Teacher Don's picture

I've been asked what my definition of "love" is. Unfortunately in the English language, many things are called "love" and to help define this, I'll refer back to a language which uses several words, namely Greek, to help define how I see love.

ἔρως (pronounced "eros", like erotic") is the kind of love that fills magazines, novels, stories, songs, movies, plays, shows, and all the high school gossip. This kind of love is best defined as infatuation or romance that depends on the object of your love providing you emotionally and physiological feelings. As a young couple snuggle and enjoy the comfort of each other and whisper, "I love you," they are saying, "I enjoy the way I feel when I think about you." In other words, I love you as long as I feel this way.

φιλία (pronounced "phila") is the kind of love that is the warm, fuzzy feeling of friendship or brotherly love towards someone or something. (Side note the name Philadelphia means city of brotherly love; philanthropic means brotherly love of mankind). As two friends who have been together for each other through the tough times and the good greet and hug each other and say, "I love you, man," they are saying, "I have good feelings towards you." In other words, I love you because the close bond we've developed through the time.

ἀγάπη (pronounced "agape") is the kind of love that makes a decision to treat another in a way that is fair, moral, ethical. It has no emotional "feeling" part to it at all, but is completely based on the character of the person. When a person expresses this kind of love, "I love you", they are saying, "I've made a decision to treat you right, to not steal from you, to not harm you, to speak truth to you, to do what is in your best interest, to forgive you." The laws of Western culture are based on this kind of love, for example, fair weights and measures, truth in advertising, rule by law, product safety regulations, and many more. This is also how people can say, "I love everyone," not emotionally, but by choice. It's this kind of love that people see in others that say, "That's a good person," and is expressed as joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Gal 5:22-23).

Quick recap: Eros love requires a physical attraction and emotional fondness. Filos love requires an emotional fondness. Agape love requires neither but instead depends on the character of the individual.