Eros, Phileo, Agape…We need ‘em All

I have heard this many times- Love cannot be defined it can only be described. True that! Isn’t it amazing that many times when we try to describe love, we tend to feel that the words we use are not exactly adequate? I think it is because the English language is limited in scope/coverage, unlike the Greek Language. For instance, the word “love” in Greek is described as Eros, Phileo, Storge and Agape. I am not sure if there’s more…after all we are talking about the Greek language –  it is extremely rich and robust.

Eros – has been described as the Erotic love, in fact Eros is the root word for the word Erotic. My Pastor says this kind of love is very appealing to the women folk. Lol! Women are said to be very given to romance, adventure, pleasant surprises, flowers, hugs, kisses…and all that mushy stuff. Yeah women are perceived as mushier than men. There is nothing wrong with this kind of love. As a matter of fact, it is an essential element in every relationship, especially every marital relationship. It is important that we are attracted (sexually and otherwise) to our partners. Even if our spouses are unattractive to the whole world, they must be attractive to us – now that’s some Deep Stuff! Lol!

Eros is a love felt particularly within the body (trembling excitement, elation, joy), coloured and underpinned by deep and beautiful procreative urges. C.S. Lewis distinguishes Eros from natural sexual urges and lusts, because Eros is a state of the heart and while it is intimately related to sex, sex can exist, and often does exist, without Eros enlivening it. It leads to children, family, joy and laughter. It is good and right, but it is usually not enough to sustain a relationship long term. Eros is an exulted and beautifully idealistic love, usually between a man and woman, but can also be “platonic” and extend to deeply intimate friendships.

Phileo – Has been described as the kind of love between friends. Phileo has graduated from feelings to understanding, my Pastor says, men are more amenable to Phileo. A man understands friendship and the Loyalty that friendship demands. For example, if he has a friend that always comes late (like my friend haluol), rather than get overly upset about this bad behaviour, he would just plan around his friend…probably resort to telling him a meeting is 2 hours earlier that it is scheduled – understanding! Rather than get worked up and whine and complain about his friend’s seeming tardiness, he would typically just- in most cases – make alternative arrangements to cater to his friends’ weakness – that right there, is Phileo –  the Buddy kind of love. It’s about the friendship you feel towards people like you, with the same interests, social graces, and style. In the scriptures, this kind of friendship love is used to describe many relationships. In fact, it is used to understand the type of love the older women should advise younger women, to have towards their husbands.

Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can urge the younger women to love (Phileo) their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God. Titus 2: 3 – 5 (NIV)

My Pastor suggests, that if you are friends with your husband and attempt to love the things that he loves, he is more likely to want to spend time with you – because hanging out with you will begin to feel like hanging out with his buddies -Fun! Contrary to what you may be feeling right now, it is not a shallow love, but rich in emotion and feeling, like when your heart beams towards your child when they do something wonderful. However, it is also described as a negative shallow love, natural, exclusive and conditional. Phileo is soul love, and its strength and value will depend on the elevation of the soul of the bearer.

The highest form of love though is AGAPE! O my God! Agape is hard to describe! It is the ability to love someone who is unlovable. Agape is loving even when it is not convenient. It is the sacrificial kind of love.

The Thayer Lexicon describes agape beautifully when it says:

“to take pleasure in the thing, prize it above all other things, be unwilling to abandon it or do without it.”

Some say it is as idealistic as Eros, in that it is a crazy love that will not let go. Agape loves, usually at cost to the bearer. Agape puts the beloved first and sacrifices pride, self-interest and possessions for the sake of that beloved. This, right here, is the love that God has for us which inspired Him to sacrifice His son and for His son to obey and sacrifice himself.

Eros, Phileo & Agape…We need ‘em all…all three of them in our relationships – this Valentine and always – please show some love! Happy Valentine’s day!

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