For many, a popular electronic song of the 90’s came to mind when you saw that title. I certainly hope so. It’s an amazing song. It’s also an amazing question. What is love, really? I love my parents; I love fall weather; I love guitar; I love burgers. But what does it mean? The ancient Greeks had multiple words for love, so we will “Greek-out” in exploring multiple definitions of this simple word.
Let’s start with the definition that’s maybe the most commonly used (and abused)- eros. The English word “erotic” comes from this word. Defined as romantic and/or sexual love, it comes and goes quickly. This is usually what is meant when someone says they are “in love.” It is passionate, intense, and usually finds itself in short bursts; it is not maintained at a constant rate.
Phileo is the concept of “brotherly love,” or love between friends. This entails taking special interest in someone and building a connection. There is commonly enjoyment that is experienced with phileo. As it grows, it often develops into loyalty. It is love based on give-and-take.
The third word we will explore is storge. Translated as ‘affection,’ it is based on familiarity and the natural flow of roles- as found in a family. Present in close relationships, it can be easy to expect this as a way of life. Storge may take the form of a hug when you leave the house, an “I love you” at the end of a phone call, or helping complete a task for someone. This acceptance of others does not require passion or excitement. Another way to look at it is “motherly love.”
The last word is agape. Unconditional at its core, this love gives and expects nothing in return. Regardless of the circumstance or reason, this is a love that, well, loves- despite feelings or reasons to the contrary. In the Bible, when it says “God is love,” (in 1 John 1:8) this is the word that’s being used. In Matthew 5:44, “love your enemies” is agape love; it is freely given, not under compulsion or fear- but chosen.
What is love? What definition do you use when you say “love”? Which one do you want to use? This post is intentionally different from the rest in that I usually give a takeaway application. This time, I leave the application to you. In the midst of Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Christmas shopping, end of the year company goals, determining tax deductions, and the like, will you take a second to ponder these meanings and how they are relevant to you? May you be blessed in this season.