February is the month of love, where we celebrate Valentine’s Day and shower our loved ones with flowers, candy, and cards. But how do you define love, really?
Though in English we only have one word for love, ancient Greek had four distinct words. In the Bible, there are four types of love mentioned: eros, storge, philia, and agape. Each of these references a specific kind of love between different people.
C.S. Lewis explored each of these in his book The Four Loves, where he explains each type in depth.
The Greek word eros is the basis for the English word erotic, which refers to romantic love. Eros is the type of love a husband and wife would feel for each other. It is not meant to refer to feelings of lust but instead the long-term love and understanding that two people in love would feel for one another.
More of a familial form of love, storge could be described as the love between close relatives, like parents and children or brothers and sisters. It is the type of love we see when a mother smiles at her baby or when parents cheer on their child’s first steps.
We see this kind of love echoed in the bonds between all close family members, including pets. C.S. Lewis dubbed this type of love as “affection” for the familiar things and people in our homes and everyday lives.
This type of love is similar to storge, but philia is the love we feel for our closest friends, those non-familial relationships that are most important to us. You have likely heard the nickname for Philadelphia, “the city of brotherly love.”
C.S. Lewis argues that this might be the most forgotten and under-celebrated love, but it plays an important part in our lives. Philia could even be expanded to include the love church members have for one another or for other churches.
The greatest of all forms of love, agape love could be described as the unconditional love God feels for us. It is a love with no conditions or strings attached. This is the type of love referenced in John 3:16, where God loved the world so much that He sent His son to die for us.
“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.” John 3:16
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