Who knew that one of our conversations about marriage and abuse in Bible School (Mark 10:1-12) would be graphically illustrated so quickly? While the full story has yet to be told, this happens much too frequently.
There are four basic Greek words for love: eros, phileo, storge, and agape. C.S. Lewis talks about them in his book “The Four Loves.” We’re going to take some of his insights as well as some Biblical insights and talk about “The Four Loves in Marriage.”
Lets talk about agape first. Lewis calls it charity. It can be considered a generic word for love, not having the warmth or intensity of the others. It’s the word used in John 3:16, which says “God so loved the world…” It’s used so often in Scripture for God’s love that it’s considered to be something special, but it really is generic. We are to love our enemies (Matthew), love the brethren (1 Peter), and love our spouses (Ephesians). This is the love we are to have for everyone! The passage that best describes this love, as well as showing us how to behave in marriage, is 1 Corinthians 13:4-8: “Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away.”
Next up is storge, or affection. It’s the love of a parent for a child or the love of a child for a parent. It’s a very natural kind of love. It can happen outside of family relationships too, and, when it does, it just seems to happen. It has no particular starting point, but develops over time as you become fond of someone. Eventually you find that you are comfortable with them and have a certain level of affection for them. As Lewis says, there is “no need to talk; no need to make love; no need at all except to stoke the fire.” It’s mentioned in Romans 12:10 where Paul says, “Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love.” It can be cultivated in a marriage relationship by learning to laugh with and enjoy each other. Remember that everyone has quirks. We can continue to be annoyed by them, or we can laugh and accept, which leads to affection.
Phileo was mentioned in Romans 12:10 along with storge. Lewis calls this love friendship, and sees it as the least natural. “Without eros no-one is begotten; without affection no-one is reared.” In other words, you can live and breed without friendship! It’s different from eros in other ways as well. Lewis says that “Lovers talk about their love. Friends hardly ever talk about their friendship. Lovers sit face to face, absorbed in each other. Friends sit side by side, absorbed in common interests.” This love is mentioned by Jesus in John 15:15 where he says, “I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my father, I have made know to you.” How is this love cultivated in marriage? By spending time together, talking together, and finding common interests that you can share in. This love will make your marriage the most rewarding relationship you have. Don’t neglect it! To many couples raise their children and find that they are married to strangers after the kids have grown. Make you wife your best friend now and you’ll never regret it!
Last, but certainly not least, we have eros, or erotic love. It’s not mentioned specifically in the Bible, but it’s certainly alluded to. Listen to what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 7:1-5: “” Now concerning the things of which you wrote to me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman. Nevertheless, because of sexual immorality, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband. Let the husband render to his wife the affection due her, and likewise also the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. And likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again so that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.”
Do you know what this means men? It means that you can live without sex, at least for a time! The ESV says “for a short time” in verse 5, but they’re basing that translation on practicality and sense rather than the actual Greek words! But notice ladies, that it is only for a time, and that there is supposed to be a spiritual reason for it: fasting and praying. In other words, you’re taking time away from your physical relationship with each other to work on your relationship with God. I hope that men don’t come up to me over the next few weeks saying, “My wife’s praying and she doesn’t have time for me!” It’s supposed to be a mutual decision. But I do want to give you men some advice, and it may be the most important advice you ever receive. If you want your wife to be more open to this type of love, focus on phileo, agape, and storge. If you focus on those three, eros will come.
Val and I just came back from America’s Keswick. Keswick is a Christian retreat center, and they also have an addiction rehab facility on the site called the Colony of Mercy. We enjoyed our time away, and loved getting to know more about their ministry. One of the best events was the T&T service (text and testimony) at the Colony on Wednesday night. 30+ addicts sharing together with the community what God was doing in their lives! We had to skip the “normal” pastor’s session to attend, but it was the highlight of our trip. I also learned how to tie balloon animals, and was taught how to do some gospel illusions (which I hope to use with some of our children’s ministry in the future). We finished it off by attending a 2 hour hymn sing on Thursday morning. Quite fun!
If you’re looking for someplace to attend a retreat, I highly recommend it. I also think that the Colony of Mercy is a wonderful ministry.