What Is Love?

In English we only have one word for love. And it has so many different meanings that it is constantly misunderstood. It can mean anything from sexual intercourse to just strongly liking someone. In fact, love is often used when we really mean “like.” It is no wonder that when we study our Bible, we have a hard time understanding exactly what it means “to love one another.”

Remember that our New Testament was originally written in Greek. And in the Greek language, there are four different words for “love.” They are “eros,” “phileo,” “storge,” and “agape.” Each of them have separate and distinct meanings.

Eros

This is a Greek word from which we get our English word “erotica.” Thus, we usually connect eros with sex. That it is a sexual love. Actually sex is often engaged in without any eros being a part of it at all. Sex is a part of eros, but eros is not a part of sex. You see, eros includes many things besides sex.

Perhaps the closest English phrase to the meaning of eros is “being in love.” Many say that the Song of Solomon should not even be in our Bible. However, this book is in our Bible because it describes what eros really is. It is the connection of, and the desire for, ones marriage partner.

It is what God meant when He said in Genesis 2:24 (NIV): “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” It is the desire that a man and a woman have for each other that becomes so strong that their world becomes one. They have a desire for each other that is so intense that each wants to experience everything that the other experiences.

And no matter what the world says, this is a type of love that can only be experienced between one man and one woman. And if you have never had this experience, you have no idea what I am taking about. This is why sex within a marriage is such a beautiful thing and it can be so devastating outside of marriage.

Sex without eros is simply fulfilling a selfish desire. Sex with eros is a wonderful fulfilling experience. Read some of my articles on marriage to get an idea of how this is possible.

Storge

This Greek word that is actually found three times in our Bible and each time it is combined with another word. Storge means “a family love and affection.” It is used in Romans 12:10 where the NIV translates it as “be devoted” to one another.

The other two times it is used with a negative, which means it is the opposite of its original meaning. Paul uses it in Romans 1:31 where the KJV translates it as “without natural affection.” It is also used in II Tim. 3:3 where the NIV translates it “without love.”

II Tim. 3:3 is describing the type of people that will be living in the last days. The use of this word says that people will have no feelings or affection for their children or their families. Perhaps this explains why abortion, incest, child abuse, wife abuse and family desertion is so rampant in our society.

Romans 12:10 says that we should have this type of love toward other people, even those outside our own family. God is telling us that the Christian community is not a society, but rather a family, a family of God.

Phileo

Phileo describes the way we cherish each other, the affection we have for each other. It is best understood in the English language as “close friendship.” Phileo includes affection, fondness, endearment and cherishing. It also carries the connotation of “romance.”

This is not the type of friendship that most Americans understand. We usually acquaint friendship as the relationship we have with those that we get along with or have mutual interests.

Phileo goes much deeper than that. It is a relationship that carries deep feelings with those who are our “friends.” This is why it is translated 6 times as “kiss” and is usually prefixed with the word “holy.” See II Cor. 13:12 (NKJV): “Greet one another with a holy kiss.”

Phileo is a word that is closely related with the Greek word “Agape.” However, there is a difference. Phileo would be used to describe loving someone who is loveable. Agape describes loving someone who is unlovable.

Agape

Scholars have been unsuccessful in finding any usage of the word agape prior to the Christian era. It is certainly not a concept that is found in literature prior to the Christian era.

This is a word that is used in the Bible to describe God’s love for us. It is a love that is not based on emotion or feelings. The other three types of love are based on a two-way relationship. In other words, we love them because they love us. This love says “I love you no matter what you think of me or do to me.”

This is the word that Jesus used when He said in Luke 6:27 (NIV): “But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you.” In other words, wish them the best, help them whenever you can and pray for them.

This is the type of love that God wants us to have for everyone, no matter who they are. Why? Because this is how we bring people into the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. I keep hearing more and more stories of how people have accepted Jesus simply because someone gave them what they really needed and could not get for themselves.

Agape Love Works

When you show this type of love toward someone who doesn’t love you or even hates you, it makes them wonder why you are doing such a thing. It makes them want to find out why. And when they do find out, they usually realize that they want that same type of love, so they accept Jesus into their life to get it.

I even watched the testimony of a man who was trained inIranto bring radical Islam toAmerica. He moved to the Bible Belt inAmericato convert people to radical Islam. When he was involved in a terrible accident, he was cared for by doctors who kept telling him not to worry, they would take care of him. One of the doctors even took him into his own home to help rehabilitate him. They even set up a fund to help pay for his expenses. He could not understand why they were doing this for him.

To make a long story short, he finally realized that it was because of the love of Jesus and it was something that he had never experienced before. He realized that it was something that he wanted in his life. He ended up accepting Jesus as his personal Lord and Savior. He is now committed to converting Muslims to Christianity. It was agape love that turned him around.

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