gospel reflection

The Four Types of Love

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The word ‘love’ is frequently used in the Bible. Even with different translations, it is mentioned more than 500 times. Oxford English Dictionary defines love as “the benevolence and affection of God towards an individual or towards creation; also the affectionate devotion due to God from an individual; regard and consideration of one human being towards another prompted by a sense of a common relationship to God.”

In his book, “The Four Loves,” Lewis discusses four different types of love, as the Greeks defined them. Here they are.

  1. Storge: “affection,” the feeling one has for familiar things that one likes, including family members. 
  2. Philia:  “friendship,” the love or feeling between friends, two males, two females, or a male and female. 
  3. Eros: “romantic or sexual love” between husband and wife. Friendship between a man and a woman can sometimes develop into eros.
  4. Agape: “charity or selfless love.” This love is found in the love of a soldier sacrificing himself to fight for freedom of his own country. It is best described in Christ’s love for the Church.

The first three types of love come with condition: ‘I love you because ….” They desire in order to possess for oneself. The fourth (Agape) is unconditional love. It so strongly desires the good of the other that it is willing to sacrifice itself. Surely, agape is the highest level of love.

In John 21:15-17, Jesus examines Peter’s love for him and the Church by repeating the same question 3 times: “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Jesus is inviting Peter to renew his love, not with conditional but unconditional love. In whatever level of love (storge, or philia and eros) we are. We are invited to move it to agape. God first loves us. We, in turn, are able to love Him and others: “Love God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength. Love your neighbour as yourself” (Mk 12:30-31).

Fr Do  

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