2008-02-12 - What is Love?
With Valentine's Day around the corner, the word love will be seeing a lot of use. "I love you" will be flowing from the lips of many people. Some will mean it but for others it will just be empty words. And yet, love is perhaps the most powerful word in any language. In English we have just the one word but the Greeks had three words for love in various degrees: eros, phileo, and agape.
Eros was the name of the Greek god who shot arrows at lovers; he is better known by his Roman name Cupid. This word eros is also the origin of the word erotic in English. It is a very sensual primal type love. It is all about what's in it for me. It is a love of others for pleasure that they bring to me. It's probably best summarized as lust.
Phileo is a deeper love. It is not all about me like eros might be but it is still emotional and can come and go but it is a stronger sense of love. In fact, it is the deepest love that non-Christians can have according to Scripture. "Beloved, let us (agape) love one another: for (agape) love is of God; and every one that (agape) loveth is born of God, and knoweth God." (1 John 4:7)
That brings us then to the deepest love - agape love. Agape is a love by will rather than emotion. It is a deliberate and willed choice to love someone not for what they do for you, or even what they are but just because you choose to. Agape love places no conditions on the object of affection. It is eternal; it is in fact God's very nature. (1 John 4:8)
We can see an interesting contrast in these words as we look at the interchange between Jesus and Peter recorded in John 21:15-18. Jesus asked Peter, "Do you agape me?" Peter responds, "I phileo you". Again, Jesus asked Peter, "Do you agape me?" Again Peter responds, "I phileo you." Then Jesus grieves Peter by lowering the level of love in his question to Peter's level, "Do you phileo me?"
Peter wasn't quite ready to give his whole heart to Christ unconditionally it seems. Perhaps he is still trying to make sense of the whole death and resurrection thing that happened not too long ago. Our Lord's question still rings in my ears today, "Do you agape me?"
"Adam - do you agape me?"
And this is [agape] love, that we walk after his commandments. This is the commandment, That, as ye have heard from the beginning, ye should walk in it. (2 John 1:6)
"Adam, do you agape me? Will you deliberately obey me even if it's not easy, convenient, or pleasurable? Do you agape me?"
Sadly there are times where I must say, "No Lord I don't agape you; I phileo you but some of what you ask me to do is just too hard."
God - forgive me for not loving you as you wish me too. Give me the strength and resolve to walk in your will the remainder of my days. This day I choose to agape you. This day I give my life to you wholly and unconditionally. Use me however you will. Amen.
All scripture references from KJV unless otherwise noted