It would be easy for me to post a picture of my son and husband on this day. But, I wanted to dive deeper into the biblical meaning of the word “love”. Basically, the bible defines love in several different ways (ready for a Greek lesson?):
- Eros: This term doesn’t actually exist in scripture, but the concept does. It refers to passionate love and is found primarily in the Song of Solomon. It is where we get the word erotic in our modern English language.
- Storge: This term doesn’t exist in the bible either. But, like eros, the concept certainly does. It means “affection” in Greek and refers to familial love — the bond that we have with our mothers and fathers, brothers and sister, etc. It is a naturally occurring love. There are many examples of this kind of love in scripture and God even gives us a commandment regarding it:
“Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you. (Exodus 20:12 ESV)
- Phileo: The Greek term is Philia and it refers to the brotherly love that occurs in a close friendship. It involves feelings of warmth and affection. In modern terms, it’s what would make us call someone a “BFF” or describe a close friendship between men as a “bromance”.
The thing that strikes me about all of these kinds of love is that in our human view, they are conditional. None of the terms above apply to our enemies….or to people we don’t know. In fact, I don’t even think that all of us can claim to have a “storge” love toward all of our family members.
Fortunately for us, God loves us with a different kind of love. He loves us with Agape love, the highest form of love there is. There really isn’t a term for this kind of love in our modern language. It is often described as “unconditional love”, but that doesn’t even begin to cover it. Agape love is the love that is described in 1 Corinthians 13. It is was is meant when scripture says that God is love (1 John 4:8) — it is not a feeling, it is an essence. Everything God does flows from this love. God doesn’t love us because we are lovable. He loves us because it is his very nature and character to do so. This is the sacrificial love that Jesus demonstrated on the cross. It is the kind of love that we are called to. It is a kind of love that I don’t think any of us are capable apart from Jesus. It’s the kind of love I pray that God will grip my heart with.
By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.
(1 John 3:16-18 ESV)