Love as a word describes an emotion with vastly differing degrees of intensity. We can say we love ice cream and chocolate, and we can pledge our love to a husband or wife until our dying breath.
Love is one of the most powerful emotions we can experience. Humans crave love from the moment of existence. And the Bible tells us that God is love. For Christian believers, love is the true test of genuine faith.
Four unique forms of love are found in the Bible. They are communicated through four Greek words: Eros, Storge, Philia, and Agape. We’ll explore these different types of love characterized by romantic love, family love, brotherly love, and God’s divine love. As we do, we’ll discover what love really means, and how to follow Jesus Christ’s command to “love one another.”
Eros (Pronounced: AIR-ohs) is the Greek word for sensual or romantic love. The term originated from the mythological Greek god of love, sexual desire, physical attraction, and physical love, Eros, whose Roman counterpart was Cupid.
Promiscuity of all types was rampant in ancient Greek culture and was one of the obstacles the apostle Paul had to battle when planting churches in the eastern Mediterranean. In 1 Corinthians, Paul warns young believers against succumbing to immorality. Even though the term eros is not found in the Old Testament, Song of Solomon vividly portrays the passion of erotic love. The Bible’s prohibition of sex outside of marriage necessarily limits erotic love to married couples.
Storge (Pronounced: STOR-jay) is a term for love in the Bible that you may not be familiar with. This Greek word describes family love, the affectionate bond that develops naturally between parents and children, and brothers and sisters.
Many examples of family love are found in Scripture, such as the mutual protection among Noah and his wife, the love of Jacob for his sons, and the strong love the sisters Martha and Mary had for their brother Lazarus. An interesting compound word using storge, “philostorgos,” is found in Romans 12:10, which commands believers to “be devoted” to one another with brotherly affection.
Philia (Pronounced: FILL-ee-uh) is the type of intimate love in the Bible that most Christians practice toward each other. This Greek term describes the powerful emotional bond seen in deep friendships.
Philia is the most general type of love in Scripture, encompassing love for fellow humans, care, respect, and compassion for people in need. The concept of brotherly love that unites believers is unique to Christianity. Jesus said philia would be an identifier of his followers: “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples if you love one another.” (John 13:35, NIV)
Agape (Pronounced: Uh-GAH-pay) is the highest of the four types of love in the Bible. This term defines God’s immeasurable, incomparable love for humankind. It is the divine love that comes from God. Agape love is perfect, unconditional, sacrificial, and pure.
Jesus Christ demonstrated this kind of divine love to his Father and to all humanity in the way he lived and died. Following his resurrection, Jesus asked the apostle Peter if he loved him (agape). Peter replied three times that he did, but the word he used was phileo or brotherly love. Peter had not yet received the Holy Spirit at Pentecost; he was incapable of agape love. But after Pentecost, Peter was so full of God’s love that he spoke from his heart and 3,000 people were converted.
Love is heavily rooted in the character of God. We can love others, and show it through our actions, because God loved us first. God loves you more than you can imagine. And He loves you unconditionally, regardless of your behavior or what you’ve done. AV