The definition of the word love
The articles that I have written in the past that have left me the most fulfilled have been my Christian articles. Whether politics, the church or biblical truths, all have tapped into topics I felt called to talk about on my platform. When I was challenged to write a column, one on Christians was the right choice.
I know some of you want to explore religion but don’t feel welcome at church. Some people have had super negative experiences with Christians. Some were told that you have to be perfect to be a Christian.
I am here to tell you that no matter your past, your present or how you feel about Christians, you are welcome here.
That being said, this will be a recurring staple of my tenure as an opinion editor. Bi-weekly I will be publishing this column talking about biblical truths, Christian politics and commenting on culture through my worldview.
If you have any issues, questions or anything else under that umbrella that you would like me to address, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please enjoy.
This time of year, love is on the brain. With Valentine’s Day approaching, everyone is thinking about relationships or couples. People are catching feels faster than I can keep up with, and I feel like all my friends are getting into new relationships despite the end of cuffing season.
It does get me wondering, though: What’s the difference between being in love and loving others. As many couples I see getting together, I feel like there is another breaking up because they “lost feelings.”
I will diagnose what love is, what it means to me and of course, what it looks like in scripture.
The history of love
When I think about the history of love, I think of the Greeks and Romans. The word Romance and the word Roman do have some connections. It mostly has to do with storytelling. As the 5th century came about and the Roman empire began to decline, stories called romanz were composed. Romanz are narratives about knights and their romantic adventures.
Also, consider the romance languages French, Italian and Spanish, which derived from Latin, the Romans’ language. Going even further back, there are seven words the Greeks use to describe love: Eros, Ludus, Philia, Storge, Philautia, Pragma and Agápe.
Eros means romantic sexual love or lust; this is sexual attraction. This is hook-up culture love. Similarly, we have Ludus or flirtatious love. This also is associated with a fling. It lacks the passion of Eros and is more casual and without implications.
Then we have Philia and Storge. Philia is the deep emotional connection that friends have. This is the stuff that good friendships are made of, the soul-deep bond of knowing each other. Storge is a deep familial connection. This is the feeling of connection you may have with a sister. Storge can also be nationalistic or team-based.
Then we have Philautia and Pragma. For Philautia, this is what we would call self-care. This is a face mask, feeling like a 1,000 bucks kind of love. This is selfish putting yourself first, kind of love. Pragma is what I would call marriage love. This is a long-term commitment, love, respect and is lasting. This is companionship.
Finally, we have the iconic girl in the room, Agápe. Agápe is universal love. This is a selfless love that puts others before yourself. This is the love you have when you are willing to be inconvenienced for love.
The modern application
So what does any of this have to do with modern-day love? In English, I tell my boyfriend, cousin, mom and friend, “I love you”. The love I feel for each of these people is different. The love I have for my boyfriend, the Pragma and Lutus love, is not the same as my love for my mom, Philia, and Storge love.
And in the English language, a lot of the word’s meaning comes not from the literal definition but from the inflection we speak with. I don’t need to tell my mom the kind of love I have for her; she knows.
But I think in modern culture that love isn’t taken very seriously. We throw it around a lot. I love this book. I love this house. I love sweet tea. But we don’t love these things; we appreciate what they can do for us.
I think we can fall into thinking about people this way. We don’t really love someone; we are infatuated. We fall in love with the attention they give us, the feeling of worth knowing someone is interesting.
The problem is infatuation is never lasting. It’s a flower once plucked. I think that’s where this feeling of falling out of love comes from. Once the infatuation is gone, we no longer experience the high that Eros gives us. We give up on the relationship and move on till we find the next high.
Real love, the forever kind of love we read about in romance novels, does not develop overnight. It can take years.
Now what I am not saying is that you should stay with a partner if they are not for you. It’s okay to realize that someone isn’t your person and to cut it off. But being in love is a choice, Agápe, Pragma and Philia is love that takes time, intentionality and constant attention to nurture.
Once the puppy love phase ends, you have to keep working to stay in love. You have to continue to remind your person that they are important to you. This looks like eating even when you’re married. It means going out of your way for someone. It means being attentive.
Love for Christians
Christians are called to love in a way that demonstrates Agápe love. Mark 12:30-31 reads, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this, you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
Now heres that same verse in greek, “καὶ ἀγαπήσεις Κύριον τὸν Θεόν σου ἐξ ὅλης τῆς καρδίας σου καὶ ἐξ ὅλης τῆς ψυχῆς σου καὶ ἐξ ὅλης τῆς διανοίας σου καὶ ἐξ ὅλης τῆς ἰσχύος σου.δευτέρα αὕτη Ἀγαπήσεις τὸν πλησίον σου ὡς σεαυτόν. μείζων τούτων ἄλλη ἐντολὴ οὐκ ἔστιν.”
The characters for you shall love in the greek is “ἀγαπήσεις,” which means agapēseis, and notice the greek word Agápe. Agápe is divine unconditional love. And not only are Christians called to have unconditional love for God, but also for those who surround us.
Another verse that comes to mind is John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” Again the word here used is ἀγάπην or agapēn, which means that sacrificial empathetic love.
Regardless of relationship status, we should strive for this type of love. If you’re in a relationship or if you are single, Agápe is the kind of love I want to be giving people and I am taught to strive for.
I am not Jesus. I fall short. But I would rather have put the effort in to serve others and fall short than having not tried at all.
But the thing about God is that his love is perfect.
“Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love,” 1 John 4:8. Again, ἀγαπῶν or agapōn, meaning again that God is Agápe love. And from a character study point of view, this is true. God continues to forgive and love humanity despite our fickleness and lack of faithfulness.
We have to love people as God loves us to love others truly. We can’t truly love and serve others without God because God is Agápe love.