Throughout the generations, human beings have come to describe love in various ways. As Christians, we find its embodiment in God and that often contrasts with the many definitions described by man over the generations.
One thing is clear: not all love is created equal. What do I mean? I mean that there are different types of love. We even see Jesus Christ in the New Testament making this clear when He asked whether Peter loved Him. English often just says love but the Greek uses different words, indicating different types. In fact, in the Greek in Christ’s time there were 4 known types: Eros, Phileo, Agape, and Storge.
Eros – erotic/sensual/intimate love, idealistic – of the body – the kind between a husband and wife.
Phileo – described as brotherly – of the soul – it is specific to bonds shared with others. This can be between individuals within the family or friends. Christ had this toward His disciples.
Agape – parental, mature, sacrificial – of the other – this is the sort that would lead one to put themselves into harms way in order to protect the one they love. Most clearly seen in the works of Christ and on the cross.
Storge – dutiful – of community and family – it is a loyalty that can sometimes seem unfeeling. This love, though described in the Greek, wasn’t truly given a place from Christ’s angle. In fact, you typically only see the first 3 used in Scripture with particular emphasis on Phileo and Agape.
It is important to note that the relationships we have with others will often incorporate more than 1 type of love. For example, Phileo and Agape could be easily mixed and in the case of family, even eros too. Regardless, Scripture clearly emphasizes Agape. As Christians, we are called to “die to self” which would even hamper phileo love. Phileo may not sound bad but, unlike agape, it does have a centered-ness toward one’s self in the relationship which can easily lead down the wrong path if not careful.
I bring these types of love up because American culture today, while it realizes there is different types of love, often ignores the distinctions between the types and instead tries to either lump them all together or somehow make eros the pinnacle of a progression. This has lead to all sorts of ideas of love that have lead people down various wrong courses of action in the name of “love”.
Wherever we find ourselves in life, we must remember that we have access to the true source and definition of love in Jesus Christ, the God made flesh. We must turn to Him and His word if we are to know love and to act out our love correctly.