Session IX of Love and Relationships!
There are four Greek words that we translate as love, two of which are found in the Bible. The four words are agape, phileo, eros, and stergo. The first is phileo, which means to have a brotherly love for others. It implies a deep-rooted affection. It is from the Greek, which means brotherly love, and is where we get our word for the City of Brotherly Love, Philadelphia (Matthew 19:19b). Phileo is companionship-as in a relationship that grows, and benefits from the friendship. It is a word picture of a good marriage where each one is uplifting and encouraging the other. This type of love implies that we go beyond superficial relationships, and strive for the deep, without being shallow or pretentious.
The second word for love in the Bible is agape. This word was used in Classic Greek literature to refer to someone who was generously favored by a god. It conveys the idea of a person giving all his or her love, or favor, to someone else other than one's self. It is a love that is not earned; rather, it is relational and given freely. It also refers to parents giving all of their love to their child. In the New Testament, agape love is used to make a similar point, as God gives each of us all of His love. It is a love that gives without expectations, or a response from the other. It takes the initiative, as Christ did with us, and fosters the Fruit of the Spirit and brotherly love. Agape love is also the most common word used both as a noun and a verb in the New Testament. The greatest example of agape love is what our Lord Jesus Christ did, when He died for our sins. God showed His love by taking our place, and the wrath and punishment for our sins. He paid that price through His sinless life, and His sacrifice on our behalf. Consequently, God's agape love rescued us from the punishment that we deserved. We deserved punishment, yet, we received His favor without earning it (Mark 12:30; John 3:16, Matthew 22:34-40; Mark 12:28-31; John 13:34-35; Romans 1:31; 12:10; 1 Thessalonians 1:3; 2:8; 3:6; 12; 4:9-10; 5:8; 13; 2 Timothy 3:3).
There are two other types of love in the Greek that are not found in the Bible. The first one is eros, which usually refers to sex, and the love between a husband and wife. It is more than just sexual ecstasy because, in classic Greek, it also includes embraces, yearning, and caring. This type of love is based on physical attraction and desire; it has a need to be fulfilled, it is self centered and unconcerned with the other. But, in passages such as Ephesians 5:25 where we are called to love our spouse romantically, the word used is not eros, rather, agape! So, as a Christian, we are to have a deeper love than what we see in the media and society, one that is not based on eroticism. Eros has noun and verb forms that we do find in the New Testament for lust, such as, epithumeo (1 John 2:16).
The second love that is popular in evangelical circles is stergo, and, this is not in the Scriptures in its noun or verb form, either. It does occur in Romans 1:31 and 2 Timothy 3:3 in its negative form astorgos referring to unloving. It normally refers to family love, as in the love between parents and children, or the love between people and their leader who has responsibility over them, from parents to civic authorities. What we learn from these Greek words agape, and phileo, used in the Bible, is their emphases of real, authentic love, without pretensions or expectations (1 John 4:7-11). They show the goal to be developing maturity and character in oneself, and in others. The other two words imply strings attached, expectations needed to make them work. They refer to lust, which is a pretender to love, the reason they are not used for love in God's most precious Word. They refer to a connection that must already be there, such as a parent and child. The parent does not love another's child as he does his own.
Read Mark 12:28-31; John 13:34-35 then discuss this section and answer these questions:
1. What do these two passages teach us about love?
2. What happens when we do not follow His call?
3. How do those four Greek words help you see love in greater depth?
4. What does it mean to go beyond superficial relationships, and strive for the deep, without being shallow or pretentious?
5. Why do you think God chose not to use the world's eros or stergo? Why is this important?
6. Knowing that God gives each of us all of His love, and that His love rescued us, how can this fact help motivate you to replicate that kind of love to others?
7. Do you put conditions on love? Why, or why not?
8. Why would conditions be wrong? Or, do you think they are not? Why, or why not?
9. Remember this important point; we received His love without earning it! Yet, in our human terms, we put conditions on love, such as, others have to earn it, or, they have to do this or be this…. Why are our ways of love wrong?