Ah, perfect love! For today, let us relegate the classical, sacrificial charity-love to a wall seat where it shall surely remain, but for a few lines. Take up (as C. S. Lewis did in his The Four Loves) the subtle joys of Affection (Storge) or the often-neglected, sometimes scorned, virtues of Friendship (Philia) or the state-of-being-in-love, that is, one’s desire for the Beloved, that is the essence of . . . Eros! But Eros is not what most people think; they do have in mind, actually, Venus, what Lewis referred to as “the carnal ingredient within Eros.” Lewis has much more compelling stuff in the pages following that comment, and I recommend him to you: for example, his astonishing comments on Ephesians 5:25 and context on the husband as the head of the wife:
This headship, then, is most fully embodied not in the husband we should all wish to be but in him whose marriage is most like a crucifixion; whose wife receives most and gives least, is most unworthy of him, is–in her own mere nature–least lovable. For the Church has no beauty but what the Bride-groom gives her; he does not find, but makes her, lovely. The chrism of this terrible coronation is to be seen not in the joys of any man’s marriage but in its sorrows, in the sickness and sufferings of a good wife or the faults of a bad one, in his unwearying (never paraded) care or his inexhaustible forgiveness: forgiveness, not acquiescence. As Christ sees in the flawed, proud, fanatical or lukewarm Church on earth that Bride who will one day be without spot or wrinkle, and labours to produce the latter, so the husband whose headship is Christ-like (and he is allowed no other sort) never despairs. (Harvest Book edition, 1960, 1988, pp. 105-6)
I said astonishing. And so it is. Moreover the kind of headship described here is impossible apart from the pre-eminent and sacrificial headship of Christ himself. It is in fact the comparison between the husband and his wife, and Christ and his church that is so vast; Christ’s love for the Beloved is such that the husband’s love for his wife pales by comparison. That which so consumes the lover and beloved as Eros ultimately can be fulfilled, that is, perfected, only in the Charity-love (Agape) modeled in Christ. Eros is fundamentally powerful and effective, but cannot be pre-eminent without being demonic, and if demonic, then not truly Eros: Eros is terrifyingly imperfect and unsatisfying unless fulfilled by obedience to God.
Lewis’ commentary catches the hyperbolic emphasis of Paul the Sent: here, an emphasis on complete sacrificial commitment, and there, the fact of its impossibility unless Christ makes it happen. In the broader context of Paul’s teachings we can make sense of this by recognizing the pervasive life of Christ not only in individual believers but in his church, which is (again, astonishing!) :
his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all. Ephesians 1:18b, NET Bible
This is no obscure spiritual mysticism but a spiritual theology that flows from life (the life of God) to life (the life we are given in God), and which touches all of our human, natural loves, to, and beyond, the point of fulfillment in the source of love. I would struggle to describe it adequately; perhaps for now it is enough to call Charity-love back from the wall seat, to be the center of attention as that perfect love.