Today, we’re talking about love, which is great since my favorite holiday is coming up: Discount chocolate day, aka the day after Valentines Day. However, since Valentines does have to happen for the chocolate to be discounted, I thought it would be fun to spend a little time on the main way we celebrate that holiday.
So, for those of you who didn’t know, in the ancient Greek, there are several words used for love. How awesome is that? Because really I hate that I have to use the same word – love- to describe my enjoyment of Mexican food, my husband, and my God. And really I do love all those things. It’s just a different kind. I’m definitely no expert in ancient Greece or love, but I thought it’d be fun to look the bare basics of a few forms of love. Here are a few of the more common usages:
- Éros – This is one of the most common forms of love and the general one we think of when we think of love. It’s the romantic/physical type of love. Think of any romantic comedy you’ve ever seen… that’s generally what’s considered eros. However, eros is SO much more. Plato redefined eros as an appreciation of the beauty within a person (this is how we get the term “platonic”). Can you imagine? Look at your spouse, with whom you share the most intimate affection, and see the beauty within that person. Not married? No worries. Think of Jesus. Spend a little bit of time meditating on the beauty within Jesus.
- Philia, or philos – This should look pretty familiar. Philia is the term for affectionate regard, or friendship. Having trouble remembering that one? Think of the city in Pennsylvania: Philadelphia – the city of brotherly love! This is one that generally comes pretty naturally to us. It is pretty easy to show love to our friends and family. Aristotle, however, stated that philos requires virtue, equality, and familiarity. Try to look at your friends and family in this way. Treat them with virtue, equality, and familiarity.
- Storge (pronounced stor-gay) – This is most often linked with empathy, specifically of that within families and most often parent and child. This is extremely relational. How complex is familial love! Whether it is your parents, children, or a family of your own choosing, family relationships are among some of the most difficult to navigate. However, I really like this idea of empathy in relation to your familial relationships. Loving family can be really difficult at times, but try to realize that they probably feel the same about loving you.
- Xenia – This is “love of stranger.” Today we would think xenia comparable to hospitality. It’s fun to hang out with our friends and go to a restaurant or spend time at church. But how often do you invite people over to your home? I think that hospitality is a lost art. I think we often think we have to spend a crazy amount of money or time making everything perfect and we don’t realize that expressing xenia isn’t about any of that. It’s merely treating those outside your family as if they are a part of it. Warts and all. Don’t be scared, just reach out and love.
- Agape – I deliberately saved this one for last. Probably the most well-known and the most misused form of love. Agape is rightly defined as a “Godly love.” This is not only the love that God has for us, but also the love that we are to have for one another. It isn’t just a feeling, like eros or philia. Agape is much more akin to a choosing of love, or a mental assent. Sometimes we have to make a deliberate choice to love someone, even if we aren’t particularly feeling it at the time. This is what is spoken of when we are called to love our enemies. We aren’t asked to have an intimate feeling, or even to have a friendly feeling, merely the idea that we are choosing to love this person because God loves us and He is love and enables us to love others.
Sometimes loving is difficult. Sometimes we can only make a choice to regard and respect that person and that’s okay. The main thing to remember is that God is love and it is through Him that loving is possible at all. I challenge you to pick one of these forms of love and express it this Valentine’s Day. Bonus points if you can find a way to express all FIVE!