Christian Love

Christian love

Christian Love

I love my wife.

I love my kids.

love my parents.

I love my best friends.

I love my dog.

I love Chinese food.

I love tacos.

I love a Tribe Called Quest.

I love my Hokas.

I love studying the bible.

I love running in the mountains.

I love traveling.

I love my bed.

I love my fellow Americans.

I love languages.

It’s probably safe to say that, as much as I love Chinese food, it’s not the same love I have for my kids. Society uses this powerful word, love, in interesting ways. You could rationally say that we misuse this word. The young boy telling a young girl that he loves her is not the same love a couple married for 50 years, yet we use it interchangeably. 

I heard someone say, “I love you like I love tacos.” I get it; the person probably really loves tacos, but I love tacos too and probably wouldn’t eat a taco that has gone bad or fallen on a dirty floor. I guess maybe I don’t love them that much. 

What is Love?

Triune God
Night at the Roxbury

Is Christian Love different?

The original New Testament was written in Koine Greek, and the primary Greek doesn’t use one word for love but many. The words for “love” include agape (ἀγάπη), phileo (φιλία), and storge (στοργή), with agape and phileo being the most frequently used. Eros (ἔρως), which denotes romantic or sexual love, is not used in the New Testament but is often cited as the fourth category of Love.

There’s a great book by C.S. Lewis called The Four Loves. If you love his work, the audiobook is fascinating because it’s the only book of his that he reads himself. 

“The Four Loves” is a seminal work that explores the nature of love from a Christian and philosophical perspective. 

Lewis identifies these four categories of love, each with its unique qualities and challenges.

storge | στοργή

(Store-gay) Affection: This is the most natural, emotive, and widespread form of love. It is the affection found between family members or people who find themselves together by chance. It is described as the most comfortable and least discriminating form of love.

Characteristics: 

  • Fondness through familiarity
  • Natural affection
  • Often involves caring for someone unable to return the affection

Challenges:

Can be taken for granted; prone to jealousy or contempt if not nurtured or respected.

My take:

This is the first love we experience as humans. As a baby or child, with our favorite blanket or toy, we show what storge love really is. 

phileo | φιλία

(Philia) Friendship: Lewis considers this the least natural of the loves but highly valued as the love of the chosen. It arises among friends who share a common interest or activity. Think of Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love.

Characteristics: 

  • Based on shared interests or pursuits
  • Involves companionship, dialogue, and camaraderie
  • Less influenced by emotions or physical attraction

Challenges:

Can exclude others, leading to cliques or elitism; requires maintenance and mutual growth.

My take:

This was the love that Jonathan and David shared in the Bible. C.S. Lewis mentions that you’re lucky if you experience this more than once in a lifetime. This is the love I have for my battle buddies.  

eros | ἔρως

(Eros) Romantic Love: This is the love of being in love, an intense desire for union with another person. It goes beyond sexual attraction to include the longing for emotional connection and unity.

Characteristics: 

  • Deep emotional connection
  • Desire for intimacy and union
  • Often accompanied by jealousy and possessiveness

Challenges:

Can lead to obsession or dependency if not balanced with other forms of love; may diminish over time without effort to sustain it.

My take:

This is where society gets confused. We teach people that love is the one to seek and find, only to be hurt over and over again. This love can be fickle. This is where couples begin their journey, and it is often the same place where their journey ends. 

agape | ἀγάπη

(Aga-pay) Charity: This is the highest form of love, unconditional and selfless, that seeks the well-being of others without expecting anything in return. It is closely associated with Christian love.

Characteristics: 

  • Unconditional, sacrificial love
  • Not based on merit of the person loved
  • Involves forgiveness and mercy

Challenges:

Difficult to practice consistently due to its selfless nature; can be exploited by others.

My take:

This is TRUE love. This is where love lasts and what we should strive for. This is the love I wish I had known about 30 years ago. 

Unconditional love is easy to say but difficult to grasp. Unconditional means without conditions. We say this during our wedding vows but often don’t mean it. I love you until, unless, except, only if, and if, is NOT agape love. 

Even parents have trouble with this kind of love for their children. 

The Greatest Commandment

The great commandment is highlighted in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, where the Lord Jesus Christ is asked about the greatest commandment in the Law. His response emphasizes the foundational importance of love in the Christian faith.

Here’s how Jesus Christ describes the greatest commandment:

Love God: 

   – Matthew 22:37-38 (NIV): Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.”

   – Mark 12:29-30 (NIV): “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.'”

Love Your Neighbor:

   – Matthew 22:39 (NIV): “And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'”

   – Mark 12:31 (NIV): “The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

In Luke’s Gospel, the parable of the Good Samaritan follows Jesus’ affirmation of these commandments, illustrating who a neighbor is and how to love them. These two commandments summarize the essence of the Law and the Prophets, emphasizing that love—both for God and for others—is the foundation of Christian ethics and morality.

Christian Love

A Benedictine Abbot

A Benedictine Abbot came to Corpus Christi Catholic Church for a Lenten Parish Mission. He spoke for 3 days on Human Dignity, Self-Esteem, and the Imago Dei. 

One of the topics that stood out to me was where we find our self-esteem and personal value. 

“We need to think well of ourselves to be fully alive, but we’re going after it in the wrong ways in our culture.”

“The primary, most fundamental way to think well of yourself is that we are made in the image of God.”

The key message of the Abbot was to convey that. if we don’t love ourselves we will fail in the commandment given to us as Christians by Jesus.

How does the Lord love?

Most Christians know the famous scripture verse John 3:16, but what was the translation of the word Love?

It was agape.

I once told a young lady that a person of faith is a person constantly growing and changing. We are all called to grow. We should be growing our familial relationships associated with storge towards agape. We should be cultivating our philia relationships towards agape. Our intimate and eros relationships should be pointed towards agape

I want to emphasize agape one last time: it’s unconditional, without conditions, no exceptions, absolute, unrestricted, unqualified, unlimited, unconditional, complete, total, unfettered, unbounded, wholehearted, unconditional, unreserved, unmitigated, unmerited, and merciful.

Christian love

Final Thoughts:

How challenging is it to love something, someone, or even ourselves unconditionally?

Do we even know what love is?

I believe we’ve twisted the meaning of love and have difficulty defining it.

Tragically, self-love becomes impossible in the absence of an understanding of what it means to love.

Take a moment to self-reflect while praying, and ask God which qualities of love you need to grow in the most now. Consider one concrete area of your life where you can put this into practice immediately!

If we can’t love ourselves, how can we love God?

How can we love our neighbor? Who is your neighbor?