From our discussion of the scriptures we know that our English Bibles may have some variations regarding how certain words or passages are understood. One such issue is that in English we use the word ‘love’, whereas in the original Hebrew and Greek there are various words which are used to give different meanings of the types of love. Indeed, in English we seem to lump many of the different ‘types’ of love under the one word. We increasingly use ‘love’ instead of ‘like’, or ‘lust’, or ‘attraction’, or ‘friendliness’ or ‘playfulness’, or even just ‘caring’ or ‘compassion’.
In the New Testament the Greek words for love, as defined by Psychology Today are:
The hallmark of philia, or friendship, is shared goodwill to another for one of three reasons: that he is useful; that he is pleasant; and above all, that he is good, that is, rational and virtuous. Friendships founded on goodness are associated not only with mutual benefit but also with companionship, dependability, and trust.
Agape [“aga-pay”] is universal love, such as the love for strangers, or God. Also called charity by Christian thinkers, agape can be said to encompass the modern concept of altruism, as defined as unselfish concern for the welfare of others. Given the increasing anger and division in our society, and the state of our planet, we could all do with quite a bit more agape.
Other words in the Greek, though not found in scripture, which you may come across are:
Ludus is playful or uncommitted love. It can involve activities such as teasing and dancing, or more overt flirting, seducing, and conjugating. The focus is on fun, and sometimes also on conquest, with no strings attached.
Eros is sexual or passionate love, and most akin to the modern construct of romantic love. In Greek myth it is brought about by one of Cupid’s arrows. In modern times, eros has been amalgamated with the broader life force.
Storge, or familial love, is a kind of philia pertaining to the love between parents and their children. It differs from most philia in that it tends, especially with younger children, to be unilateral or asymmetrical. More broadly, storge is the fondness born out of familiarity or dependency.
Pragma is a kind of practical love founded on reason or duty and one’s longer-term interests. Sexual attraction takes a back seat in favour of personal qualities and compatibilities, shared goals, and “making it work” In the days of arranged marriages, pragma must have been very common.
Philautia, finally, is self-love, which can be healthy or unhealthy. Healthy self-love, is akin to self-esteem, which is our cognitive and, above all, emotional appraisal of our own worth. More than that, it is the matrix through which we think, feel, and act, and reflects on our relation to ourselves, to others, and to the world.
People with unhealthy self-esteem do need to prop themselves up with externals such as income, status, or notoriety, or lean on crutches such as alcohol, drugs, or sex, or even religion.
God’s Love in Scripture is always meant to be agape love, which is complete.
So what does the Bible say about God’s love? God’s love takes many forms throughout the stories of scripture. Parts of the Bible even refer to God as love itself (1 John 4:8).
Love could be explained as ‘wanting the best for someone’, and that’s exactly what God intends for us. God loves you simply because he loves you. You don’t have to work for his affection. You don’t have to set yourself straight before God can pour out his love over you.
According to 1 Corinthians 13:13 in the Mirror, “Now persuasion and every pleasurable expectation is completed in Agape. (here in agape my soul remembers who I am Psalm 23). Agape is the superlative of everything faith and hope always knew to be true about me. Love defines my eternal moment.”
God’s love is for all people (1 John 4:10), for if humanity is made in the image and likeness of God (Gen 1:26), surely God loves that which is also him? It is not possible to enter into God’s love, nor for you to leave it. His love for you simply IS!
In the famous ‘love’ chapter, 1 Corinthians 13, the King James Version reads, “And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.” (verse 13). ‘Charity’ is now always changed to ‘love’ in other versions, yet a consideration of ‘charity’ should bring us an image of giving for another’s benefit without an expectation of recompense. Therefore, let us define God’s love for us, and by association our love for each other, as “the giving of ourselves for the betterment of the other, regardless of how much it may affect us”.
As we said in the introduction, in English we have abused the word ‘love’ to the extent that perhaps we no longer have a true understanding of it, even to the point where we are now seeing new words being created to express ‘love’. ‘Compersion’ is one such word. As yet it does not seem to appear in dictionaries, but a Google Search will reveal it as the opposite of jealousy. Jealousy, and its similars, ‘envy’ and ‘covetousness’, are displays of selfishness, which is idolatry. So society now has to define the positive attribute of selflessness by its negative counterparts because we have become imbued with the flood of diluted ‘love’. So ‘compersion’/’love’ can be defined as ensuring the betterment of another, even if it means costing you everything, even as “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16).