August 10: What Does Love Look Like?
CS Lewis the famous writer wrote a now infamous book entitled “The Four Loves.” In this study Lewis compares the difference between the limitations of the English Word LOVE and the fact that the Greeks had at least 4 words to describe the kind of relationship that was in place.
In this short book Lewis discusses each word in a separate chapter and is a worthwhile read. Here are the definitions, according to Lewis’ study that can be found at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Four_Loves
Storge – affection
Affection (storge, στοργή) is fondness through familiarity (a brotherly love), especially between family members or people who have otherwise found themselves together by chance. It is described as the most natural, emotive, and widely diffused of loves: natural in that it is present without coercion; emotive because it is the result of fondness due to familiarity; and most widely diffused because it pays the least attention to those characteristics deemed “valuable” or worthy of love and, as a result, is able to transcend most discriminating factors.
Affection, for Lewis, included both Need-love and Gift-love; he considered it responsible for 9/10th of all solid and lasting human happiness.
Ironically, however, affection’s strength is also what makes it vulnerable. Affection has the appearance of being “built-in” or “ready made”, says Lewis, and as a result people come to expect it irrespective of their behaviour and its natural consequences. Both in its Need and its Gift form, affection then is liable to ‘go bad’, and to be corrupted by such forces as jealousy, ambivalence and smothering.
Philia – friendship
Philia (Greek: φιλία) is the love between friends. Friendship is the strong bond existing between people who share common interest or activity. Lewis immediately differentiates Friendship Love from the other Loves. He describes friendship as, “the least biological, organic, instinctive, gregarious and necessary…the least natural of loves”- our species does not need friendship in order to reproduce – but to the classical and medieval worlds the more profound precisely because it is freely chosen.
Lewis explains that true friendships, like the friendship between David and Jonathan in the Bible, are almost a lost art. He expresses a strong distaste for the way modern society ignores friendship. He notes that he cannot remember any poem that celebrated true friendship like that between David and Jonathan, Orestes and Pylades, Roland and Oliver, Amis and Amiles. Lewis goes on to say, “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”.
Growing out of Companionship, friendship for Lewis was a deeply Appreciative love, though one which he felt few people in modern society could value at its worth, because so few actually experienced true friendship.
Nevertheless Lewis was not blind to the dangers of friendships, such as its potential for cliqueyness, anti-authoritarianism, and pride.
Eros – romance
Eros (ἔρως) for Lewis was love in the sense of ‘being in love’ or ‘loving’ someone, as opposed to the raw sexuality of what he called Venus: the illustration Lewis uses was the distinction between ‘wanting a woman’ and wanting one particular woman – something that matched his (classical) view of man as a rational animal, a composite both of reasoning angel and instinctual alley-cat.
Eros turns the need-pleasure of Venus into the most appreciative of all pleasures; but nevertheless Lewis warned against the modern tendency for Eros to become a god to people who fully submit themselves to it, a justification for selfishness, even a phallic religion.
After exploring sexual activity and its spiritual significance in both a pagan and a Christian sense, he notes how Eros (or being in love) is in itself an indifferent, neutral force: how “Eros in all his splendour…may urge to evil as well as good”.While accepting that Eros can be an extremely profound experience, he does not overlook the dark way it may lead even to the point of suicide pacts or murder, as well as to furious refusals to part, “mercilessly chaining together two mutual tormentors, each raw all over with the poison of hate-in-love”.
Agape – unconditional love
Charity agapē (ἀγάπη) is the love that brings forth caring regardless of the circumstance. Lewis recognises this as the greatest of loves, and sees it as a specifically Christian virtue. The chapter on the subject focuses on the need of subordinating the natural loves – as Lewis puts it, “The natural loves are not self-sufficient”- to the love of God, who is full of charitable love, to prevent what he termed their ‘demonic’ self-aggrandisement. Lewis did not actually use the word agape although later commentators did.
“How Do We Know we have passed from Death to Life? Because we Love the Brethren.” (IJohn 3: 14)
Our best reference for a truly worthwhile and working definition of agapē (ἀγάπη) also referred to as the divine or God quality of Love is found in Paul’s first letter to the church at Corinth, ICor 13: 4 – 8a. Although there are a number of very good translations of this passage, the version found in the Amplified bible (Zondervan Press) is still regarded as one of the best, if not the best. It expands and expounds all that Paul was talking about to this young church.
The Love walk requires that we know what Love truly is before we embark on the journey. A good starting point for the practical application of this Love is given to us by the Disciple referred to as “The one that Jesus loved” and often referred to as “The Apostle of Love”; namely John.
In the first epistle of John we discover that this Love is more than an emotion. That in fact Love is a person; that Love is God himself and that the Holy Spirit as a resident in our hearts, as born again believers, means that that God quality of Love resides on the inside of us.
However, it is up to us to choose to release that Love. We will be given the opportunity to choose to act in Love, or not, because The Holy Spirit is a gentleman and does not force his will on anyone. Our Job is to renew our minds to what that Love is and How that Love is to be expressed. So that by doing so we are able to make better choices in each situation.
We move away from the natural fleshly love of self satisfaction to the selfless agapē (ἀγάπη) Love of God. Our thoughts change from being “what can I get in this situation.” To “What, or How, can I be a blessing in the situation.” We move from being ‘Self’ centred to being ‘Others’ centred in our thinking. Our best example of this being Jesus himself; the Love of God personified; John 3: 16 – 17.
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