What is Love?

The title itself should scare you off. If it didn’t, then you are very brave. How does one answer such a large question? No other word in any language holds such meaning, has such depth, than love.

It is such a big word that the Greeks had to break it into four words to describe different aspects of it. Storge is the kind of love that you feel towards your family – your parents, children, aunts and uncles, etc. Romans 12:10-13 describes it perfectly:

Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality.

Philia love is the kind of love that you feel towards your friends. Philia and Storge are very close together, but there is a distinct difference between them as you are not going to love your friends the exact same way you would your family. It is the kind of love demonstrated in Proverbs 17:17:

A friend loves at all times, And a brother is born for adversity.

I struggle to figure out which type of love to refer to next, as they are probably the most misunderstood and misinterpreted versions of love in the human race. Agape love is the love of God. There are no words to describe the love He gives us. There is no logical reason why He bestows this love to us. It is unconditional and unending and so beyond any human can ever comprehend. The Bible is full of examples of God’s love, but it is so beyond anything we have ever known that there is not a single verse that can describe it.

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 5:8

This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.

John 15:12-13

And then there is Eros love – romantic, passionate love. Unfortunately our society has taken this love and twisted and warped it into our own flawed understanding. It has taken the heart of it and surfaced aspects of it that should only be experienced and understood in the right contexts. The book of the Song of Solomon is full of this type of love – a passionate love that a man and a woman have towards each other. It is the kind of love that causes those butterflies in our stomach, allows us to marry and be given in marriage and have a special companionship between a man and woman.

A few days ago I answered this question for a friend to the best of my human ability, and will share it here:

“To me, love is sacrificial. It endures all things not out of necessity, but by choice. It doesn’t look on the outside, doesn’t only see the surface, but dives beneath the surface right to the heart and appreciates a person for their heart. It fights valiantly for what is right and true, defends with honor, comforts with empathy and understanding. It is the ability to say, “I forgive you, I trust you, I am for you,” no matter what that person has done or who they think they are. It forgives freely; it does not forget, but rather is the act of helping work through difficulties and pain and turmoil. It is a gift with no strings attached. It cannot be earned or deserved because it is a gift, straight from the God and into our hearts that we are then given the freedom to share. Love is strength, not weakness. It binds, not breaks. It empowers, not diminishes. It allows you to become the best version of yourself. It fights and defends others.”

I know that I have barely scratched the surface on what love is. It is a lifelong journey of discovery and learning through mistakes and mishaps. Fortunately God is with us every step of the way, always lending a helping hand, always willing and excited to show us the depths of what love is. It is a beautiful thing, one that should not be misused on our own terms.

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