as their perpetuation; i.e., personal love for God the Father as a motivational virtue, impersonal love for all mankind as a functional virtue, and occupation with Christ as the priority virtue.
Virtue in the Christian life can be produced only under the control of the Holy Spirit by maximum application of the Word of God. A believer needs a power greater than himself in order to acquire and apply virtue. He needs the same power that our Lord Jesus Christ had while here on earth (the Holy Spirit). Remember, Jesus pioneered the Christian life for us while being tested in every way that we are tested, except without sin. (I John 4:9; II Peter 1:2-4)
The Greek word “arete” is translated virtue in English. Paul used this word in Philippians 4:8-9 and tells us that we as believers in Jesus Christ should be concentrating on the qualities from the Word of God that develop virtue. Christian virtue is not the avoidance of a set of taboos laid down by some religious organization. Christian virtue is forming and exhibiting the character of Jesus Christ by consistent intake and application of Bible doctrine, which is the mind of Christ. (Philippians 2:5) God loves you and me because He has integrity and virtue. He loves each believer personally because we possess His righteousness, not because we merit God’s love. God’s love towards us is a grace gift. This same integrity and virtue is available to us and is the means whereby we are able to love God and our fellow man. (I John 4:7)
Personal love is based on the virtue of the object, the one who is loved. Personal love for God is a function of the Royal Priesthood of the believer. Before we can love one another, we must learn to love God. We learn to love God only by getting to know Him through His attributes as revealed in His Word. As we get to know Him through His Word and obedience to His Word, we develop capacity to appreciate Him and enjoy His blessings. Our personal love for God is based upon our thinking, not our emotions. No one can be forced to love God. As with everything in the Christian Way of Life, it is a matter of personal volition. However, I must tell you that you are commanded to love God. (Deuteronomy 6:5) Loving God changes our human norms and standards to divine norms and standards and gives us a foundation upon which to build our Christian lives. This, of course, not only affects our relationship with God (our spiritual life), it also affects our relationship with others (our Christian life). (I Peter 1:8; Ephesians 3:19)
If a believer refuses to keep the mandates of God found in His Word, he/she will not know or experience the love of God. As you learn about God and His mandates, you will come to know that the Christian Way of Life is not difficult when executed according to God’s plan. The Christian life becomes hard only when we attempt to play by our own rules or those of others, while ignoring God’s perfect plan. Only negative volition will keep you from fulfilling God’s will for your life and experiencing the love of God. Matthew 11:28-30)