I recently had dinner with some friends, and there was a projector and posters set up in one area of their great room. They host a Bible study each Wednesday night, and the study is based on Crazy Love, a book by Francis Chan. There were several lists and things on the posters, but one in particular caught my eye:
Philia: Friendship love, from which we get Philadelphia “The City of Brotherly Love)
Storge: Family-oriented love
Eros: Sexual or sensual love, desire, attraction
Agape: God’s love, unconditional love, all-consuming love
These terms were not new to me; I grew up in church and had heard about all of them except “Storge” often. And I began thinking about the different types of love, how we live or react to them…or the lack of them. And, when it comes to that one person, the person with whom we are in love, what is enough? What should it be, if there is indeed a should.
In the primary long term romantic relationship for much of my life, I lived without Eros love. Oh, there was a bit of it here and there, but essentially it was made up of Storge and Philia. There is nothing wrong with those loves. In fact, I think in order for a romantic relationship to be truly intimate and long term, there should be Philia, along with Agape. But without Eros, it is not a romantic relationship…not really. For a long time I had Eros love for him, but eventually, without the return of Eros love, my own eroded. It disappeared.
So obviously Eros is important. But is it enough?
I think no. Eros is important. Eros is exciting, it bonds us, it is essential to making that distinction between your friend and your lover. Your buddy and your partner. Without Eros, two people are not husband and wife or lovers. They are roommates or friends. However, I have discovered something about Eros. In many ways, it is a selfish love. Now, there is nothing wrong with love having a selfish aspect, and let’s be honest, we all want to be loved. We all want. But desire alone is not enough to sustain. It is not the love that gives us patience, that gives us commitment, and that causes us to weather the storms.
For that type of love, we look to Agape, to Philia, and even to Storge. But mostly, I think, we look to Agape. That love is unconditional. It is the love that reminds me of the Shakespeare poem:
Love is not love, that alters when it alteration finds, or bends with the remover to remove. Oh no, it is an ever-fixed mark that looks on tempests and is never shaken.
Many things can shake Philia, Eros, and even Storge. But Agape…Agape is for good. There is no fear in Agape, for perfect love casts out all fear (See I John 4).
So what is my point with this? While I never again want to be in a relationship that is intended to be romantic but is devoid of Eros, I am also more than Eros. I am more than desire. I am more than temporary need. I am more than fleeting. And I must never forget that when I choose how to give my whole self, it must be in the context of Agape in addition to whatever other kinds of love may be offered. Because one should never trade one’s whole self cheaply. Philia, Eros…these are fine when our eyes are wide open. But we must never confuse the feelings they give us with Agape being offered. Because without the features outlined by Shakespeare….they are not Agape. They are temporary. And temporary is fine as long as you remind yourself that temporary offerings do not last forever.