Author: Rachel Kidd
Do everything in love.
A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.
We all have an innate, God-given desire to love and to be loved by others. As infants, we need the loving touch and tender words of our parents and caregivers to grow. As children, we need unconditional love and acceptance, and loving discipline as we develop. As teenagers and adults, we need the loving support of community in order to thrive. Romantic love brings joy to marriage and loving your own children as a parent is another layer to that love.
We also have a God who loves us, so deeply and unconditionally. He created love for us, calling us to love one another and treat each other well, as He loved us. Love in the modern context can seem dulled, a cheap alternative to what God designed for us. We see love over and over again in the scriptures, a constant reminder of God’s will for us; love for eachother and for Him. But is all love created equal?
There are four types of love that align with God’s design. C.S. Lewis explored these types in his 1960 book, “The Four Loves.”2 He begins his study of love with an introduction to St. John’s famous declaration; God is love. Lewis warns against conflating the two, love and God, without a safeguard in place.
St. John’s saying that God is love has long been balanced in my mind against the remark of a modern author (M. Denis de Rougemont) that “love ceases to be a demon only when he ceases to be a god” ; which of course can be restated in the form “begins to be a demon the moment he begins to be a god.” This balance seems to me an indispensable safeguard. If we ignore it the truth that God is love may slyly come to mean for us the converse, that love is God (Lewis, 17).
Affection (Greek: Storge)
Affection is comfortable love, the nostalgia you feel in your hometown or the safety of your mother’s embrace. Often associated with the love children have for their parents and parents for their children, storge is rather undiscerning and does not rely on attraction or compatibility.
Lewis called storge love humble, the kind of love that lives with “un-dress, private things; soft slippers, old clothes, old jokes, the thump of a sleepy dog’s tail on the kitchen floor, the sound of a sewing-machine…” (Lewis, 56-57). It is the love of the mundane, the people you see so often they become important features in your life, like pets or coworkers.
Friendship (Greek: Philia)
Friendship can also be overlooked in our culture, overshadowed by family or romantic connections. But, deep connections with friends and a strong community can be incredibly fulfilling. Lewis explained that “to the Ancients, friendship seemed the happiest and most fully human of all loves; the crown of life and the school of virtue. The modern world, in comparison, ignores it” (Lewis, 87). Unlike other types of relationships that are formed out of pure necessity or chance, friendship is a conscious decision made out of simple desire. Lewis described friendship as that luminous, tranquil, rational world of relationships freely chosen. You got away from all that: This alone, of all the loves, seemed to raise you to the level of gods or angels” (Lewis, 93).
We enjoy companionship and so we create it. Often, we form friendships with others based on common interests and shared values. We build close bonds with friends overtime, supporting each other through hardships and celebrating successes.
Romance (Greek: Eros)
Beyond simple sexual desire for the act, “Eros wants the Beloved”. To be in eros love is to desire one person, to love them fully. C.S. Lewis says that lovers are “absorbed in each other”.
While we are cautioned to be careful with romantic love, Lewis also tells us that eros love is a beautiful picture of Christ’s love for the church.
“In one high bound it has overleaped the massive wall of our selfhood; it has made appetite itself altruistic, tossed personal happiness aside as a triviality and planted the interests of another in the centre of our being… It is an image, a foretaste, of what we must become to all if Love Himself rules in us without a rival” (Lewis, 126).
When we love our spouse in this way, we get a taste of what it means to love so completely and better understand God’s love for us. Lewis describes it eros as having the unique ability to “obliterate the distinction between giving and receiving” (Lewis, 137).
Charity (Greek: Agape)
The love of mankind or agape love is the ultimate goal, to love others as God loves us. It is unconditional and eternal, forgiving and true. Agape love is something deeper than what Lewis calls the other three “natural loves.” It goes beyond a feeling, it is “goodness… the whole Christian life in one particular relation” (Lewis, 163).
It is the beauty and curse of being human, the nature of love and the pain of loss that Lewis explains is God-willed. “Even if it were granted that insurances against heartbreak were our highest wisdom, does God Himself offer them? Apparently not. Christ comes at last to say “Why hast thou forsaken me?”” (Lewis, 169).
Five Love Languages
People give and receive love in different ways. Knowing how you love best is important to feeling secure in your relationships. Being conscious of how your friends, family, and significant other receive love improves relationships by reducing conflict and improving emotional intimacy.
The Five Love Languages were developed by counselor Dr. Gary Chapman to help people improve their relationships by better understanding their unique personalities and needs.
- Physical Touch. A hug from your best friend, a kiss from your spouse, or the cuddles from your dog make you feel loved and secure.
- Acts of Service. When your loved one does something to make your life easier, like picking up dinner for the family on their way home or doing the laundry, makes you feel supported.
- Quality Time. Quality over quantity, you value uninterrupted time with your loved ones and the ability to connect with them in person.
- Words of Affirmation. Encouraging and positive words make you feel valued in relationships.
- Receiving Gifts. When your loved ones take the time to pick out a gift that they know you’ll love, you feel understood and connected with that person.
Take the Five Love Languages Quiz3 and find out your love language. This is a great quiz to take with your partner, as a family, or even with friends to improve understanding and communication in your relationship.
Love and Loss
In an incredibly powerful conclusion to “Four Loves,” Lewis urges us to love, even though it makes us vulnerable to heartbreak and pain. In fact, he says that avoiding love in fear of the pain it may cause, only further separates us from God.
There is no safe investment. To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket—safe, dark, motionless, airless—it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.