Look to the Bible to find love in many forms
A few years before his death, the great British writer and lay theologian C.S. Lewis began an inquiry into love.
It began with St. John’s words, “God is love.” Lewis was interested in exploring what “God-love” meant, and it led him to consider other beneficial forms of love. Ancient Greek has several distinct words for love, and Lewis borrowed four of them for his analysis, which he first presented in a series of radio talks, followed by the 1960 book The Four Loves.
Storge: Familial Love
“Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.” (Romans 12:10)
Storge refers to the find of love felt between siblings, parents and children, and other family members: a natural love, bourn of genetics and proximity, but a powerful force nonetheless. In the book of Romans, Paul commands his fellow Christians to exhibit this kind of love for one another.
Philia: Platonic Love
“After David had finished talking with Saul, Jonathan became one in spirit with David, and he loved him as himself.” (1 Samuel 18:1)
The scriptures are full of stories of deeply felt friendship. In the Old Testament, consider the bond shared between Ruth and Naomi or David and Jonathan. Jesus and his disciples are also examples of platonic love.
Platonic love is special in part because it’s not “automatic.” Nurturing platonic relationship takes time and effort.
Eros: Romantic Love
“Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot sweep it away.” (Song of Songs 8:6)
We live in a culture that emphasizes romantic love above all other forms, but eros is an important kind of love, the kind that sustains a long and satisfying marriage.
Agape: Unconditional Love
“Give thanks to the God of heaven, for His steadfast love endures forever.” (Psalm 136:26)
As Christians, we are called to love as God does: unconditionally and without ceasing. Agape love is illustrated in Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan. The man in distress on the side of the road did nothing to deserve the loving care he received; instead, the Samaritan offered his love freely and without condition.
“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.” (I Corinthians 13:1-3)