"What Is This Thing Called Love?" is a popular song by the late Cole Porter. Love is the most popular theme of songwriters and poets. Yet, as the title of Mr. Porter's song suggests, many—perhaps most—do not know what love really is.
The word has a multitude of meanings and linguistic usages, at least in English.
We may speak of loving a particular food. We might love our job. Or we could love a particular song or movie.
We frequently use love to describe relationships between two people. But here again the meaning can vary widely. The word can refer to a relationship of tender affection or apply simply to the physical sex act. Using the latter definition, the word can be used to describe an orgy, and it has been so used. But an orgy is not love but lust. It is indulged in as a result of an inordinate desire for sensual pleasure, to gratify the self.
The original Greek of the New Testament contains three words translated "love." One is eros, a love that is romantic or sexual in nature. Eros is different from lust, though, because the Greek language has other words for lust.
Another Greek word for love is philia, or the related word philadelphia. These refer to brotherly love or friendship. Companionship, communication and cooperation are hallmarks of this kind of love.
The third Greek word translated "love" is agape. This is the word used to describe God's love (1 John 4:8), the love He expresses toward mankind. This kind of love is listed as a fruit—a characteristic product—of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22).
Agape (pronounced a-gah-pay) is used in the New Testament as an outwardly focused form of love that includes a willingness to give of oneself, sacrificing for the benefit of others (see John 3:16-17; 15:13). It is a way of living that is based on giving, on concern and care for others, rather than on getting and pleasing the self. Many marriages, particularly the made-in-Hollywood versions, lack agape love. These marriages are largely based on external beauty and physical attraction. They may last a month or they may last five years, but rarely longer—at least among celebrities.
A good marriage will have all three kinds of love. The husband and wife will experience romantic or erotic love, they will be good friends, and they will manifest the self-giving, self-sacrificing love that is the highest of all loves.
Jesus Christ is our model for this kind of love (Ephesians 5:25, 28-29). It involves a conscious commitment that can enable a married couple to endure and work through life's inevitable reversals and hardships. This love is best nurtured by first establishing a relationship with God that includes obedience to His Commandments—providing stability in one's outlook and values. GN