Summary: Of the four types of love, only one can be chosen -- Agape. God did this intentionally because Agape is the most powerful, and echoes the love He has for us.
Last week we began our series on the L Word with lust, as an example of what love is not. That means that tonight we will begin to learn about what love is. But which love are we talking about?
If that question doesn’t make sense, don’t worry -- you’re not alone. We only have one word for “love”, right? I love my wife, but I also love hamburgers. I love my kids, but I also love all of you. Those can’t possibly be the same emotions, but yet we use the same word each time. How can that be?
The only way something like that would even be possible or make sense is if there are multiple definitions of the word “Love”. In English, we only have the one word. But in Greek, the language of the New Testament, there are actually four different words that are all translated as “Love”.
Philia is the first type of love I’d like to discuss. Philia is loosely translated as “brotherly love” or, as we’d refer to it today, the love between friends.
Philia love is not something that can be chosen. Think about it for a moment. Do you really choose your friends, or do you naturally hang out with people who become your friends? It sounds good for someone to say, “Go make friends with that person over there, that you don’t know, and you have nothing in common with! Come on, it’ll be easy!”
But it’s really not that easy, is it? You can try all you want, but friendship isn’t something that you choose. Now, don’t get me wrong -- you can choose respect. You can choose to be kind. You can choose to be friendly -- but you can’t really choose friendship. It just happens.
The problem with that is philia love can be confusing. You’ve heard of making the wrong friends or hanging out with the wrong crowd, right? In situations like that we end up feeling philia love for someone who does not return it; manipulating you. Philia love can be corrupted and turned into something evil.
But in its purest sense, you can see that even though this type of love can be corrupted, it originally came from God as a gift to all of us. Turn to 1 Samuel chapter 18. Here we can see philia love expressed in its most pure form.
“1After David had finished talking with Saul, Jonathan became one in spirit with David, and he loved him as himself. 2From that day Saul kept David with him and did not let him return home to his family. 3And Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself.”
The relationship between David and Jonathan is friendship, yes. But it was such a strong friendship that the only way to accurately describe it is to use the word love.
Unfortunately, nowadays when we talk about two men loving each other, the world wants us to think about it in a sexual sense. Sexual love is real, but that’s not what David and Jonathan shared. Sexual love, or Eros, is the type of love shared between a husband and a wife.
Like Philia, Eros cannot be chosen. You can’t choose to fall in love with someone. You can think someone is attractive, sure; but that’s not the same as being in love with them, is it?
Romantic or sexual love is a powerful gift from God. Eros love is what keeps couples together if they have a fight; it’s what ties a husband and wife together into an amazing new creation. It’s incredible!
But I used the term “powerful gift” on purpose. Eros love can also be misused and misapplied just like Philia love can. In other words, it is possible to fall in love with the wrong person. When this happens, the results are typically a lot more painful than that of a bad friendship. Turn with me to Judges chapter 16:4-8 to learn about someone who did fall in love with the wrong person, and what happened afterwards: Samson. Samson was the strongest man who ever lived; but his strength was a supernatural gift from God that was dependant on him never revealing the secret of his strength.
“Some time later, he fell in love with a woman in the Valley of Sorek whose name was Delilah. 5The rulers of the Philistines went to her and said, “‘See if you can lure him into showing you the secret of his great strength and how we can overpower him so we may tie him up and subdue him. Each one of us will give you eleven hundred shekels of silver.’”
There are several things to look at here, but first we need to know a bit more about Samson. He was a Nazarite, which is kind of like a Jewish monk. He was not allowed to cut his hair, drink alcohol, and was not to come in contact with corpses or graves -- even those of his own family. Nazarites were specifically set apart by God and for God. In fact, Numbers 6 describes Nazarites as being “holy unto the Lord”. Samson, as a Nazarite, was a little different than other Hebrew men of the time.