What is love, really? We LOVE Oprah, we LOVE ice cream, we LOVE our spouse. We live in a world where love is fleeting, focused on objects that come and go in our lives. If we no longer like something Oprah says, we turn on another talk show host. We live in a world where marriage, too, has become disposable. When that initial “exciting” love disappears, it must be time for a new relationship.
This is NOT the love that God intended for marriage. He tells us to stick in there - “’Til death us do part.” So how, in this world, do we do that? One day at a time.
I believe our initial “falling in love” starts out as a feeling. It often makes no sense. We seem to have little control over it and become completely infatuated with the other person. When everything falls in place and we believe we have found our ‘soul mate’, (God’s way of attracting our interest), we rapidly plunge into exhilarating emotions. They entice us to pursue and develop a relationship.
Love then quickly turns into a verb. We have to show our love; we have to act on it in order to sustain a relationship. Courtships based on lust and physical feelings do not last. No one wants to take the time and energy to pursue permanent love if it isn’t real. Most dating relationships never get past this point of love when it’s confused with lust.
The Greeks have five different words for love compared to our one word that covers everything from chocolate to our children. If we look at the Greek words, we see different levels of love as God intended for marriage.
The first word I want to look at is epithumia. Epithumia means “strong desire”. In the Bible, epithumia is mostly used to indicate “lust”, a negative connotation. For example, in Romans 6:12, Paul tells us “not to let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires” (epithumia). A few scriptures use it in a healthy way as in Philippians 1:23, where Paul talks about his “desire to depart and be with Christ”
We need to physically desire our spouse; that’s a big part of our initial attraction. Physical desire is important for a healthy sex life in marriage. Without that, it would be difficult to obtain a lasting relationship. We often go through periods in a marriage where the physical desire is not as strong, and we need to work on keeping it alive.
When epithumia is centered on lust, though, without the other aspects of true love, the passion and initial love will cease to exist. We have to be careful not to allow lust to enter into our desires because it opens a door to perversion that leads to sin (pornography, fantasy thoughts, infidelity, etc.). It will quickly destroy a marriage.
Eros love is a passionate love with a sensual desire, a greater love than you would feel for a friend. It is an appreciation for the beauty found in a person. The modern, Greek word, erotic, means sensual love, physical, sexual, although it is not based on a sexual relationship. It can mean passion of a spiritual nature, “a love between a man and woman neither planned nor willed, but somehow imposes itself on human beings”.
Eros is usually found in a dating or marriage relationship. It is the next stage after epithumia that takes us a little deeper into love.
Stay tuned as I look at the other Greek words for love!