I’ve been discussing the word “love” which in the English language, covers the whole spectrum of feelings from candy to marriage. But in the Greek language, there are five words for love that majestically express the various levels of the true meaning for this word.
I previously discussed epithumia and eros, and will look at the other three Greek words for love – philia, storge, and agape love.
Philia or phileo is a love that represents the love towards a friend. We find a committed love for family, friends and community which also requires values, familiarity and equality. Philia is about companionship, mutual affection and partnership. This form of love should also apply to our spouse because we need to be friends with each other to experience a successful marriage.
Storge is an affectionate love as towards a parent or your child. It is the love of family, a commitment that holds regardless of any stress in a relationship. “Blood is thicker than water.” We might fight with our siblings and call them names, but heaven forbid, anyone else try to do so. There is nothing like having family to support you. It is a ‘fondness due to familiarity’, an unconditional love that will be there regardless of ill words that may pass between us. (Of course, there are always exceptions to this. Many choose to break family bonds because of various reasons.)
I’ve often wondered why we stick by our children, our siblings, our parents – no matter what they do or say, but how quickly many of us discard a spouse because we don’t like their actions or words (at least 50%). You wouldn't think of divorcing your own children. Shouldn’t we love our spouse more than we love our own family? (What God has joined together let man not separate.) Maybe we need to work harder at storge love for our spouses. Let’s face it, it is difficult to live with other human beings. We shouldn’t go into marriage expecting this relationship to be any different. If anything, we should be more tolerant of each other’s flaws in a marriage.
Agape love means “I love you” as a general affection after the initial attraction love of eros. It is a feeling of contentment and thinking highly of the other person. In the Bible it is used as a self-sacrificing love – giving love to both your friends and enemies. Matthew 22:39 is agape love, “Love your neighbor as yourself”’, as is John 15:12 – “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” Many couples never get to this stage of love in their marriage. (Again, 50%).
These five Greek words break down love into areas that we often overlook in our marriage relationship. We are inadvertently taught by the ways of the world that love exists only as far as we can feel it. Love is an action, a choice to continue. Until we allow the storms in our marriage to run their course and use them as an opportunity to grow closer to God and to our spouse, we will never experience the true depths of love that God intended for man and wife.