Agape love is God’s divine love that He lavishly and limitlessly pours out upon humanity. True love–God’s definition of love–is selfless, sacrificial, and beneficial for others.
If we want to know what love is, looks like, and does, we need only to look to Jesus Christ who, unmarred by sin, manifests love in all He does. John, “the beloved disciple,” wrote: “God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him” (1 John 4:8b–9 ESV). According to Jesus, love looks like laying your life down for the good of others (1 John 3:16). It’s obeying God’s commandments (John 14:21–24). Love is not reserved for the most deserving. It’s equally lavished on friend and foe (Matthew 5:44).
Each of these Scriptures uses the Greek word, agape. This type of love encompasses a weighty meaning, which is infinite, perfect, all-satisfying and unending for all of humanity. Agape is the most transformative love found in the Bible because it’s how God loves us and calls us to love others. Agape love chooses us first, makes us new and invites us into a lifetime of loving others as He loves us.
The concept of eros fills the pages of the Bible’s steamiest book—Song of Solomon— that describes the romance between a young shepherd and a shepherdess. As the engaged couple anticipate their wedding day, they write provocative poems about how they yearn to surrender body and soul to one another in their marriage bed. In fact, according to theologian Matthew Henry, the poetry was considered so racy that “Jewish doctors once advised their
young people not to read it till they were 30 years old.”
Romantic and sexual love shows most plainly how vastly the world’s definition of love differs from God’s. In the realm of sex, God’s vision for love has been called everything from prudish to irrelevant. Constraints of any fashion are viewed by the world as unnecessary forms of control that squelch sexual freedom. From God, we learn that love blesses, not breaks. True love gives, not takes. In their Bible study guide, Complement: Seeing the Beauty of Marriage
Through Scripture, Aaron and Jamie Ivey write, “If God doesn’t value sex, why would He spend so much time teaching us how to protect it from being distorted, misused or misunderstood? God sets boundaries around sex not to keep people from enjoying it, but to show its preciousness, its sacredness, its high value.” Passion, desire and sexual intimacy were all God’s ideas and gifts to us to be fully enjoyed and expressed within the confines of a covenant marriage.
Phileo love describes the bond of deep friendship, and is used in the Bible when Jesus wept over the death of his friend, Lazarus. “The Jews said, ‘See how he loved him!’” (John 11:36 ESV) Even though Jesus knew He would raise His friend to life, He wept over his death and joined His friends Mary and Martha in mourning the death of their brother. Phileo is also used when Jesus and Peter reconcile on the beach after Jesus’ resurrection and Peter’s denial of Him. Jesus asks Peter three times, “Do you love me?” The first two times, Jesus uses the word agape. The third time, he says phileo.
Friendship is based on two or more people who share affections, cares, aspirations, hopes or hobbies. Friendship is a gift from God and should never be taken for granted. Jesus could have rescued us from hell without befriending us along the way, but He didn’t. He chose to show us how to navigate friendship by entering into it Himself. In The Four Loves, C.S. Lewis described it like this: “Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art, like the universe itself (for God did not need to create). It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which gives value to survival.” Friendships are special and beautifully “unnecessary” gifts that we steward with the love God has given us.
According to The Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon, storge love is “cherishing one’s kindred, especially parents or children; the mutual love of parents and children and wives and husbands.” The word kindred is not often used in modern vocabulary, but it has a most profound meaning. To be someone’s kindred you need to be one
of three things: family by blood, family by marriage or family by adoption.
In the Bible, family goes beyond the nuclear family of shared DNA. Anyone who has been adopted into the family of God through the blood of Jesus is our family, our kindred.
Paul used a combination of two types of love—friend love and family love—in his call to “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor” (Romans 12:10 ESV). We are called to treat all brothers and sisters in Christ with the same devotion and care as we would our own family members. The blood of Jesus makes us more than just strangers on a pew. We are a family who will spend all of eternity together.
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