Love in the Greek language has many manifestations. Eros speaks of the erotic attraction of two people. Eros refers to those moments of combustion when two people are physically attracted. It is a wonderful type of love full of passion. It is summed up in the phrase: ‘Va va va voom!’ Movies and images as diverse as Hallmark cards to the raciest films make a lot of money fanning the flames that come with erotic love.
Philia is another type of love. Our word fraternal is related. It speaks to those who are bonded by a deep sense of identity. People who share the bond of family or tribe have a fraternal love. At its best this type of love is beautiful as in the love of a parent for a child. At its worst philia can lead people, tribes and nations to war protecting themselves from those perceived to be a threat.
The ancient Greeks knew that love is complicated. They knew that eros and philia can bring out the best and the worst in the human condition.
2000 years ago an itinerant healer and mystic named Jesus was guided by a third type of love. The Greek word is
Agape is a selfless love that isn’t dependent on physical attraction,the bond of blood or tribe. Agape comes from a deep place both within and beyond a person. Such a love enables us to relate to people in a universal and expansive way. Paradoxically such a love is both detached and profoundly intimate.
Agape empowers us to serve without thought of what is in it for me. It transcends fear and leads to freedom. Freedom from bitterness. Freedom to forgive. Freedom from self-centeredness. Freedom from hate. Freedom to accept. Freedom to be.
How do we know when love is of God? When it is expansive, life-giving and self-less.
Anne Lamott writes: “If god hates the same people you do, rest assured you’ve created god in your own image.”
Agape is about becoming aligned with the wisdom of God. Jesus understood that we are a fragile species but with the Spirit’s help we are capable of loving more fully and freely than we every thought possible. Happy Valentine’s Day.