The Biblical Quartet of Love

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? 

Love is a concept that has been studied, written about, and debated for centuries, yet its true essence remains a mystery. As Christians, we believe that the Bible is the ultimate source of knowledge and guidance in our lives. And within its pages, we find not one, not two, but four types of love that are mentioned – agape, philia, storge, and eros. 

Though in English, we only have one word for love, ancient Greek had four distinct words.

C.S. Lewis explored each of these in his book The Four Loves, where he explains each type in depth.

Agape – The Love of God

Agape love, often referred to as divine love, is the highest form of love that exists. It’s the kind of love that God has for humanity and that He commands us to have for one another. It is selfless, sacrificial, unconditional, and everlasting. It’s a love that isn’t based on feelings or emotions but rather a decision to love without expecting anything in return. 

In John 3:16, one of the most quoted verses in the Bible, we see a powerful representation of agape love: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son…” God’s love for us was so great that He made the ultimate sacrifice, giving up His only Son so we could have eternal life. 

Agape love extends to the undeserving, the ungrateful, and even to the enemies. It’s the love that forgives, heals, and transforms lives. As Christians, we’re called to embody this love in our daily interactions, reflecting the love of our Heavenly Father to those around us.

Philia – The Love of Friendship

Philia love is often referred to as brotherly love or friendship love. It embodies the mutual affection between friends who share common values, interests, or activities. You have likely heard the nickname for Philadelphia, “the city of brotherly love.”

Unlike agape, philia love is more conditional and often involves some form of reciprocation. It’s the joy-filled bond that unites friends, the companionship we cherish, and the loyalty we uphold. In John 15:13, Jesus personifies philia love, stating, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” This scripture speaks to the depth and sacrifice that true friendship entails.

 It’s the kind of love that prompts us to support our friends during times of difficulty, rejoice with them in moments of triumph, and remain steadfast when their paths veer off course. As believers, our challenge is to cultivate philia love in our friendships, thereby strengthening our Christian fellowship and enriching our shared faith journey.

Eros – The Love of Romance

Eros love, often associated with romantic love, is characterized by deep, passionate affection between two individuals. Named after the Greek god of love and desire and forming the basis for the English word erotic, Eros embodies the attraction and desire that fuels romantic relationships. 

However, this love isn’t merely physical attraction; it’s also about emotional connection and intimacy. Eros love is beautifully depicted in the Song of Solomon, a poetic book in the Bible that celebrates the joy, beauty, and sacredness of marital love. In Song of Solomon 8:6-7, we see the depth of eros love articulated: “Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm; for love is as strong as death… many waters cannot quench love, rivers cannot sweep it away.” 

Here, love is portrayed as an all-consuming, unquenchable force. It’s the kind of love that deeply values and cherishes the other person. As Christians, we are called to honor and cultivate eros love within the sanctity of marriage, reflecting the divine design for human relationships.

Storge – The Love of Family

Storge represents familial love – the kind that exists between parents and children, siblings, and extended family members. This form of love is often characterized by natural affection, acceptance, and a deep sense of responsibility and commitment. 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.

Storge love is less about overwhelming passion or shared interests and more about inherent loyalty and unconditional love that is rooted in blood ties. In the Bible, the story of Ruth and Naomi is a classic example of storge love. 

Despite being widowed and having the option to leave, Ruth chose to stay with Naomi, her mother-in-law, displaying an extraordinary commitment that echoes the essence of storge love. Ruth 1:16 captures this beautifully: “Where you go, I will go; where you live, I will live. Your people will be my people, and your God my God.” As followers of Christ, we are urged to embody this love in our family relationships, honoring and cherishing the ties that bind us together.

Related Post: 4 Tips For Reading Through The Entire Bible

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