The Four Loves

Romans 5:6-8
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die. But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.

Mark 12:30-31
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.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

I love the smell of a new car. It’s beyond clean. Uncontaminated by food smells. Uncontaminated by dirt and grime. Uncontaminated by children’s sticky fingers on the windows. I have been driving around with the smell of broccoli, carrots, and cauliflower for months because some vegetable medley got sloshed in my car on the way to fall festival. I ask people when they enter my car for the first time if they smell it and they politely say no, but I smell it every time I get into the car. And it smells quite lovely!

I love my husband Mike, who I’ve been married to for almost 12 years. He’s my best friend. He’s my companion for life. He’s the one that I can be my truest, authentic self. I’m not saying it’s easy, but I choose to love him every single day. He’s my partner in crime, but more than that, he knows me, and chooses to love me anyway.

I love my kids, Enoch and Evy. I never “not” love them. It’s innate like breathing. I love them and there’s literally nothing they can do about it. Even when Enoch’s running around Wesley hyped up on sugar from my candy bowl or Evy is “tricking” my mom into blow drying her hair last night, which she never has blow dried, though she told Mom that Mike blow dries her hair every night.

I love my job. But I like to think of it as a vocation or calling. Everyone has one; that which you were uniquely made to do. That which blends together the gifts, skills, and abilities God has given you. I love being a campus minister. I love this age group. I love providing a variety of ways that your faith can come alive: worship, discipleship, service, advocacy, prayer, leadership development, and communicating the love and grace of God.

The English word love conveys such a wide variety of things and most people are wise enough to deduce from certain context clues the real meaning of the word. I LOVE this song is much different than I LOVE my brothers. I LOVE Leonardo’s pizza is much different than I LOVE Enoch or Evy.
There are many words in Greek that are translated into love, but I’ll talk about 4. The four loves that C.S. Lewis wrote about in his work appropriately titled, The Four Loves. They are storge, philia, eros, and agape.

Storge means “affection” in ancient and modern Greek. It is natural affection, like that felt by parents and their children. It’s rarely used in ancient works, and then almost exclusively as a descriptor of relationships within the family. So I have storge for Enoch and Evy, for Josh and Caleb, my brothers, and for my mom and dad.

Philia is the love between friends. It means affectionate regard or friendship in both ancient and modern Greek. This type of love has give and take, an equal sharing. One person is not putting in everything to sustain the friendship, but both are. It includes loyalty to friends, family, and community, and requires virtue, equality and familiarity. I think of this love, as a group of college friends watching Scandal, The Bachelor, Downton Abbey, Reign or Once Upon A Time together. Or the show we were obsessed with in college, it gives y’all extra fodder to make fun of me – Dawson’s Creek. I can say much about friendship that’s in essence written on the Love Campaign banners. Several people wrote about friendship when answering the “What is Love?” question. C. S. Lewis immediately differentiates Friendship Love from the other Loves. He describes friendship as, “the least biological, organic, instinctive, gregarious and necessary…the least natural of loves” – our species does not need friendship in order to reproduce – but to the classical and medieval worlds the more profound precisely because it is freely chosen. A couple of verses that accentuate this are,

Proverbs 17:17
A friend loves at all times, and kinsfolk are born to share adversity.

John 15:13
No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

Eros is a “physical” passionate love, with sensual desire and longing. I would say this is not always a rational love. Pure emotion and romance and “love at first sight” classify this kind of love. Romantic, pure emotion without the balance of logic could be said of this kind of love. “Love at first sight.” The Modern Greek word “erotas” means “intimate love;” however, eros does not have to be sexual in nature. Eros can be interpreted as a love for someone whom you love more than the philia, love of friendship. It can also apply to dating relationships as well as marriage. Two verses that accentuate this idea.

Ephesians 5:25-28
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 in order to make her holy by cleansing her with the washing of water by the word, 27 so as to present the church to himself in splendor, without a spot or wrinkle or anything of the kind—yes, so that she may be holy and without blemish. 28 In the same way, husbands should love their wives as they do their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.

Genesis 29:20
So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed to him but a few days because of the love he had for her.

Agape love is the love we’ve been talking about all week in the Love Campaign. We’ll see the Love Campaign video next Sunday. That’s what the Romans 5 and Mark 12 texts are all about. The heart of the Romas passage is verse 8, “But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.” Nothing can separate us from the love of God. Agape means love in a spiritual, true unconditional love kind of way. It’s a sacrificial spiritual love, accentuated by Christ’s giving his life up for us. We’re also called to love the world with agape love. As it is written in Mark 12:30-31, “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.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” We’re called first to love God and to love our neighbors as we do ourselves. Sharing that agape love with all the world. This type of love is embodied in the 1 Corinthians 13 passage.

1 Corinthians 13:4-8
Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end.

We’re going to watch different clips from Rob Bell’s Nooma video “Flame” about the Hebrew words for love. The Hebrew in the Old Testament has at least 3 different words for love.

(Flame – 2:11-2:48, 3:02-4:06, 4:30-10:10)

So what do we do with all of those different types of love? What do all these Greek or Hebrew words matter to our lives now? Know which flame you’re fanning. If it’s the flame of friendship, by all means keep fanning. If it’s the flame of storge or affection between you and your family members, by all means keep fanning. If it’s the flame of agape, fan ALL the time!! If it’s the flame of eros, by all means keep fanning – if it is a healthy, balanced relationship, and there’s give and take, and healthy communication and we will delve into healthy relationships next week. We will talk about protecting our hearts, we will talk about what I mean by the words “healthy” and “balanced,” we will talk about communication and we will talk about dating, marriage, singleness. I’m not sure I can fit all that I want to say into one sermon, but I’ll make a valiant attempt. May you become aware of the flames your fanning in your own lives and may God reveal to you in God’s discernment what flames you should keep fanning and what flames you should pour water on.

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