MULTIFACETED LOVE OF GOD
The Greek language has three distinct words to describe God’s love.
The word ‘storge’ refers to family love. It means ‘to hover over, cover and protect’. This is a gift of God to man and exists among blood and family relationships. However because of the fall, storge love now looks different. Possessiveness has crept in, which literally strangles and suffocates the relationship. The classic example of this twisted storge love is the love of a mother and son. The mother loves her son tremendously. She will love, hover over and protect him. But once he grows up and brings home a wife, the purity of that love changes. Often, the mother who feels threatened by the daughter-in-law’s love for her son tries to compete. A virtual tug of war begins. The poor boy gets choked between the mother-in-law and daughter-in-laws love war! See how the devil gave the beautiful storge love a nasty twist!
Now if all that we have is human love, then problems will not be too far behind either. We need a generous infilling of divine love in our hearts so that possessiveness and other impurities are canceled. This is possible only when Jesus Christ becomes the Lord and Savior of our lives and we are saved. When that happens, selfishness and possessiveness are put to death and we are enabled to love like Jesus.
The word ‘eros’ refers to erotic love or sexual love. It’s based on mutual physical attraction between man and a woman. God has made us with that love. It is meant to be enjoyed between a husband and wife in the confines of their marriage. However, when sin entered the world, erotic love got maligned. No longer was it precious and pure. It has now become a cheap thrill that overrules one’s reason and rationale. While on the one hand erotic love is relegated as trashy and carnal, on the other hand, there are some people who think that erotic love is evil. I once heard a preacher preaching at a wedding as if marriage and the physical relationship between the couple is ugly and distasteful. Neither of the views is correct. When God becomes the center of our lives, then our selfishness will transform to selflessness. We will begin to care about the other person and refrain from a sexual relationship outside of marriage. Erotic love touched by God’s love will bring us happiness and satisfaction and glory to God.
The word ‘phileo’ refers to the attachment to things within us and with friends.
a) Attachment to things within us
John 12:25 says, ‘He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.’ The Bible warns us against loving or getting attached to worldly ambitions and desires. Of course, that doesn’t mean we mustn’t delight in the desires that God gives us. The neat thing is that not only does God give us desires, but He also gifts us discernment for those desires. Let me tell you a story of one world famous neurosurgeon. Benjamin Carson was born in a poor family. As a young boy he had absolutely no interest in studies. His mother sought God’s wisdom to bring up her children. She asked them to read two books at the public library every week and write a review on the books they had read. Those books opened a big world to him and he walked into it confidently. He went to Yale University and later to John Hopkins Medical School. He was contemplating specializing in psychiatry when God showed him that he had excellent hand-eye coordination and to use it to become a neurosurgeon. God helped Benjamin discern His plans. The burning question therefore is – Do we have God given desires and do we seek His will to discern them? Are we attached to this life and all the fleeting desires or are we willing to surrender to God’s plans for us?
b) Attachment to people around us
Multiple things bring people together as friends. It could be common interests, outlook, passion or worldviews. However, absence of God’s love to tie the relationship together can cause selfishness and deceit to flare up. As a young man, I had many friends. They would hang out with me giving me the impression that they were excited to be around me. But these chaps were extremely selfish. During examinations, they wouldn’t let me study and pass because they weren’t keen on studying and going ahead in life and they didn’t want me either to move on. I discerned that their love and attachment towards me was motivated by self-centered motives. This was no genuine phileo love at play. Phileo love too must be tendered with God’s love in order for it to be poured out as genuine love.
…to be continued…