This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:12-13
So what is love really? In the English language we have one word for love. We use this word to say…
I love that pasta dish.
I’d love to go on a hike in the woods.
I sure miss you bro. Love you man.
I’m really glad you are my wife. I love you baby.
But we don’t mean the same thing with the word love in each of those phrases. The Greek language, in which the New Testament was written, actually has 3 words that are translated as “love” in English:
Eros—physical, sexual, sensual love. From which we get the modern word erotic. Eros is about chemistry, physical attraction, passion, sexual desire, and romantic love.
Phileo—brotherly or friendship love. This where the city Philadelphia derives its name- “the city of brotherly love.” Phileo is about companionship, camaraderie, partnership, mutual affection, or giving and receiving.
Agape—unconditional love. The word “agape” was not used commonly in ancient manuscripts, save the New Testament. Many scholars believe that early Christians used and possibly even coined the word. Agape is all about unconditional, selfless, and sacrificial love– the love displayed by God through Jesus. There is this underlying idea of total commitment to the object of love even if it doesn’t deserve or desire it.
The problem with agape love is that it’s risky and dangerous, because if you choose to love someone else and expect nothing in return, to look out for their best interests at the expense of your own self-interests, at some point you are going to get burned, at some point the love is not going to be reciprocated. That’s exactly how Jesus loved us, and only through Jesus can we love others with this fantastic agape love.
Which of three Greek words for love most often describes how you love others? What prevents and hinders you from loving others unconditionally?