Love comes in many kinds. The Greeks use agape, philio, and eros as words for different types of love. We use the word "love" for all three. The purest form of love is agape. Agape is love without condition. Agape extends from the lover to the one loved without a requirement for return. While philio is pleasant and useful in relationships, it requires a return of philio. Philio can start a relationship by meeting needs mutually. Philio can be very frustrating if we keep a tally of who owes how much to whom. Within marriage we need eros and eros can start a relationship through the chemistry of attraction. Outside marriage, eros is a trap that condemns the user to a life of misunderstanding and misery. Eros leads to more relationship problems because we often trade it for philio and philio for eros. None of these loves is a substitute for the other. They are different by design. Understand the proper context for philio, and eros from agape, UNCONDITIONAL LOVE.

  • Love affects our thinking and feeling because it always draws us into relationships. If we are drawn in and feel unsafe, problems develop. If we are drawn in and feel powerful, we cause problems. If love develops properly, problems need not develop at all. In fact, love cures problems and makes us feel safe.

  • Scripturally, love is first noted (NKJV) in Genesis 22:2 when Abraham is about to sacrifice Isaac. God identifies Abraham’s love and his willingness to sacrifice due to commitment. The last use of the word love is in Revelation 12:11 where Jesus refers to the witnesses not loving their lives so much that they would die as a sacrifice made through commitment. In both cases, God's reference is love with sacrifice and commitment. We need that as a basis for what we consider love. Anything else will fail the test of 1 Corinthians 13.  "How I Love You" is a questionnaire you can use to know how well you love someone in the sixteen characteristics of agape described in 1 Corinthians 13.

  • Love is based on many things as we go through the process of relationships. We relate to looks, fantasies, intelligence, agendas, similarities, differences, and the ability to return respect and warmth. All these reasons can be the reason for holding onto a relationship. They can also be reasons for the death of a relationship. These reasons change with time and familiarity. So we need to love as God loves and do so because we want to. Myles Munro* has worked a short reasoning exercise for examining reasons to love. If we use the other person’s attribute for love, we have a reason. For example, use the great shape of that person as a reason for your love. Reasons turn into conditions. If we love for a certain shape then shape is a condition for love. Conditions turn into expectations. We expect that shape (condition) will remain and that our love will be secure. Expectations turn into pressures. Keeping a certain shape because it is expected can produce pressure of dieting, weighing, exercise and shapely clothes to show off that shape. Pressures turn into disappointments. When we cannot maintain shape, because we do not have absolute control of ourselves, all that pressure related behavior, even if followed perfectly, leads to failure and disappointment. Disappointment has nothing to do with unconditional love. Unconditional love is pure in the heart of the holder. Typically, what drives the argument for shape or other reasons relate to "like," not love. Like is full of feeling. Love is full of sacrifice and commitment.  (*Myles Munro is with Bahamas Faith Ministries, Nassau, Bahamas)

  • Jesus said love God first, then yourself, and then your neighbor (Matthew 22:37-40). Jesus also said to love your enemies (Matthew 5:44). This sounds impossible. Nevertheless, Jesus follows with a foundation on which we can stand, "as I have loved you, you also love one another." Jesus loves us with love from on high, recreates in us a capability to love, and helps us to love from the same resource.

  • We convey love through words and behavior (communication). Without communication through both words and behavior, no exchange of love occurs. Different behaviors are appropriate for each kind of love expressed. Holding hands or sexual activity can express Eros. Soft understanding words or hours of care can express philio. Agape will be expressed through all these and yet without the demand for a return in kind. Often, we misunderstand the kind of love expressed. Jesus said "I agape you and you must agape each other. First you must know Me and my Father through Me. You must sacrifice. You must commit to this action, no matter what. Doing this will show that you love Me." (John 14:23) This is not easy, but it is simple. If you find it complicated, you are reading too much into the command.

  • We also express love in the growth of relationships. The elements of growth are communication, trust, intimacy, and vulnerability. Common goals help us express love as we communicate, trust, share intimacy and vulnerability.

  • Powerlessness is the key to understanding the hurt often experienced in love. We are powerless to make anyone be committed or sacrificial. We cannot make anyone receive our love, no matter what kind it is. We cannot make anyone give us love, no matter what kind we want. Sounds frustrating? Remember, God’s AGAPE is always there. Communicating with Him, trusting Him, intimacy with Him, and vulnerability with Him are rewarding and will keep you out of the trap of trying to manipulate the love you want and need. Loving God first is the key. He loved us first, however, and will always love us most. From Him you have somewhere to go with your love. 

If agape love is not a feeling, what are feelings? The next lesson is Technicolor Feelings >