We use the word so often, but do we really know what it means?
The dictionary gives three definitions of love:
‘Profoundly tender,’ ‘warm attachment’ and ‘sexual passion’.
How do we know what people mean by ‘love’ if it can be defined in such different ways?
The way we talk about love is paving the way for confusion, miscommunication, and heartache. Unfortunately, we can’t change the way our entire culture uses this word.
But, we can change the way we understand it. We can understand love better, more deeply, and more biblically.
There are eight words in the Ancient Greek language that are all translated in English Bibles as ‘love’. You have to wonder–how much meaning do we miss because these differences have been ignored?
Four of these words, in particular, can impact the way we view love in the 21st-century.
Philia. Companionable love. For healthy, mutual relationships, that we actively choose to pursue. It is ‘warm attachment’ shared equally between friends. It is a choice to be loyal and intentional.
Storge. Love for those we think of as family. Deeper than circumstance, storge comes from affection and obligation. It’s why we sometimes have to say ‘I love you, but I don’t always like you.’
Eros. The ‘Cupid’s arrow’ kind of love. It describes ‘sexual passion’ but it can come from emotional connection, too. Regardless, Eros comes from what can be gained, supplied, or enjoyed.
Finally, agape. A love without conditions, selfishness, or blemish. It is ‘profoundly tender,’ patient and kind, not jealous or proud or rude–all according to 1 Corinthians 13. We’ve all heard 1 John 4:8: ‘God is love’. More accurately, ‘God is agape.’
So next time you tell someone that you love them, stop to think. Which ‘love’ are you really feeling? It may not be one of these four, and it’s likely to be more than one at the same time.
Regardless, taking the time to stop and identify our feelings will show us just how complex they are. More profoundly, it will show us just what the Bible means when it says that ‘God is love.’