(Warning – mature content, parental guidance, items of a sexual nature are discussed)
In Agape – First Things First – Christians Love we learn that the love of God is the great commandment of God and the mark of the true believer. But not every place that the word love is used in our English Bible does it mean this love of God.
There are four different Greek words translated love in the English Bible, and they mean different things.
The four words are:
- Agape – unselfish, unconditional love
- Phileo – friendship
- Eros – sexual, romantic love
- Storge – familial affection
The Definition of Love is a Huge Cultural Topic.
There are some popular songs along the line of love is just love. In fact, Love is Love is a popular song by Grace Potter. It’s a song about infidelity where love is the justification for it.
LeeAnn rhymes wrote a named song Love is Love is Love which is a pro LGBTQ song. Here are some of the lyrics:
politics and religion
Everyday they’re starting wars
And we believe we’re not the hateful, no no
When we can dance with the worst of them
When we can sing with our enemies “
In this song, LeAnn projects that anyone that disagrees with the LGBTQ agenda is a hater. But in the song, she does promote hating the hate, not the hater. Hating the sin, not the sinner has been a theme in Christianity for who knows how long.
Love is love is an LGBTQ mantra sold on T-shirts and other paraphernalia. A visit to a gay pride site reveals that mantra along with things like, being Bi is not a choice, being gay is not a choice, being trans is not a choice, do you know what is a choice? Homophobia!.i And then the mantra Love is Love. The LGBTQ point being that any of those lifestyles is not by choice (see H2 Born Gay: Scientific Fact or False Idol of Bad Science?) and they do involve the argument that love and any kind of love is love and is therefore okay and anyone who disagrees with that is just wrong and a hater and so on and so forth.
But, even people in those camps will draw the line at some things. For example, incest. Incest is sex between immediate family members, and in some jurisdictions, first, or even second cousins. For example, in the United States over half of the states ban sexual relations between cousins while the remainder does not. That begs the question of whether love is love there.
Or even more taboo, bestiality! Did you know that bestiality is not illegal in ten states in the US?ii There are three countries in Europe where it is still legal.iii But in most places it is taboo. Sexual love between people and animals in those places banning bestiality is not considered love. Do the people in favor of bestiality call the rest of us bestiphobes?.
There are even groups that advocate for the decriminalization of pedophilia. That is another love that today almost everyone sees as taboo. But the point is that the procession of homosexuality from taboo to legal is an example that what is taboo today could be legal tomorrow. That is true especially if the rule is that all love is love. But the truth is that not all love is love everywhere under all conditions. The disagreement then is what are legitimate conditions. Fifty years ago the argument was for free love, that is sexual love outside of marriage to be acceptable. Today the push is for LGBTQ loves to be acceptable. What is coming tomorrow?
Examples of Different Kinds of Love in the Bible.
Agape – the Love of God
Agape love is the topic of Agape – First Things First – Christians Love. Basically, the greatest love in the Bible is agape. In fact, it is written that God is love:
Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. (1Jn 4:8 ESV)
The words used for love in the above verse are both the verb and noun forms of the Greek word agape.
As we saw in the above-mentioned article agape is the love that we as Christians are called to live.
While it is hard to put into words the greatness of this love we must try. Agape love, the love of God, is the subject of many verses in the Bible including first Corinthians chapter 13:
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 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. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. (1Co 13:1-13 ESV)
Some of the highlights to me are that Love is patient, kind, rejoicing, and enduring. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and never ends. Of all the fruit of the Spirit it is the most powerful and important.
It is impossible to quantify this love. In I John it is written that God is love. That is so huge! Agape, the love of God, is God himself, Everything that you can imagine about being good and awesome is in there and then some. That’s our God and that’s the love that we are called to live.
Phileo Love – Friendship
Phileo love is a category of love that refers th that special bond between friends:
… there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. (Pro 18:24b ESV)
Here we see a closeness referred to that is closer than family. That is the potential of friendship.
In the Bible a very interesting place where we see this friendship love being talked about is regarding Lazarus:
Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent to him, saying, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” (Joh 11:1-3 ESV)
Now we all know this great story of Lazarus and how Jesus waited until Lazarus was actually dead before he came to heal him. And the resulting miracle is of great note in that Lazarus was raised from the dead.
But this is also an illustration of the fact that our Lord and Savior had friends. Verse three refers to the person that Jesus loved, and the word love there is phileo. Another way to translate it would’ve been “was friends with.”
A very interesting example in the Scripture that contrasts two Greek words, agape, and phileo is in John chapter 21:
When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. (Joh 21:15-17 ESV)
The first two times that Jesus asked Peter if he loves him he uses the word agape, but Peter responds with the word phileo. The third time that Jesus asked Peter if he loves them he uses the word phileo, and again Peter responds with phileo. In the English, this looks like they’re using the same word but in the Greek, we see that they are not which shines new light on what is going on here. Jesus is asking Peter if he loves him with the love of God to which Peter never responds that he does. But he does respond that he loves him as a friend. In the end, Jesus charges him to feed his sheep, to pastor his flock.
We are not called to have this special phileo love with everyone. In fact, Paul writes:
If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. (Rom 12:18 ESV)
This verse expresses the reality that you will not be able to live as peaceably with some as others. Not everyone will be that special phileo friend, but we still are called to agape love them,
And not all friendships are good! Look at these verses:
Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.” (1Co 15:33 ESV)
Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm. (Pro 13:20 ESV)
One who is righteous is a guide to his neighbor, but the way of the wicked leads them astray. (Pro 12:26 ESV)
Do not envy a man of violence and do not choose any of his ways, for the devious person is an abomination to the LORD, but the upright are in his confidence. (Pro 3:31-32 ESV)
You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. (Jas 4:4 ESV)
Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets; therefore do not associate with a simple babbler. (Pro 20:19 ESV)
There are some strong admonitions here. You may be attracted to certain people as friends who are not good for you. Basically, if someone is following the ways of the world they may be an influence for you to do likewise. Stay away from the violent person, the devious person, the foolish person, the babbler. Don’t make friends with people that will increase your temptation to sin!
If you tend to drink too much stay away from people who drink too much. Any person that manifests a tendency to do things that tempt you is probably not a good person for you. People get caught up in all kinds of things; lying, stealing, gossiping, envying, being lazy, hooking up (sexually), drugs. And it may not be apparent right away.
That isn’t to say you can’t be friends with a person with flaws because we all have flaws. But being friends with someone who is weak in a flaw that you are also weak in is flirting with disaster.
On the other hand, there are cases where God calls people to help flawed people with caution:
Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. (Gal 6:1 ESV)
There is a great benefit of friendship. If you are caught up in some flaw and someone could help you get out of it, wouldn’t that be great? Or maybe you could be the inspiration for someone else to overcome something! How great would that be!
That brings us to something else. The bible has some good things to say about the benefits of friends:
A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity. (Pro 17:17 ESV)
Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! (Ecc 4:9-10 ESV)
How great it is to have a friends to help each other out in times of need,
Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another. (Pro 27:17 ESV)
You want to have sharp friends! And you should want to be a sharp friend yourself.
Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets, but he who is trustworthy in spirit keeps a thing covered. (Pro 11:13 ESV)
Are you a person that blabs everything they hear? You won’t be a good friend. Good friends keep secrets so that there is trust. With trust, you can feel safe. Good friends can confide in each other.
And the Bible teaches us that it is not about how many friends you have but how good they are. Good, good friends are precious gifts:
A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. (Pro 18:24 ESV)
Eros – Sexual, Romantic Love
Sexual love is its own category. We are attracted to some people and not to others. That, of course, does mean that God okays pursuing every attraction we feel. King David was severely admonished for chasing his attraction with Bathsheba, a married women. She got pregnant! David schemed to cover it up! When he couldn’t he schemed to have Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah, a valiant man, killed! God sent Samuel to reprove David for his sin:
And the LORD sent Nathan to David. He came to him and said to him, “There were two men in a certain city, the one rich and the other poor. The rich man had very many flocks and herds, but the poor man had nothing but one little ewe lamb, which he had bought. And he brought it up, and it grew up with him and with his children. It used to eat of his morsel and drink from his cup and lie in his arms, and it was like a daughter to him. Now there came a traveler to the rich man, and he was unwilling to take one of his own flock or herd to prepare for the guest who had come to him, but he took the poor man’s lamb and prepared it for the man who had come to him.” Then David’s anger was greatly kindled against the man, and he said to Nathan, “As the LORD lives, the man who has done this deserves to die, and he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity.” Nathan said to David, “You are the man! Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you out of the hand of Saul. And I gave you your master’s house and your master’s wives into your arms and gave you the house of Israel and of Judah. And if this were too little, I would add to you as much more. Why have you despised the word of the LORD, to do what is evil in his sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and have taken his wife to be your wife and have killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. Now therefore the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised me and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.’ Thus says the LORD, ‘Behold, I will raise up evil against you out of your own house. And I will take your wives before your eyes and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun. For you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel and before the sun.’”
(2Sa 12:1-12 ESV)
This isn’t just about the murder of Uriah. Samuel says David despised God by taking another man’s wife. This is definitely against infidelity and adultery as not being something to pursue because love is love.
However, God is in favor of sexual love and believers have celebrated it throughout history. The Song of Solomon is in many ways an erotic poem. You don’t have to go further than the first verses to see that this is about love in the bedroom:
Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth! For your love is better than wine; your anointing oils are fragrant; your name is oil poured out; therefore virgins love you. Draw me after you; let us run. The king has brought me into his chambers. Others We will exult and rejoice in you; we will extol your love more than wine; rightly do they love you. (Son 1:2-4 ESV)
“His chambers” is his bedroom! This whole book is talking about romantic, sexual love.
The Greek word Eros isn’t found in the New Testament other than being in the root of a name: Erastus. But it is in the Old Testament as found in the Septuagint. It’s found in the context of both legal and illicit love. Here’s an example of “legal” use.
the king loved Esther more than all the women, and she won grace and favor in his sight more than all the virgins, so that he set the royal crown on her head and made her queen instead of Vashti. (Est 2:17 ESV)
The king loved (eros, romantic, sexual love) Esther more than all the women.
In the next verse, the word lover has as its root this erotic, sexual love. This is in the context of illicit love as it involves the multiple lovers of a loose woman:
Now I will uncover her lewdness in the sight of her lovers, and no one shall rescue her out of my hand. (Hos 2:10 ESV)
The love that a man and his wife share is this eros love. But, interestingly, when the husbands are commanded to love their wives the word used is agape, not eros!
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, (Eph 5:25 ESV)
Husbands aren’t commanded to romantically love their wives here, rather, they are commanded to love with the love of God. The commandment is that husbands are not just to love their wives romantically and sexually, but with the whole love of God.
In like manner, in the context of the LGBTQ mantra, “Love is Love”, any kind of romantic, sexual love falls in the eros category which is clearly different from the agape love that we as believers are commanded to live. Eros love is not Agape love. Again, while the Love is Love mantra certainly has an emotional charge to it, it has flaws in its argument.
Storge Love or Lack of it
The last Greek word, storge, that we’re going to look at is found in the New Testament only in its opposite sense. By that I mean the word is used in a couple of places to indicate a lack of appropriate affection:
They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. (Rom 1:29-31 ESV)
The word heartless above is the Greek word storge meaning hard-hearted, heartless, without natural affection toward. Another example is:
For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, (2Ti 3:2-3 ESV)
Again, storge is translated heartless here. Both these examples show lists of sins, deficiencies, that mark people that are the opposite of true believers.
The theme here is to guard against losing your natural affection and becoming hard-hearted.
There they are, the four words for love in the Bible; agape, phileo, eros, and storge, They all have their place. If we want to live in holiness, we need to be careful to love in each of these categories in the way God has called us. Just because we are attracted to a person in either a friend way or a romantic one does not mean that it is a good thing as God has called us to be holy in all the ways we love.
iiFor Nat’l Cousins Day, 3 Legal Facts About Cousin Relations, https://blogs.findlaw.com/law_and_life/2014/07/for-natl-cousins-day-3-legal-facts-about-cousin-relations.html
iiiDenmark passes law to ban bestiality, http://www.bbc.co.uk/newsbeat/article/32411241/denmark-passes-law-to-ban-bestiality