Four Types of Love in the Bible

God is loveSalvation Mountain, Salton Sea, California

“We love because He first loved us.” ~1 John 4:19

The Bible teaches that God loves us, and it also teaches us that God is love.

First John 4:7-9 reveals: “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.”

God is the originator of love: “We love because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19). And love is an enduring attribute of His nature.

Four different types of love can be found in the New Testament of the Bible. These unique forms of love are named by the Greek words Agape, Philia, Storge, and Eros.

Agape (ah-gah’-pay) is spiritual, selfless charity for others. Jesus demonstrated this kind of divine, unconditional love to all humanity in the way he lived and died. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

Philia (fee’-lee-ah) is friendly, brotherly love. The concept of brotherly love that unites believers is unique to Christianity. Jesus said that philia would be an identifier of his followers. “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples if you love one another” (John 13:35).

Storge (stor’-jay) is an affectionate family bond. Many examples of family love are found in Scripture, such as the love of Jacob for his sons, as well as the strong love the sisters Martha and Mary had for their brother Lazarus. An interesting compound word, “philostorgos,” is found in Romans 12:10, which commands believers to “be devoted to one another with brotherly affection, in honor giving preference to one another.”

Eros (air’-ross) is passionate and romantic. God is very clear in the Bible that eros love is reserved for marriage. Promiscuity of all types was rampant in ancient Greek culture, and Paul had to warn young believers against succumbing to immorality. “I say to those who aren’t married and to widows—it’s better to stay unmarried, just as I am. But if they can’t control themselves, they should go ahead and marry. It’s better to marry than to burn with lust” (1 Corinthians 7:8-9).

The Four Loves

Clive Staples Lewis (1898-1963)—the British writer, scholar, Christian apologist, and bestselling author of Mere Christianity, The Screwtape Letters, The Chronicles of Narnia, and many other classics— is one of the most beloved authors of all time.

In his 1960 book The Four Loves, one of his most famous works of nonfiction, C.S. Lewis contemplates the essence of love and how it works in our daily lives. Lewis breaks down the four varieties of love in this order:

Storge (affection) – Lewis says this is the most basic and natural form of love, as in the love of a parent for their child. It is characterized by the fondness of familiarity, and is able to transcend most discriminating factors.

Philia (friendship) – Friendship is a strong bond between people who share common values, interests, or activities. Lewis explains that true friendships, like the friendship between David and Jonathan in the Bible, are rare and almost a lost art.

Eros (passion) – This is the sense of “being in love” or “loving” someone. But Lewis warned against the modern tendency for Eros to become a god to people, and the dark way in which it could lead to the “mercilessly chaining together two mutual tormentors.”

Agape (charity) – Lewis recognizes this selfless love as the greatest of the four types, and sees it as a specifically Christian virtue to achieve. It exists regardless of changing circumstances.

Throughout his compassionate and reasoned study, Lewis encourages readers to open themselves to all forms of love—the key to understanding that brings us closer to God.

You can read more about these four loves on the official website of C.S. Lewis. Click here to download The Four Loves Study Guide for free.

Did you know…? A fictional treatment of these loves is the main theme of Lewis’s novel Till We Have Faces.

In summary… God is love. Therefore, anyone who does not know love does not know God; and likewise, anyone who does not know God does not know true love.

“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing” (I Corinthians 13:1-3).

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7).

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