What the world needs – and wants – is real love.
The Spirit of Love
The Bible emphasizes that love is an attitude that is expressed in compassionate action. The ancient Greeks used four distinct terms that are translated in English as love:
1. Eros: Sexual attraction. This is physical love or attraction. Our word “erotic” derives from this term. It is not expressly used in the Bible, though it is implied in connection with the intimate relationship between husbands and wives (see, e.g., I Cor. 7:1-6; Eph. 5:22-33).
2. Storge: Social attachment. This refers to the organic bond between family members or a social group. The negative form of this word appears in Romans 1:31 and II Tim. 3:3: “without natural affection.”
3. Phileo: Sentimental affection. It “denotes an inclination prompted by sense and emotion…” (Thayer). The name Philadelphia means “city of brotherly love.” This is the love shown between dear friends, and should be maintained among Christians (Rom. 12:10).
4. Agape: Selfless action. The focus is on a conscious expression of kindness or benefit toward someone, by operation of the will or intellect, simply because it is right. “Agape” is the highest form of love because it directs its expression from God’s example (John 3:16; I John 3:16, 4:19). Because it is related to the will, it is not dependent on feelings or emotions to generate or regulate it. In a manner of speaking, it is possible to love (agape) someone but not like (storge or phileo) them. This is why Jesus could command His followers to “love your enemies” (Matt. 5:44).
The Signs of Love
In 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, Paul uses 15 verbs to describe how someone with agape love will conduct themselves. Rather than being ruled by emotions, which change with the mood of the moment, they are governed by the knowledge of uprightness, and a desire to be and do good even toward those who aren’t appealing or deserving. This love “shows mercy” (Luke 10:25-37).
The Source of Love
Love grows as we deepen our relationship with God: “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8 He who does not love does not know God, for God is love” (1 John 4:7-8 NKJV).
Paul observed how loving others is the natural product of fellowship with God: “But as touching brotherly love ye need not that I write unto you: for ye yourselves are taught of God to love one another” (1 Thessalonians 4:9).
Jesus taught: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35 NKJV).