The Greek language has different words for love, as you already may be aware. Many are familiar with four of them, but the language has many other words that point to love. Philia points to a friendship love, one that can be found between any two individuals. Usually it is connected to those having fought a battle or having experienced some mutual trauma, where the bond is sealed in friendship. Not found in the New Testament, storge refers to another type of love that connects family members and relatives. It usually points to a parent or a guardian who has a deep love for their little ones. Agape is a selfless love that is epitomized by divine love, but can also be used for human relationships that are sacrificial in nature. With Christ’s sacrifice for us, this word can be easily used to describe His love. Because of the similarity of eros with the words erotic and erogenous, it is often confused with physical or sensual love. In fact, this love points to a love of the beauty of someone. There are other types of love that describe the love of self, a hospitality-centered love, and a playful type of love.
While we often attribute each type of love to different relationships, God is not limited by one. In reading Scripture, we find that God utilizes several and is not limited to agape love. In fact, in John 20 Jesus instructs Peter to love His sheep, but He uses the two verbs of agapao and phileo together. Rather than categorizing these loves, they are used together to convey the full spectrum of Christian love.
The reality is that with God, who is the essence of love (1 John 4:8, 16), He is not one category of love, but the ultimate encapsulation of true love, even that outside of the realm of the Greek language. Like threads of a rope, it is not just one flavor of love, but all the threads wrapped around as one composite that can illustrate God’s love.
We as fallen beings may have a hard time understanding this grand truth. God breaks down this wonderful rope into its different strands to help us understand His heart. We must be careful to try to understand each thread as He explains it, but also not to think that the entirety of God’s love can be encapsulated in words or even fully comprehended. Only eternity will make it possible to really begin contemplating this wonderous topic in the depth it deserves.
Eros love is a deep passionate love that later historically became connected to sexuality, but originally was associated with beauty, intimacy, and beyond the physical. It is not the physical mechanics or erotic feelings that God’s love is being compared to. Rather, knowing God’s love involves unashamed-ness, zeal, fervor, intimacy, exclusivity, no-one-else-exists-in-this-world-but-you-ness, emotion, and even passion. It is the same passion that exists between two lovers. In fact, the love of two lovers pales in comparison to the fervor of God’s love for us! Should not God be love-struck or distraught? Should not He be angry and jealous when betrayed?
What is usually misunderstood as the unbridled anger and impatient wrath of the Old Testament God is instead His fervidness of love, usually over humanity’s broken relationship with Him. Modernity wants leaders of authenticity and public figures showing their emotions and faults. Ironically, it is the God of the Old Testament who is often accused of being too emotional. This is far from the stoic, emotionless, philosophical god of the Middle Ages, who sits on His throne untouchable by human affairs. On the contrary, God is a God of passionate love (amongst other loves), who will do anything for His people, including the greatest dramatic act of the universe, being willing to go to death, even the death of the cross.
This same Jesus is the Jesus of eros love. This isn’t the only way His love is described and expressed, but we sure are glad that it is one form that He understands, He experiences, and He yearns in this manner for all humanity.