A search for the word love returns some interesting results. Like the Cheaters Guide to Love at the New Yorker. And did you know Goodreads has a list of 54,953 quotes on the subject? That’s 100 pages in your web browser! And I doubt if anyone could even count how many songs have been devoted to or that contain this one four letter word alone.
Love also has it’s own Saint and dedicated holiday in St. Valentine’s Day. If you don’t know much about him, check out my post on how Valentine sacrificially loved.
People have all kinds of views, conclusions, catchy phrases, and philosophies about love. And despite the misinformation the world tends to feed us on the subject, it’s an emotion that’s imperative to the human experience and one that I personally hope you have truly encountered. Even with its potential to hurt.
In the English language, we have one main word to communicate this emotion. We simply call it love and give it a description depending on the situation. But in the ancient world of the Greeks and the Romans, there are words to represent various kinds of love. Here’s a look at 6 of those and how knowing more about them can help you and maybe even better your relationships.
The Bible teaches us about 2 types of love: phileo and agape.
Phileo is brotherly love. It’s where we get the word Philadelphia from, which of course means City of Brotherly Love.
This is the kind of love we should experience within the church. It’s the type you experience with your best friend and has characteristics that are generous and caring. We find very clear examples of this in the Bible.
Jesus demonstrated phileo for Lazarus when he died.
Then Jesus wept. The people who were standing nearby said, “See how much he loved him!” John 11:35-16 (NLT)
Jonathan and David phileo one another:
After David had finished talking with Saul, he met Jonathan, the king’s son. There was an immediate bond between them, for Jonathan loved David. 1 Samuel 18:1 (NLT)
Phileo is not a casual friendship or acquaintance. There’s feeling involved and it’s a real connection with commitment to loyalty:
And Jonathan made a solemn pact with David, because he loved him as he loved himself. 1 Samuel 18:3 (NLT)
Agape means a self-denying, no strings attached, sacrificial type of love. That’s how God loves you. This is what Jesus died on the cross with. Agape means I can’t give you anything in exchange for your love. Agape between 2 people is rare, but let’s try this on.
If your young child was cornered by the most venomous snake on earth and the only way to save your kid is to insert yourself between them, you’d do it. Even though that snake’s bite means certain death.
Get the picture? Agape isn’t just a feeling or an emotion. It’s an act. You don’t agape someone by simply proclaiming, “I love you.” You show them. That’s what God did when He put Jesus into the world.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16 (NIV)
You can’t earn that, you can’t win it, and you cannot influence it in any way. There is absolutely nothing you can do to make it increase or decrease. You can only accept it, or reject it.
Human Love Defined
I couldn’t leave these out. Here are the other types of love not necessarily mentioned in the Bible, but still a very real part of our human experience.
Knowing about these and understanding them could be a real benefit in your relationships.
1. Eros Love – Eros was the Greek god of sexuality. He shot golden arrows into hearts and in Latin, he’s known as Cupid. Eros is rooted in sexual attraction and is where we get our word “erotic” from.
2. Ludus – Ludus is a type of playful or child-like love that young friends would have for each other. In ancient Rome, a boys elementary school was called a ludus. In adolescents and adults, ludus can be used to describe flirtatious behavior.
3. Pragma Love – This is the love that develops over time, especially between a husband and a wife. Pragma includes true commitment, devotion and understanding. It’s where we get the word pragmatic from because it’s based on the practical. Some people call pragma “standing in love” because it goes well beyond the sometimes fleeting and often unreliable notion of “falling in love.”
4. Storge Love – Pronounced store-gae, this exists between family members, especially between parents and children. Storge is natural and protective and makes people feel secure. This is the kind of love when families are devoted to one another and the family unit is a safe, comfortable place.
Putting It Together
You’ve always known when you say “I love you” to a child, it’s different than when you say it to your spouse or to your best friend. When you know the meanings behind each kind of love that you experience, it should help you to navigate your relationships more completely. It’s also important to know what type of love you may desire to have, or to have more of in your life and relationships.
C.S Lewis was correct to say that to love invites vulnerability. But do it anyway, because it’s often the best we have to offer a hurting world.