Love is a word that it is used a lot in the English language. We use the same word many times a day to express affection as in “I love my new car”, “I love my new neighbour”,or “I love my new hair style”. We also use the same word to express desire as in I would love an ice-cream. We even use the word in a nasty or evil sense, for example, “I would love it if things don’t work out for them”. We use the word love in so many different ways that it has become diluted, and when someone tells another that they love them, it can often fail to mean much more than a mere word. We hear songs of people professing their love for another after the first meeting, soap operas thrive on people meeting and falling in love. Love is something much deeper however, and it requires work, and sacrifice.
Society today wants it to instantaneous like most things, but it can never be. People today want a fairytale love that takes them away from their current problems, and that is why so many books, films, and songs sell so well when they speak of whirlwind romances. Love doesn’t just happen, there is a struggle and sacrifice involved and ultimately a decision of the will is required. CS Lewis expands on the four different words for love used by the Greeks. There is “storge” which is the affection we have for a family member, there is “philia” which is friendship we enjoy, there is “eros” which is romantic and passionate love, and then there is “agape”, which is self-sacrificing love, or a love for God.
“Agape” is the deepest form of love, the most profound. It’s very interesting that when Jesus asked St Peter three times how much he loved Him, before He tells Peter to feed His sheep, Jesus uses different words for love in the original Greek text. Jesus asks Peter twice if he “agape” loves Him, and Peter replies that He “philia” loves Him. The third time Jesus asks Peter if he “philia” loves Him, and this brings Peter peace. Understanding this we now look at this passage of scripture in an entirely different way. This brings the scripture more alive for us. This is something the English language misses.
If I want to commit my life to another person or to God, we should ask ourselves is the love I am feeling “agape”, is it deep and profound, life changing, and I am willing to sacrifice for the other? Or, is the love I am proclaiming merely “philia”, or simply based on feelings, which really is only a form of affection. It is the same with the word friend. This word is thrown around by people and lacks any depth now. Now people speak of having one thousand friends on facebook, and it has become silly. We try and make the word stronger by saying things like “best” friend, but even this has become diluted, and people speak of having many best friends. Aristotle spoke about three different kinds of friendship. He spoke about a “useful” friend who can help me and has a purpose, a friend that I derive “pleasure” from i.e. makes me laugh or good to go for a drink with, and thirdly a deeper form of friendship in the form of a “virtuous” friend. Like love, we need different levels. Love and friendship are just two examples, but society is guilty of taking meaning and depth out of many more things. These dilutions run deeper and ultimately have a part to play in dilution of bedrocks of society such as the family. Before I get married if I have not asked myself if I feel “agape” love, then will my marriage weather the storm when feelings pass? Whirlwinds come and go……