The Greeks had four words to describe what we call love, Eros, (romantic love), Phileo, (enjoyment, fondness, friendship), Storge (family loyalty) and Agape (unconditional love with stick-ability). I like to think of them broadly as;
- Eros-A love felt particularly within the body (trembling excitement, elation, joy), coloured and underpinned by deep and beautiful procreative urges. C.S. Lewis distinguishes Eros from natural sexual urges and lusts, because Eros is a state of the heart and while it is intimately related to sex, sex can exist, and often does exist, without Eros enlivening it. It leads to children, family, joy and laughter. It is good and right, but it is usually not enough to sustain a relationship long term. Eros is an exulted and beautifully idealistic love, usually between a man and woman, but can also be “platonic” and extend to deeply intimate friendships. Socrates defined Eros as also working with the soul to recall knowledge of beauty, and in that capacity contributes to an understanding of spiritual truth; While Eros can simply be an earthy thing, when Spirit infused and elevated to it’s true position, it speaks deeply of universal mysteries, and is usually most keenly expressed within the most sacred of all relationships, that between husband and wife. Eros suggests that even sensually-based love aspires to the non-corporeal, spiritual plane of existence; that is, finding its truth, just like finding any truth, leads to transcendence. The elevated buzz of Erotic love is said to naturally fade within a year of its beginning. Perhaps it is too exhausting and all consuming? Perhaps we just get lazy? I don’t necessarily think it has to fade at all, and part of the purpose of this blog is to record my thoughts and experiences on Eros and how we can nurture and maintain this beautiful love in our lives.
- Phileo- If Eros is the love of the body, Phileo is the love of the soul. It is easy love and affection, it is bent towards our natural tastes and preferences. It embodies culture and beliefs. It’s about the friendship you feel towards people like you, with the same interests, social graces, and style. In the scriptures, this kind of friendship love is used to describe many relationships. God is said to have this kind of love for us and Jesus. Jesus felt this kind of love for his disciples, parents felt it about their children and children to their parents. It is not then a shallow love, but rich in emotion and feeling, like when your heart beams towards your child when they do something wonderful. However it is also described as a negative shallow love, natural and exclusive and conditional. Phileo is soul love, and it’s strength and value will depend on the elevation of the soul of the bearer.
- Agape-Is more of a parental, mature, sacrificial kind of love. The Thayer Lexicon describes agape beautifully when it says “to take pleasure in the thing, prize it above all other things, be unwilling to abandon it or do without it.” In a way it is as idealistic as Eros, in that it is a crazy love that will not let go. Agape loves, usually at cost to the bearer. Agape puts the beloved first and sacrifices pride, self interest and possessions for the sake of that beloved. This is the love that God has for us which inspired him to sacrifice His son and for His son to obey and sacrifice himself. It is the kind of love we are commanded to have for one another. It is a love of supreme greatness.
- Storge-This is the love of community and family. Often dutiful, sometimes unfeeling, but very strong none the less. It is a natural, carnal love, but powerful enough to be a real hindrance to spiritual growth, especially when family and culture are holding you down. It is a love that may pull you towards a lesser path.
Obviously, all of these loves work together, but only Agape is free from the error of our humanity. Agape is the glue that holds the other loves fast and gives us the wisdom and patience when the other loves fail. If we make it our goal to always be forgiving and merciful and believe in doing good to all men, and then do it, the other loves will stand, and your life will be full of the rich blessings of Phileo friendships and intimates of the sweetest and loveliest kind. You will stand up in the midst of your family and people and call them back to walk on pleasanter paths and on smoother highways. So, seek first the high love Agape; that sacrifices, forgives and believes; the love of Christ, freely given to those who ask and receive. Drink deeply of Christs love for you, for the fathers love for you, of this eternal and perfect love and all these other loves will be added unto you.