We hear a lot about love, ‘love is all we need,’ a line from a popular Beetle’s song that became quite popular in American culture back in the 60’s and 70’s. But what kind of love were they referring to? There’s more than one. ‘Eros,’ from the Greek language meaning desire and longing, where we get the term ‘erotica’ from, is the sensual kind of love based on physical attraction and is sexual love between a man and a woman. It’s primarily selfish and self-gratifying. What the pop culture means whenever it uses the term ‘love,’ is typically the sentimental, shallow, sensual, and self-seeking kind. It’s not the kind of love that can endure hardship, suffering, persecution, oppression, or that keeps commitments because it’s based so much on feelings which can be fickle. ‘The basic idea in eros is getting something for yourself. While it may involve a genuine feeling for someone else, that feeling is kindled by the attractiveness of that person and by the excitement, pleasure, and satisfaction which we believe that person will afford us. Eros poses as love for another but is actually love for oneself. It says, “I love you because you make me happy.” Its foundation is some characteristic in the other person that pleases us, such as beauty, charm, warmth, kindness, or talent. If that characteristic is taken away there is nothing left, and it dies. This kind of love looks primarily for what it can get. It may give a little, but the motive is usually to get something in return for what it gives. If it fails to get what it wants, it may turn to resentment, bitterness, or hatred.’
Another, more altruistic kind of ‘love’ considers other people as being equally entitled to the world’s resources. This kind of love requires some giving and sharing, even some selflessness. ‘Phileo’ is a brotherly type of love from the Greek term which means to ‘like’ or ‘befriend.’ Philia, the next higher level of love, relates to the soul rather than to the body. It touches the human personality—the intellect, the emotions, and the will. It involves a mutual sharing. We choose friends because of the pleasure we derive from being with them. There are personal qualities in them that we appreciate, intellectual and cultural interests that we share, and mutual self-expression that we find satisfying. We derive something enjoyable from the relationship, but we are also willing to give our fair share. This giving is not free from selfish motivation, but the selfishness is largely obscured by a sense of togetherness. Philia is a higher level of love than eros in that “our” happiness is involved rather than merely “my” happiness. Philia is love’s halfway mark—give a little, get a little; a fifty-fifty proposition.
There exists yet another kind of love, the kind Jesus displayed during His earthly ministry, and which is taught in the Bible as the kind of love Christians ought to exhibit. ‘Agape,’ is a perfect or mature kind of love that doesn’t rely upon feelings; it’s a choice or an act of your will. With agape, you choose to love despite your feelings. Agape is selfless, sacrificial, unconditional love, the highest of the types of love. It does not seek pleasure for itself, but instead delights in giving. It is not kindled by the merit or worth of its object, but originates in its own God-given nature. Agape keeps on loving even when its object is unresponsive, unkind, unlovable, or completely unworthy. It desires only the good of the one loved. It lives to make the loved one happy, whatever the personal cost or sacrifice. It doesn’t give fifty percent and expect fifty percent in return. It gives one hundred percent and expects nothing in return! https://bible.org/seriespage/5-i-m-love *For definitions of the three types, see the Footnotes.
Feelings are vacillating and don’t always lead us to do what’s best for our fellow man. Perfect love, the God-kind of love, doesn’t depend upon soulish feelings, but upon principles like selflessness, treating others as you want to be treated, caring for the poor and orphans, the disenfranchised of the world, and your neighbors, whoever they may be. Jesus taught these principles during His ministry, which were written down in the books of the New Testament. To get a full understanding of love in the Bible, you have to read all of it, for there are many examples given of how to love with godly love within its pages. Here are a few examples from the Holy Bible on ‘phileo’ and ‘agape’ love —-
Mat 5:42 Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.
Mat 5:44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
Mat 5:46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have?
Mat 22:37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.
Mat 22:39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
Joh 13:34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.
Joh 13:35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Joh 14:15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.
Rom 5:8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Rom 12:9 Let love be genuine.
Rom 13:9 For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
Rom 13:10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.
This passage sums it up nicely I think —-
1Co 13:1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.
1Co 13:2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.
1Co 13:3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.
1Co 13:4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant
1Co 13:5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;
1Co 13:6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.
1Co 13:7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
1Co 13:8 Love never ends.
Col 3:12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience,
Col 3:13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.
Col 3:14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.
So, where does your Love-meter point? Does it point to the God-kind of love, to the brotherly kind, or to the lustful, sensual kind which seeks only to fulfill its own needs? With all the hatred, prejudice, murder, wars, and greed, in the world today, there’s a huge vacuum of the God-kind of love. It would seem reasonable to take personal inventory of our daily words and actions to see what kind of love is being displayed in our lives, and then take whatever steps are necessary to cultivate God’s kind of love in our hearts. One way to do this is to meditate, chew and digest the parts of God’s Word which teach us what godly love is and how to truly love ourselves and others, and let them go down deep into our psyches. When done regularly and consistently, meditating on God’s words will transform you; a process called, “renewing your mind” –
Rom 12:2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Eph 4:22 to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires,
Eph 4:23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds,
Col 3:10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.
To love as God loves is a goal to aim for, even though we often fall short of it. Without the Holy Spirit residing within us, it’s really difficult to love with totally pure motives, which is why everyone needs to be ‘born again’ – John 3:3-8.
God sees deeply into our souls and knows our motives. He cares about everyone, small and great, rich and poor, strong and weak. What we think, feel, say, and do – matters very much to Him. May it matter to us as well.
Debra R. Stout, February 13, 2016
eros, 1: the Greek god of erotic love — compare cupid 2: the sum of life-preserving instincts that are manifested as impulses to gratify basic needs, as sublimated impulses, and as impulses to protect and preserve the body and mind — compare death instinct 3a : love conceived by Plato as a fundamental creative impulse having a sensual element [Merriam-Webster Dictionary]
phileō G5368 φιλέω From G5384; to be a friend to (fond of [an individual or an object]), that is, have affection for (denoting personal attachment, as a matter of sentiment or feeling; while G25 is wider, embracing especially the judgment and the deliberate assent of the will as a matter of principle, duty and propriety: the two thus stand related very much as G2309 and G1014, or as G2372 and G3563 respectively; the former being chiefly of the heart and the latter of the head); specifically to kiss (as a mark of tenderness): – kiss, love.
agapē G26 ἀγάπη
1) brotherly love, affection, good will, love, benevolence
2) love feasts
agapaō 1) to love dearly