Isn’t it interesting how in the English language, we basically have one word to express our deepest emotion: LOVE. We love our spouse. We love our children. We love our pet. We love chocolate turtle fudge. We love the Texas Rangers. We love to sleep in. We love spending time with friends. We love an uninterrupted bubble bath. We love a book or movie. Sure we sometimes use words like adore, devoted to, passionate about, fondness for, desire, longing, appreciation for, inclination towards, attachment to, or hold in high esteem. But most of the time the word that comes to mind first is love.
I’m so glad that God didn’t just use one word for love in the penning of scripture through his chosen transcribers! Let’s look at the Greek words for love He used. After all, love is to be a recognizable characteristic of a Christian. John 13:35 states, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
1. Agape. Love that acts because it is the right thing to do. Love that proves there is a cost involved in genuine love. Love that is a choice, an exercise of the will, that follows with actions based on that decision. Agape is the love God has towards us. Romans 5:6-8 reminds us Christ died for us even when we were still sinners and John 3:16 says “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” So, in return we express agape love back to God, “Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me…” says John 14:21a. Think about the Good Samaritan here. He certainly showed agape love!
2. Phileo. Love that implies a strong emotional connection typically between friends. David’s deep friendship with Jonathan was phileo love described in I Samuel 18:1-3. Here’s something to think about. Matt 5:44 Jesus says, “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” You can agape your enemies but you cannot phileo them. A clear distinction for those murky waters.
3. Storge. Love that is exhibited between parents and children or siblings or husbands and wives. Romans 12:10 says, “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.”
4. Eros. Love that represents sexual or passionate love. This word is not actually used in the Bible but is described in Song of Solomon and when God speaks out against sex outside of marriage, such as in Hebrews 13:4.
Theologian Norman Geisler offers this differentiation of three of these words explaining that erotic love is typically egoistic, focused on self. Phileo love is mutualistic because it gives and receives. Agape love is altruistic by giving, requiring nothing in return.
There you have it. For some of you that’s a review and for others of you that’s new. Certainly each of these types of love have their appropriate place. God didn’t leave it to chance for us to figure out what love is and how it is shown. He modeled the real deal for us!
What are you modeling for your kids? How do you teach them about the different types of love?