Anonymous asked: How do you define romantic love? Can brotherly love described in 1 Corinthians 13 be used?
Unka Glen answered: As you know, the New Testament was written in Greek, and the Greeks had several different words for love. When they wanted to describe brotherly love, they would use the word “phileo”. Which, you’ll be interested to know, is not the Greek word used in 1 Corinthians.
“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not 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 have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.” (1 Corinthians 13:1-3)
Where you read the English word “love” in these verses, the Greek word is “agape” and that’s the kind of love that comes from God. If you look at the way agape was used in other texts at the time, agape is often used to describe a love that loves no matter what. A love that loves, when it stops making sense to love.
But you asked about romantic love, and the Greek word for romantic love is “eros”. And here’s another fun fact: the word eros does not appear in the Bible. Wild huh? All those times in the New Testament when it talks about husbands loving their wives, it’s talking about agape love. That crazy love. That love that you keep going back to God to receive and reflect to your spouse.
So where does that leave us? Well, I’ll tell you what I think, but this is a good point to start asking God to give you a sense of how these things fit together for yourself. Romantic love, and this may be a little hard to hear, doesn’t last. Not really.
I mean, a husband and wife who love each other are always doing romantic things for each other, and that sense of being made to feel special should never leave a relationship. But that rush of excitement and drama, and the thrill of the unknown, can really only happen once in a relationship, and then things settle down into something else.
I think the Song of Solomon says enough about that thrill of romantic love, and it certainly celebrates that sense of attraction and romantic love, so in the end, we might say that romantic love isn’t really good or bad, it’s just something nice that happens. But it’s agape love that demands of us that we honor the other person and do right by them.
Agape should be the foundation of the house. Eros is the flowers growing in the front yard. Eros is good, it’s nice, but you can’t build anything lasting off of it.
But let’s not forget phileo. Yes, phileo is brotherly love, a family kind of love, but phileo is sometimes translated as the English word “kiss”. It is an intimate love, an affectionate love. If you have a best friend that is closer to you than your family, that’s phileo.
And I think that’s what romantic love can evolve into, if you’re lucky. You know how they say sometimes twins develop their own secret language? My wife and I can carry on a whole conversation with hand signals so subtle that others won’t even notice we’re giving them to each other.
I love eros. Long live eros. I celebrate eros. Keep it alive, and a part of your marriage forever, but let a deeper, more satisfying phileo develop. And let God’s perfect agape be the firm foundation, let it be the air you breathe to keep going, let it be the beginning and the end of the relationship.
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