What is Love?
By Joel Greenwood
In the required-reading middle school novel The Giver, the main character Jonas asks his mom if she loves him, and he receives reprimand for using such an antiquated word. Of course, while The Giver showcases a dystopian society without emotions, Jonas’ mother does have a point; “love” is hard to explain in the English language due to its broad range of meanings. The Bible, however, has many different faceted words we translate to mean “love,” in English, so let’s talk about four of them!
1. Eros Love
Eros (“AIR-ohs”) love denotes a love that is romantic in nature. It refers to sexual and physical attraction, and is the love that takes place in a committed relationship. Song of Solomon is an Old Testament book of Eros love on display.
2. Philia Love
Philia (“FILL-ee-uh”) love expresses the deep love that takes place in a friendship. It is often described as a “brotherly love” (think Philadelphia), and it’s the kind of love Christians in the church have toward one another.
Philia is the love to which Jesus referred when he said, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples if you love one another.”
3. Storge Love
Storge (“STOR-jay”) love refers to the family-based love that exists between a parent and a child, or between members of the same family. We see it between Noah and his wife, as well as between Mary and Martha and their brother Lazarus.
4. Agape Love
Agape (“Uh-GAH-pay”) love is the highest form of love in Scripture. It is an unconditional love seen between God and the world. Agape love is the reason God sent Jesus to the world to redeem humanity, whom he loves with agape love.
When a Christian has received the gift of the Holy Spirit through repentance and baptism into Christ, they also have the ability to see the world through the lens of agape love. You can see the transformation take place in Peter, as his actions completely changed before and after Pentecost, when he received the presence of the Holy Spirit in his heart.
This is a time of year focused on love, but as followers of Jesus, we have the ability and calling to show love to all, whether family or foreign or part of the church or different religion altogether. Through showing these different loves, we echo the One who gave us the ability to love, and modeled love for us through his sacrifice.