Valentines Day will be upon us soon. The word “love” is bantered around quite a bit around these days. In Jesus day there were three Greek words for love. All were spoken or written in different contexts. This was love in New Testament times:
Eros (ἔρως, érōs) is passionate love, with sensual desire and longing. Emotional-love. The feelings of “being in love,” which at times predominates over rational thought. Eros is communicated through our senses: sight, smell, taste, hearing and touch.
Of course, “feelings” of love are conditional, and feelings can change. Relationships held together with this type of love only is destined to fail. Ironically, Eros is not found in the New Testament.
Philia (φιλία, philía), means strong friendship love. The intimate and affectionate support of one another. It includes loyalty to friends, family, and community, and requires virtue, equality and familiarity.
A friend is your needs answered and your life shared. Emotions and rational thinking are combined.
“Value” is a key word to describe how one feels about someone.
Matthew 6: 21, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Jesus is described as the “friend of sinners” (Matt. 11:19). He called His disciples “friends” (Luke 12:4; John 15:13-15). The New Testament highlights the connection between friends and joy (Luke 15:6, 9, 29), as well as warning of the possibility of friends proving false (Luke 21:16).
Agapē (ἀγάπη, agápē) Commitment-Love. A pledge binding one to another. By far the strongest of the loves. In a “God to His children” sense, it is a covenant, faithful and permanent. The primary term for Christ-like-love, is the Greek word Agape.
The Lord’s Supper is an Agape Feast. This is Christ sharing His love with us. Agape is a central reality of God’s nature. “God is love,” John reminded us (1 John 4:8).
“God so loved” (John 3:16). In the 1st century one word for “love,” agape, was quite weak, expressing only fondness. The N.T. writers picked up this word and infused it with new and stunning meaning. That meaning is defined in God’s giving of His beloved Son, for us. First John 4:9 says, “This is how God showed His love . . . He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him.” God chose to love sinners. God expressed His love in self-sacrifice. Christ incarnate and crucified forever gives meaning to the phrase, “God is love” and fills us with awe as we realize, “God loves me.”
So next time you tell somebody you love them, you’ll know what you mean but will they? Let us have a great February.