FOUR TYPES OF LOVE
By A. J. Watkins D.Min. © March 2002
There is much confusion today on the subject of love because we are limited to only one English word (love) with a broad range of meanings. For example, if someone said, “I love my wife, I love my dog, I love apple pie,” obviously they are not talking about love in the same degree or definition.
In the New Testament period there were four major Greek words that were used.
Eros Love – A word that was not actually used in the New Testament but was alluded to. It meant physical passion; its gratification and fulfillment. The Greek word is probably not used in the New Testament because the origin of the word came from the mythical god Eros, the god of love. It is inferred in many scriptures and is the only kind of love that God restricts to a one-man, one-woman relationship within the bounds of marriage (Heb. 13:4; Song 1:13; 4:5-6; 7:7-9; 8:10; 1 Cor. 7:25; Eph. 5:31).
Storge Love– Storge is the natural bond between mother and infant, father, children, and kin. William Barclay states, “We cannot help loving our kith and kin; blood is thicker than water” (N.T. Words, 1974).
Phileo Love – Phileo love is a love of the affections. It is delighting to be in the presence of another, a warm feeling that comes and goes with intensity. The Bible encourages it but it is never a direct command. God never commands phileo since this type of love is based on the feelings. God Himself did not phileo the world but rather operated in agape love towards us. I cannot have a warm tender feeling toward an enemy but I can agape love them.
Agape Love – Agape love is God’s kind of love. It is seeking the welfare and betterment of another regardless of how we feel. Agape does not have the primary meaning of feelings or affection. Jesus displayed it when he went to the cross and died for you and me regardless of how He felt. In the gospels Jesus prayed, “Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt” (Mt. 26:39; Mk. 14:36; Lk. 22:41-43; Jn. 18:11). Jesus sought the betterment of you and me, regardless of His feelings. Matthew 7:12 states it this way, “So whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them; for this is the law and the prophets”
We can agape our enemies regardless of how we feel. If they are hungry, we can feed them; if they thirst we can give them a drink (Rom. 12:20-21). We can choose to seek the betterment and welfare of others regardless of how we feel.
Jesus was the greatest expression of love that ever came into the world, but it is never recorded that he ever said the words, “I love you!” Why? because 95 percent of all love is non-verbal. Jesus did not love with just words but in deed and truth (1 Jn. 3:18). If your actions contradict your words, what are people going to believe, your words or your actions? Your actions of course. Vine’s Expository Dictionary states, “Love can be known only from the actions it prompts” (p. 21).
The following is a description of agape love, also called “Charity” in the New Testament (1 Cor. 13). This paraphrase is based upon research of the Greek and English words and their meanings in 1 Cor. 13:4-8.
LOVE SUFFERETH LONG – God’s love has a tolerance for and endures trying situations and persons beyond an average standard. God’s love is patient.
LOVE IS KIND – God’s love is of a friendly nature, generous, hospitable, warm-hearted, and good. God’s love is charitable and helpful, showing sympathy and understanding for others. It is considerate, forbearing, tolerant, courteous, and thoughtful, desiring only to promote another’s welfare. It is generous, liberal, and beneficial, demonstrating itself in kindly acts.
LOVE ENVIETH NOT – God’s love does not resent another’s good fortune or desire to have what is his. God’s love is not jealous and does not deprive another of what he has.
LOVE VAUNTETH NOT ITSELF – God’s love does not boast and brag or abound with self-praise. It is not vain or proud.
LOVE IS NOT PUFFED UP – God’s love is not high-minded or puffed up with pride.
LOVE DOTH NOT BEHAVE ITSELF UNSEEMLY – God’s love does not act, react, function, or perform in a manner which is in bad taste, improper, or in violation of what is right.
LOVE SEEKETH NOT HER OWN – God’s love does not demand its own way.
LOVE IS NOT EASILY PROVOKED – God’s love is not easily annoyed or incited to anger or resentment.
LOVE THINKETH NO EVIL – God’s love does not reason about or reflect upon that which causes or constitutes misfortune, suffering, difficulty, or the like. God’s love does not ponder upon wickedness.
LOVE REJOICETH NOT IN INIQUITY – God’s love feels joyful when right, sincerity, integrity, honesty, and truth prevail.
LOVE BEARETH ALL THINGS – God’s love makes it possible to withstand all stress and difficulty. Because God is love, He supports and carries on His own Person whatever is placed upon Him. God’s love protects, covers, and keeps off anything which threatens the benefit and welfare of another. God’s love holds back, refrains, and is tolerant and patient in all circumstances.
LOVE BELIEVETH ALL THINGS – God’s love puts faith in others, believing the best of everyone (without criticizing or looking for fault).
LOVE HOPETH ALL THINGS – God’s love persists in hoping, against all odds, in confidence and expectation of fulfillment of that which is promised.
LOVE ENDURETH ALL THINGS – God’s love causes one to carry on through, despite hardships.
LOVE NEVER FAILETH – God’s love never proves insufficient in duration or is unsuccessful in effectiveness. Love will never disappoint or prove undependable. God’s love goes on forever and will never come to an end.
Are you walking in love and trusting the Holy Spirit’s power for the manifestation of this virtue? (Gal. 5:22)
Sin is the transgression of the principles of love. Always let love be your highest aim and your greatest pursuit (1 Cor. 14:1).
We have all heard the old cliche: “Love makes the world go round.” There is more truth to that than you might realize. Love…Eternal Love, is indeed the Motivator or the First Cause of all existance. It was out of Love that the earth, the sun, the stars, indeed…the entire solar system, was Created. It was not an “accident”. It was for a purpose.
The four loves given to us by the Greeks are: Philios Love, Storge Love, Eros Love, and Agape Love. If you have not read the first three, please stop here and go back and do so. It is important, because the next Love we shall discuss on this page, Agape Love, is the Supernatural Glue that holds the other three in place for an Eternity.
Briefly, a recap:
Philios Love is the first of the four loves. It is a human love that is very selfish in nature. Stemming from man’s innate desire to be accepted and loved, it is selfish in nature and expects reward in loving the beloved.
Storge Love, the second of the four, is more of a maternal type of love. It too, is a human type of love. Though less selfish than Philios, it expects reward for loving the beloved as well. It is a more solid type of love, being instinctual in nature, but nonetheless, it must be “rewarded” to keep on loving.
And, finally, there is Eros Love, another human type of love. This is more of a physical type of love, yet it can also be nonphysical in nature. It too, is very self serving, and expects reward for loving. It is the love that is most often abused and misused, and confused for “love” when in fact, it is not “love” at all, but lust. This is the love that Hollywood has made billions on, tons of books and articles have been written about, and poets have pined and lamented over her beauty. Eros, as well as Philios and Storge, can be very beautiful loves such as a close friendship, a bonding between parent and child, or lover and beloved, and a sexual union of man and woman as One Body.
All three of the above named loves are human in nature, meaning that they do not “need” God to exist. They do exist on their own, either separately or in conjunction with one or both of the others. But, being “human” types of love, they tend towards entropy and wither and die, as all things human must die. Unless they find a way to be cohesive to each other, by a Bond beyond human strength and understanding, it is their destiny to dissolve, dissipate, and die. Fortunately, there is a Supernatural Element that can and does bond the three loves together in an Eternal way. That Supernatural Glue is Agape Love, or God’s Love, and that is what we shall discuss on this page.
I can think of no better way to begin my dissertation on Agape Love, than to quote the Words of Holy Scripture:
“If I speak in human and angelic tongues but I do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal. And if I have the gift of Prophecy and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge; if I have all faith so as to move mountains, but I do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, (love) is not pompous, It is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick tempered, it does not brood over injury, It does not rejoice over wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things. Love never fails.
If there are prophecies, they will be brought to nothing; if tongues, they will cease; if knowledge, it will be brought to nothing. For we know partially, and we prophesy partially, but when the Perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I used to talk as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; When I became a man, I put aside childish things. At present, we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face. At present, I know partially; then I shall know fully, as I am fully known.
So faith, hope, love remain, these three;
But the greatest of these is love.” – 1 Corinthians 13:1-13
The Apostle Paul gave to the world the most beautiful explanation on what love truly comprises. His words cannot be surpassed by any song, any love letter, any book, any poem, or any movie. His words are Eternal words, for they speak of God, and God’s Love…Agape.
Agape Love is God’s Love. It is Perfect, Total, Complete, Selfless, Undying, Unconditional, Eternal, and it is for all men, for all times. God is Love and Love is Good. All things created by God are Good. Read the Creation accounts in Genesis; notice that after everything God did and made, “He saw that it was Good”. God’s Goodness and Love are beauty Divine, incomprehensible to our finite minds. God is God, and therefore, Infinite, and because we are men, and finite, there is no possible way that we can ever totally comprehend or grasp the concept of Agape. We only know what God has revealed to be True. There is no way any human being, wise and educated, can ever know all there is to know about God….and therefore, God’s Love.
But we do know that God Created man in His own Image and Likeness, truly an act of Love. Why did God create man? Was He bored? Lonely? No. He created man simply because He is Love. That is God’s job: He Loves to Love. God does not need man to exist; man needs Him to exist. God holds all of Creation in His Hands, and therefore we are totally dependent on Him to sustain our very being.
If you take a look at the Words of Scripture, and the teachings of the Church, you will notice over and over that God has revealed His identity to man. Though it is a mystery to us, and something we cannot possibly understand, God has revealed that He is Three Persons…yet One God: The Father, The Son, and The Holy Spirit. In the Gospel of John, we learn that:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him: and without him was made nothing that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.” – John 1: 1-5
The “Word” that John refers to is the only Son of God, Jesus Christ. Through Him, all things were made. The words of John are only one instance in reference to the Trinity…now we have the Father and the Son. God first revealed His Trinity Personage in Genesis, when He said “Let us make man in our image; after our likeness.” (Gen 1:26). Christ taught the Apostles on numerous occasions that He would send His Spirit to be with them always, after He was gone. And, on Pentecost, He did just that. The Holy Spirit descended upon the Apostles, though they were in a locked room, in the form of Tongues of Fire, and filled them…and from there, they went out and taught about Jesus to the world. Thus, now we have the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Three Persons; One God. All equal in Being; All Divine; All God.
The Trinity is a Perfect model for Agape. The Father begot (not made) the Son, The Father Loves the Son, the Son loves the Father. Their combined Love for each other begets the Holy Spirit. So we see, that the Trinity is the Perfect model of Love…Pure Love. That is Agape Love.
Philios, Storge and Eros are all “human” loves….Agape, however, is God’s Love. Unlike a human love, Agape cannot die…for God cannot die. God is Eternal, and therefore, His Love is Eternal as well. Agape is also Perfect, it is Unconditional, it is Totally Forgiving. No human being that I am aware of, aside from Jesus Christ, had or has, or ever will have, the ability to love in this manner. How, then, can we as men taste of Agape? How can we possibly join our human loves to God’s Love? We can’t. But God can…and will…if we will let Him.
God is the Author of Love. He knows how the story ends, because He wrote the Book on Love.
And, if we trust Him, learn from Him, follow His teachings and His ways, then we too can share in His Agape Love…just as we too can share in His Eternal Life being finite men that one day must die.
When you have in place the elements of a loving and lasting relationship (Philios, Storge, and Eros), and combine, or allow in, Agape, you then have your love Eternally Bonded. And that is what God intended we do when He gave us the concept of Love. He meant for it to be Eternal. He meant for us to be with Him forever, and He meant that man and woman should become one…as He is One. But, He never intended that man and woman become one…and then seperate. That is absurd. If God intended man and woman to be One…don’t you think He also intended that union to be Eternal? And without God in the picture, that love is not love at all…it is merely a human emotion that turns to lust and confuses itself, and eventually fails and dies. It makes perfect sense to me to tap into the Divine plan for Love if you want to experience True Love. And, the only way to do that, is to come to know, LOVE, and Serve your God. When a man and a woman share that common bond of Faith, then, Agape can work. A couple that prays together…stays together.
We as humans can never completely know Agape in this lifetime, for we cannot completely know God in this lifetime. It is impossible. But, God knows us…each one of us…personally. And, He loves us…all of us…unconditionally, perfectly, totally, and undyingly. The major difference between Agape Love and all the others is this: Agape loves for loves sake. It expects no rewards, it wants nothing in return…except that love be given back to it. And the neat thing is that the more you give back to Agape, the MORE you receive in return. It is an unending well of strength and supply from which to draw, and if a couple can tap into this Well, their love will be an Eternal Love.
The words of the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 13 is Love. It is Agape. If I have all things human, (and that includes Philios, Storge, and Eros), but I have not Love (Agape), I have nothing. I am nothing. Agape Love is the Supernatural Glue that Eternally Bonds human love together. It is a love that is freely given by the Lover, and it expects nothing in return. The common bond of our Faith, the common thirst for Love of our God, the common need to learn more and more of His Love, is Agape…it is the Cement that bonds our human love into an Eternal Love…one that cannot possibly die.
AGAPE love always seeks the welfare and benefit of others. I cannot say I love someone and destroy them by my covetousness, lying, cheating, breaking up their family, etc. Love must stay within the boundaries of God’s commandments in order to not hurt others or yourself.
God is not mad at you. He loves you! Jesus said, “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and humble of heart; and ye shall find rest for your souls”! – (Matt. 11:28-29).