Talking about love is always interesting. To be honest, I do not feel that I know much about love so that I write this post. This idea came in to my mind a week ago when a friend in my facebook account wrote something about the definition of love. It was a beautiful sentence, taken from Love is Not a Fight by Warren Barfield, but I think it is incomplete. I made comments about that definition last time and then tried to think deeper in my own mind.
Most of people experience many kinds of love, either the fake one or the true one. Therefore, definition of love can be many based on how we experience it. Some of them sound very beautiful and so deep, but some are simple but sweet. But I am not too mistaken if I say that these definitions are simply subjective. Some people who experience it differently will have their own definition of love. To be honest, I also cannot completely define what love is. The only thing I am very sure is the definition of love in 1 Corinthians 13 of the bible. For me, this is the full definition of love;
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (1 Cor 13:4-6)
This kind of love undoubtedly cannot be given by humans. It is too impossible to give this kind of love to others. Some Christians argue that this kind of love is only owned by God. But in fact, the bible does not give any differentiation whether this kind of love is owned by God or not, meaning that this kind of love is what love is all about.
Some argue that there are four groups of love: Storge (family love), Eros (primarily in relation to sex), Philia (friendship love), and Agape (selfless love, or God’s love). If I match these four groups with the definition of love in the previous paragraph, Love in 1 Cor 13 only matches with the Agape Love, I am afraid. So, what are the other kinds of love then?
What I found by looking at these four kinds of love is that Agape love is superior to others. The three first kinds of love are conditional and temporary, while Agape love is unconditional and eternal. Storge, for example, exists if someone is the member of a family; if someone is one’s partner, he/she has Eros kind of love; and only because someone is a friend of someone so that they have Philia kind of love. This is why they are conditional. On the other hand, Agape kind of love is unconditional, God gives it to all people. This love is proved by giving His only Son as the propitiation of man’s sins. Another different characteristic is temporary vs eternal. All people will face death meaning that the three kinds of love will also pass away.
Moreover, the characteristics of Agape love can be found in the characteristics of the other kinds of love, such as patient for parents in giving Storge kind of love, or not arrogant in a real Philia kind of love (even though it is very hard to find), but none of the three kinds of love fully describe the characteristics of the Agape Love. Therefore, I am not too mistaken to say that by understanding the Agape Love we can also understand the other three kinds of love, but by only understanding the three kinds of love, we cannot fully understand the Agape Love because there are characteristics of Agape love that are not covered in the three kinds of love.
Another question coming into my mind is that ‘is there any relationship between these four kinds of love? Is each kind of love independent?’ As I said before, some characteristics of Agape love can be found in the three other kinds of love; therefore, the more we understand the Agape Love, the more we understand the other three kinds of love. So, why didn’t we first learn about Agape Love before trying to practice the other three kinds of love? As the application, Eros kind of love, for instance, will only be beautiful when the foundation knowledge about Agape Love is already understood and practised.
As a conclusion, I am not too mistaken if I say that by focusing our mind and efforts to one or two kinds of love and ignore the most important love (Agape Love), we will never understand fully what the definition of love is.