4 Love Words
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4 Love Words
1 Corinthians 13:1-7
There is a story about a store in New York City that is in the business of selling husbands for single women. This store carries a variety of potential husbands for single women to choose from. The store is composed of 6 floors, and the men increase in positive attributes as the shopper ascends the flights. There is, however, a catch. As you open the door to any floor you may choose a man from that floor, but if you go up a floor, you cannot go back down except to exit the building. So a woman goes to the shopping center to find a husband. On the first floor the sign on the door reads: Floor 1 - These men have jobs. The woman reads the sign and says to herself, "Well, that's better than my last boyfriend, but I wonder what's further up?" So up she goes. The second floor sign reads: Floor 2 - These men have jobs and love kids. The woman remarks to herself, "That's great, but I wonder what's further up?" And up she goes again. The third floor sign reads: Floor 3 - These men have jobs, love kids and are extremely good looking. "Hmmm, better" she says. "But I wonder what's upstairs?" The fourth floor sign reads: Floor 4 - These men have jobs, love kids, are extremely good looking and help with the housework. "Wow!" exclaims the woman, "very tempting. BUT, there must be more further up!" And again she heads up another flight. The fifth floor sign reads: Floor 5 - These men have jobs, love kids, are extremely good looking, help with the housework and have a strong romantic streak. "Oh, mercy me! But just think... what must be awaiting me further on?" So up to the sixth floor she goes. The sixth floor sign reads: Floor 6 - You are visitor 6,875,953,012 to this floor. There are no men on this floor. This floor exists solely as proof that women are impossible to please (unijokes.com).
In our world today and even 2000 years ago the description of what people view love is has had many forms. In Paul’s letter to the Corinthians he takes the time to define the meaning of true love. However, this word that Paul uses and the description of love that he gives is a word that majority of those living in Corinth would never have heard or used. The word that Paul uses is Agape. There are 4 Greek words in the Bible that are used for love. There is Storge, Philia, Eros, and Agape. Storge is a love that describes the kind of love you would have for your family members. For example, I have a deep affection and love for my children because they are my children. I have a love for my wife because she is my wife. I love my parents, sister, cousins, aunts, uncles, and grand parents because they are all members of my family. This is a natural affection that we would have for each other.
Philia is a love that you would have for friendships. This is a mutual affection towards another person based on their common interests. Growing up my friends and I would go to the movies or watch movies together at each other’s homes because we liked to watch movies. I also like coffee and I introduced a friend of mine to coffee and he is now probably more addicted to coffee than me. However, we share that mutual interest with each other. This is when you have a love for someone based on common likes. I heard one preacher describe this love as Eharmony love. Eharmony is one of the first and most popular dating sites to help people find that right person to be a potential spouse. From this there are now many different kinds of dating sites similar to Eharmony. My wife and I met on one of those other sites called Christian Café. What you do is you create a profile for yourself for all your supposed interests and you are matched up with potential candidates based on your common interests. However, it seems that people rarely put the truth down and we only find out the truth later. Guys don’t say on there that they like to play video games all day and that they enjoy watching football on Sunday, or that they are a grouch in the morning or after work. No, they say stuff like how they love long walks on the beach in the rain, they love to read great works of literature, or that they love to eat healthy meals that include 4 servings vegetables. The truth though is that they are only saying what they have to say to attract a potential mate. But why would anyone want to be married to someone exactly like them anyway as the problems you already have just end up doubling. Thankfully, while my wife and I have a few similar interests we have many differences too that help us to balance and expand our horizons.
The third word for love used is Eros. This is more of the passionate, lustful, or sensual type of love. This is the love between two lovers or spouses. This is the love that says you make my heart skip a beat whenever you are in the room. This is the love that says I am on fire of affection for you. This love says that you fulfill a need for passion in me. In Paul’s time this was the kind of love that the Corinthians understood best. This is why Paul teaches so much on Sexual immorality in his letter to the Church. This was a word that they understood very well. This is how they viewed love, as this self-seeking and selfish desire to please oneself. However, when combined with the intellectual features of Agape it will swim oceans, climb mountains, and cross deserts to win its beloved. This love is an intoxication where all the senses are in a delightful frenzy.
Agape love is very much different from the other three types of love. This is the kind of love the God displays before his creation. While Storge says I love you because you are family, Agape says I love you and I will treat you as if you are family. While Philia says I love you because you are so much like me, Agape says I will love you even though you are unlike me. When Eros says I love you because you meet my needs and make my heart beat, Agape says I love you and I commit my heart to meeting your needs.
I don’t know if there has ever been such a divisive election in our country’s history. It has become very apparent who voted for who and who supports what. I have friends, family, even church family, and church leaders whom I have tremendous respect, that I know voted different than me and who see the world different from me. And if I would have treated these people with Storge, Philia, or even Eros then the love I have for these people would be completely gone or destroyed through the differences that are displayed through this election. However, Agape is different and I believe we as a follower of Christ I am called to follow Agape towards these people who think and feel differently than I do. Despite the decisions they make I love them and want to continue in relationship with them.
We wonder Why there is so much divorce in our country today it is because these marriages are built on a foundation of Storge, Philia, or only Eros. When these three run out then it seems, there is nothing left to hold these couples together. That is why Agape is necessary when there are hard times or disagreements. Paul describes this Agape love in the love chapter in 1 Corinthians 13. Agape is patient, Agape is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Agape does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. While Storge fails in these categories when the same love is not returned Agape presses on anyway whether the love is returned or not. While Philia fails when people no longer share the same interests Agape continues through despite the lack of similar interests. When the fire of Eros burns out and the passion is gone Agape chooses to be passionate even without a flame.
Luke 6:27-36 tells us about how we are to love our enemies. Isn’t it interesting how we so often turn people who were once family, or once friends, or once a spouse into our enemy? Jesus says that if we only love these people because they love us back then what credit is that to you because sinners and scoffers in the world do the exact same thing. But if we want to set ourselves apart from the world then we must love those who hate us, persecute us, and disagree with us. We love because God loves.
Agape is described the best through the most quoted scripture, John 3:16. For God so loved (agape) the world (whether the world loved him or not) that he gave his only son (he gave what was most precious to him) that whosoever believes in him may have eternal life. This is agape in its truest form. This is the love that is lavished on you and it is the love that we are called to lavish on each other. I ask you; what kind of love are you displaying to the world today? Which of the four love words do you use on a regular basis? Depending on how you answer these questions will determine whether you remain or fall from many of your relationships. I believe though we are called to share agape with the world. It is not easy but through Christ it is made possible.