Sex, Love, and Marriage-Whats Love Got To Do With It?
The word "love" is perhaps the most beautiful word in the Bible. As the old American soap opera was entitiled, “Love is a many splendored thing." But because many have failed to understand its real meaning, they have never enjoyed it as they could. Being more influenced in their concept of love by the entertainment world and by romantic literature than by the teaching of God's Word, many couples have missed the wholesome and exhilarating experience of true love.
Many a marriage has been wrecked because of a failure to understand the real meaning of love. The emotional thrill caused by the presence of some member of the opposite sex has often been mistaken for true love. Then on that faulty foundation, many have married only to discover in a short while that what they considered to be love was not love at all - it was just romantic infatuation.
How often has a young man "fallen in love" with some girl and then, projecting himself into the place of the hero of the last film he saw (or book he read), begins to feel that if only he could marry her, they could together "live happily ever after". But marriage has a way of shattering the dream-world that an infatuated couple lived in during days of courtship and engagement. It awakens them and plants them firmly in the world of reality. If infatuation is blind, marriage is certainly an eye-opener!
We must understand what the Bible means when it speaks of "love", or else we too will find ourselves on the path of failure that millions of young people and married couples are on today.
The New Testament was originally written in Greek and that language has four words for "love" - agape, philia, storge and eros. Of these, storge is used almost exclusively to refer to the love of parents for their children and of children for their parents. Since we are dealing here with love between the sexes, we shall ignore storge and consider only the other three words. Agape, philia and eros refer to three levels of love - which could correspond to man's spirit, soul and body.
Beginning at the lowest level, eros refers to the love of physical passion.
It has been defined by one author, as "the hot and unendurable desire" and has primary reference to the union of the body of one with that of the other. It is a love based on something physical in one person that can satisfy the craving of another. It is a love that always seeks to receive.
The next word is philia.
This is the most common word for "love" in Greek, and refers to affectionate regard and the love of friendship. The idea is of cherishing. It has primary reference in marriage to the union of the soul of one with that of the other. It is a love based usually on similarity of intellectual and emotional outlook. It means more than physical love but it can still be self-centered, for its satisfaction often comes from the feeling that one is wanted, or that one is a protector of that other needy person.
The third word - which speaks of the highest level of love - is agape.
This is the love of God imparted to us by the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5). This word has primary reference in marriage to the union of the spirit of one with that of the other. It is a self-giving love - the love of Calvary's cross.
A Greek lexicon referring to agape says,
"It chooses its object with decision and self-denying compassion. This is love in its fullest and highest form. It has its source in God. The verb-form stands for kindliness towards its object and has reference to the tendency of the will."
Agapan (the verb-form of agape) itself means, "to value, to have a concern for, to delight in and to be faithful to". In reference to the love that should exist between a husband and wife, this would mean that each partner should value the other as of infinite worth; they should have a concern for each other; they should delight and rejoice in each other; and they should be faithful to one another.
The Bible defines agape in this way:
“Charity is patient, is kind: charity envieth not, dealeth not perversely; is not puffed up; Is not ambitious, seeketh not her own, is not provoked to anger, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth with the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Charity never falleth away:” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8 ).
Another definition of agape is:
"It is slow to suspect but quick to trust; slow to condemn but quick to justify; slow to offend but quick to defend; slow to expose but quick to shield; slow to reprimand but quick to forbear; slow to belittle but quick to appreciate; slow to demand but quick to give; slow to provoke but quick to conciliate; slow to hinder but quick to help; and slow to resent but quick to forgive".
In the married life of a believer, all these loves should exist - but in the proper order - agape first, philia next and eros third. This is in accordance with the teaching of 1 Thessalonians 5:23, which puts spirit first, soul next and body third. “And may the God of peace himself sanctify you in all things; that your whole spirit, and soul, and body, may be preserved blameless in the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
This was the order that God intended should exist in man when He created him.
In fallen man however this order is reversed, and therefore even his concept of love is perverted. An attraction of the carnal mind and body of one to the carnal mind and body of another is what this world calls "love". It is just philia and eros - and alas, sometimes eros alone. Yet in God's eyes, nothing is worthy of being called "love" unless it has the agape integral component in it.