Published on Thu, Feb 8, 2007 by teve Casey

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By Steve Casey

“We loved with a love that was more than love.” These words of Edgar Allen Poe seek to express a concept that surpasses verbal expression. Many of the valentine cards given this month will also seek to express in words the deep feelings of romantic love that individuals have for each other. The word “love” is overused and often misunderstood. Some dictionaries have as many as 25 meanings for this one word.

In the Greek language, which is the original language of most of the New Testament, there are five words that can be translated into the English word “love.” Each of these words has a different meaning, but all five are parts of the kind of love needed to keep a husband and wife “in love” for the duration promised in their marriage vow - “till death do us part.”

These five “ways of loving” found in Greek are:

1. Epithumia - a strong desire of any kind. In the negative sense, it is translated “lust.” In the positive sense, it is translated “desire” or “love.” When it comes to romantic relationships, this is the emotion that gets people into a lot of trouble.  Though a strong desire for one’s partner is needed in a marriage relationship, if it is not blended with the other aspects of love, epithumia can easily become selfish and self-centered. When that occurs, epithumia becomes lust rather than healthy desire.

2. Eros - the romantic, passionate, and sentimental part of love. This is the emotion that causes all the mushy feelings – the so called “butterflies in your stomach.”  I have been told that those physical feelings of romance are not caused by the heart, but by secretions of enzymes from the liver.  So, if that is correct, rather than saying, “ I love you with all my heart,” you should say, “I love you with all my liver.” Or even better, “You make my liver quiver.”
These first two aspects of love are very important and often give the impression that this “love” will last forever. But, without the help of the following three aspects of love, these first two will die out, become self-centered, and lead to disaster.

3. Storg - sometimes described as the comfortable old-shoe relationship comprised of natural affection and a sense of belonging. Storge provides a sense of security and emotional refuge by the feeling that this is where one belongs. Storge does not carry a lot of “feelings,” but it is the heart of security and comfort in a relationship.

4. Phileo - the love of relationship - comradeship, sharing, communication, and friendship. While eros makes lovers, phileo makes dear friends. When your partner is also your friend, your relationship has the potential of truly lasting over the years.

5. Agape - the highest form of love.  Agape is the totally unselfish love that has the capacity to give and keep on giving without expecting in return. Agape values and serves in contrast to phileo, which cherishes and enjoys. Agape is the force that keeps the weeds of selfishness out of the garden of true love. Agape works when the “feelings” aren’t there. Agape can survive when all else fails. 
This type of love is best described in the words of the Apostle Paul,  “Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. Love does not demand its own way. Love is not irritable, and it keeps no record of when it has been wronged. It is never glad about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” (I Corinthians 13:4-8)

We hear a lot of talk about romance, especially this month around Valentine’s Day.  But we also see marriages and romantic relationships ending in disaster. It is the agape love that is so often missing. 

The beauty of agape is that it is an exercise of the choice of your will and is not dependent on feelings. It is love of action, not emotion. It focuses on what you do and say rather than how you feel.  In a lasting marriage, all five aspects of love are needed. But it is the God-given agape love that is the cement that holds the rest together.

This Valentine’s Day, as you put forth your best effort to try and find the perfect way to tell your special person of your love, you may want to take time to consider what you really mean when you say, ”I love you.”   Some of the modern confusion about love may clear up when you consider these five ways of loving.  We in America could take a lesson from the language of the ancient Greeks and realize that there is much more to being in love than just our liver getting a good quiver. 

True lasting love takes the desire of epithumia, the romance of eros, the security of storge, the friendship of phileo, and, most of all, the commitment of agape.