What is phileo love?
Question: "What is phileo love?"
Answer: The Bible speaks of two types of love: phileo and agape. Both are Greek terms and appear at different points throughout Scripture. The Greek language also had terms for two other types of love, eros and storge, which do not expressly appear in the Bible.
To better understand phileo love, we need to take a brief look at the other types of love. Storge is an affectionate love, the type of love one might have for family or a spouse. It is a naturally occurring, unforced type of love. Some examples of storge love can be found in the stories of Noah, Jacob, and siblings Mary, Martha, and Lazarus.
As its name indicates, eros is passionate or sexual love (eros is the source of the English word erotic). While eros is important within a marriage relationship and is created by God (see Song of Solomon), it can also be abused or mistaken for storge love. The Bible is clear that sexual immorality (out-of-control eros) is a sin (1 Corinthians 6:18; 1 Thessalonians 4:3).
Agape speaks of the most powerful, noblest type of love: sacrificial love. Agape love is more than a feeling—it is an act of the will. This is the love that God has for His people and that prompted the sacrifice of His only Son, Jesus, for our sins. Jesus was agape love personified. Christians are to love one another with agape love, as seen in Jesus’ Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37).
Finally, we have phileo love. Philia refers to brotherly love and is most often exhibited in a close friendship. Best friends will display this generous and affectionate love for each other as each seeks to make the other happy. The Scriptural account of David and Jonathan is an excellent illustration of phileo love: “After David had finished talking with Saul, Jonathan became one in spirit with David, and he loved him as himself. . . . And Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself” (1 Samuel 18:1-3).
Since phileo love involves feelings of warmth and affection toward another person, we do not have phileo love toward our enemies. However, God commands us to have agape love toward everyone. This includes those whose personalities clash with ours, those who hurt us and treat us badly, and even those who are hostile toward our faith (Luke 6:28; Matthew 5:44). In time, as we follow God’s example of agape love for our enemies, we may even begin to experience phileo love for some of them as we start to see them through God’s eyes.
Recommended Resource: The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God by D.A. Carson
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