Today Pastor Miles taught about “brain integration” and how it relates to our maturity and ability to love.
Among the many different functions of the right and left brain hemispheres are the emotion and reasoning centers. The right brain contains emotion for processing our present environment and gives us input into how we should feel in any given situation, whereas the left brain contains the facts – the reasoning and processing centers.
When we are in a situation that makes us nervous (such as public speaking), our left brain needs to kick in and temper the emotion with facts and experience. When you feel safe enough, you can take the risk.
Over time, with maturity and consistent faithfulness toward us, He can teach us to trust and love Him unconditionally, regardless of how we feel in the moment.
Connecting the information of these two hemispheres, or brain integration, is a process of maturity over time. Little children have not yet developed good integration of these two hemispheres, so they often live on impulse, reacting in the here and now with irrational fears. For example, a father may have to repetitively take a fearful son to the playground slide again and again, reminding him that the slide is always fun and safe, until the child is able to move from fear to comfort and gain enough confidence to try the slide on his own.
The same is true with our ability to love/obey God: it’s as much about heart as it is the mind. Some people’s ability to love God is hindered because of emotional dysfunction. You may be so insecure and scared right now that you can’t obey God because the risk is too high. But God is able to guide us through the process of perfecting our love for Him. Over time, with maturity and consistent faithfulness toward us, He can teach us to trust and love Him unconditionally, regardless of how we feel in the moment.
But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. 1 John 2:5
Pastor Miles outlined three types of love:
Eros love - Love for pleasure’s sake. Song of Solomon 1:2
This is the passionate type of love. It is generally selfish, because being around the person makes you feel elated and good. Eros love can be like a drug because it stimulates dopamine in the body, “blinding” you to the faults of a person.
[ By the way, if you have sex with someone while you are feeling eros love, you hinder your ability to go to the next level. God created sex to be incredibly pleasurable (sex is directly connect to the pleasure system of the brain) – but during eros love, you really don’t even know the person yet. You have not entered a level of intimacy and commitment that is designed to go hand-in-hand with sex.]
Phileo love - Love for mutual benefit’s sake. Matthew 10:37, John 12:25
Phileo love is the love of friendship. It is the willingness to get to know who someone really is and develop intimacy with the person, recognizing his/her faults yet deciding to accept the person and continue the relationship. It requires a level of brain integration, combining the feelings that were present in eros love with the more realistic facts that have been discovered over time. At this stage of love, dopamine has less of an effect on the brain and the bonding hormone, oxytocin, kicks in to develop memories and connections with the person. At this level, some people may believe they are “falling out love,” when in reality, they are just beginning to see the real person, faults and all.
Agape love - Love for love’s sake. John 3:16, 1 Corinthians 13
Agape love is an altruistic, unselfish love bound by covenant. This type of love takes time and determination. At this level, a person makes a decision to love another, no matter what. This is a promise to love selflessly, through pain and trials, and honor the covenant of faithfulness without condition.
God is love. 1 John 4:8
Love is God obedience. 1 John 5:3
Love is based on truth, not feeling. 2 John 6
1. Agape love is perfected over time by God’s loving hand. Hebrews 12:11
When someone first makes a decision to follow Christ, she may go through a period of eros love, where everything seems wonderful and just thinking of Jesus makes her feel great. But after a while, something may go wrong and she realizes that the Christian life is not all about what she can get. Perfection in the church is not reality, and so she begins to come down off the “high.” However, throughout her entire life, God will shape and mold her ability to love, moving her from eros to phileos to agape.
God loves you unconditionally. He has made a covenant to love you and He has promised never to leave or forsake you. In this process of refining you, He weans you off the early feelings of elation, taking you carefully through trials that he knows you can handle, teaching and loving you along the way. As a result, you are growing to be able to love God with a covenant, agape-type of love in return.
Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Hebrews 12:11
2. Agape love requires a renewed mind. Romans 12:1-2, 2 Corinthians 10:4-6
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. Romans 12:1-2
In our broken human state, our ability to love simply isn’t good enough on its own. God wants to renew our minds so that we can properly integrate our feelings with the truth of who He is. Then we can know His will for us and have the ability to obey even if we are afraid. This process takes a lifetime!
3. Agape love must be received before it can be given. 1 John 4:19 Agape love is given by God and modeled by the selfless suffering of Jesus. We are called in return to love God with our hearts, minds and souls.
God gives us spouses not to make us happy, but holy. Sometimes life is rough and we may not feel happy, but we still have agape love and are committed to one another. This same concept applies to God; we may not always feel comfortable and happy in our lives, but we can know that God knows best and decide to trust Him faithfully.
Are you in relationship with God because of what you are getting or because of who He is?