What’s Love Got to do With it?
The answer to that question is easy, everything! The Christian religion is based on love. God loved the world (us) so much, that He sent His son to die for us (John 3:16). Jesus loved us enough to live a perfect obedient life and then sacrifice Himself to save us from our sin (Rom. 5:8). The apostle John wrote that God is love (1 John 4:8), and then later told us that when we love one another, and are obedient to God, we are showing our love for Him (1 John 5:2,3). Love is the bond that ties it all together.
The apostle Paul emphasized the importance of love in 1 Corinthians 13. The Corinthians were having “issues” concerning the importance of spiritual gifts. Paul points out that the gifts were important, but there was something greater which would outlive them all. It was love. Paul said, “and now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love” (1 Cor. 13:13).
But what kind of love are we talking about here? Is it the kind of love that we commonly see on television and in the movies? Is it the highly emotional spur of the moment love that makes one want to throw caution to the wind because of that warm feeling in their heart? Or is it the love someone speaks of when they say things like, “I just love ice cream”? Our society today does not use the word love in the same sense that it was commonly used in the Bible.
There are many different types of love. Unfortunately, the English language only provides us with the word “love” as a generic word for all the different types and meanings. This is part of the reason why the word has lost much of it’s power in our culture. The word love can be used to refer to both something important, and something extremely insignificant (i.e., a parent’s love for a child versus a person who “loves” a certain flavor ice cream).
We are fortunate that the New Testament was written in a certain type of Greek language. The language was much more specific in it’s definition of words than our English language is, and those definitions have been locked in time because of the death of the language shortly after the New Testament was completed. The Greeks interpreted love in four ways, and used four different words to describe which kind of love was meant.
1. Eros, which is an intimate love arising from passionate desires.
2. Storge, which is the type of love between a parent and a child.
3. Phileo, which is the type of love between close friends.
4. Agape, which is a self sacrificing love of affection and benevolence towards all.
The two most common Greek words for love in the New Testament are phileo and agape, but agape is the more prevalent of the two. When Paul gave his discourse on love in 1 Corinthians 13, he used the word agape. The King James Version translates it with the word charity. Agape love is not a description of love that can be used lightly, like the word love is used today in our society. Agape describes a love for souls, a love for what is righteous, and a self sacrificing love. The apostle John stated that “God is love” (1 John 4:8). The word John used in that verse is agape. God is agape love, and it is that same type of love that He expects each of us to have toward Him and one another. -Ed