Levels of Love
So you want to know the secret to a GREAT CHRISTIAN MARRIAGE? Don’t want to go to a marriage retreat causing you to miss football or an embarrassing seminar where you have to hear the word ‘sex’ in public? I understand! It’s your lucky day! I am going to lay out the three biblical loves and why it is so important to keep them in the proper priority. There are three levels or principles of love that every good healthy marriage should take full advantage of. They all come with their own blessings when placed in the proper hierarchy but also have their own pitfalls when we misplace the importance of each.
Ok so to make it clear from the start this is almost a direct rip off of C. S. Lewis’s The Four Loves. Except that the application of the priority of the Loves as they pertain to Marriage is mostly me. I know I know I can hear you yelling at the computer screen now. Why is my article only have three loves if Mr. Lewis says there are four. How dare I argue with the late great- Calm down! I am not disagreeing with anyone about anything. I left out ‘storge’ because it really doesn’t apply to marriage. Storge is a greek word meaning to strongly like something. It is only used in the bible once in a hybrid word form. It’s like when we would say I really ‘love’ Hanson (don’t judge me, they are good band!). This is the superlike I have written before and is not really a biblical love. But now lets look at the three loves that DO belong in a great marriage.
Don’t ever get over your first love – Agape
A healthy husband wife relationship has all three loves and keeping them in order is the most important thing to the health of the marriage. The marriage must have as its foundation the most superior ‘agape’ love. This is God love, unconditional, unending, full of grace and forgiveness. When the bible says God is love in 1 John 4:8 it is the greek word agape that is used. And we are always to keep this as our first love (Rev2:4). Its important that this be your foundation for life as well as your marriage love. It is what establishes the infrastructure that the other two loves need. Even though this love is about your relationship to God there are some good side effects (that blessings in case you were wondering) of agape love that effect your marriage relationship. First it means that you have access to unending giving love, a kind of love that does not keep score. If you keep score in your relationship then you will always lose (just saying). Keeping God first makes forgiving each other much easier and it keeps everything in perspective. Nobody, regardless of how romantic it sounds in the movies, wants to be everything to someone else. Thats not love, its worship. Being worshiped may be flattering to the ego but its very lonely.
You say you love me but do you like me? – Phileo
After keeping agape first and foremost in your life next in the priority scale is phileo. This means to like more than anything else. Do you respect your spouse? Do you like who they are? Do you enjoy spending time with them, hearing their opinions on matters of importance, appreciate their talents and skills? If not you should spend some time developing this. Finding common interests and ways to use your God given talents and skills to benefit the other. This is important because most of your marriage will not be enjoying the physical attraction but in enjoying the friendship and the affection. If this is not there then it can make life difficult or sad or depressing. Even if your spouse will never be your best friend (they don’t have to be you know? its not a requirement) but they should at least be a good friend, and hopefully a God Friend.
On the other hand basing your relationship on Phileo without Agape in its proper place will lead to a very co-dependent relationship very quickly. Life can be frustrating when you can never be happier than the saddest person. In addition this can lead to a lack of freedom when any adventure or opportunity that does not involve both parties causes jealousy.
Does this relationship make my butt look big – Eros
Eros is romance. The actual greek word is not used in the bible but the concept is discussed throughout. When you have the other two loves firmly in place this is a special love God has created for a husband and a wife. It is the exploration of physical attraction and ultimately the beautiful union of two becoming one flesh. This love is a God designed thing and when it is in its proper place is satisfying and truly defines to our hearts what mutual submission actually is. We can bring so much out of this love into our lives. Confidence and peace and a sense of oneness that cannot be obtained any other way. If you try to have a marriage without this aspect of love then it will not be a very deep one. I don’t mean just sex I mean romance. This is the pursuit of attraction to one another. The kind of flirting that is provoking. If there is not a consistent wooing over the years then you are missing out on some really good stuff.
But of course there is the opposite problem of trying to base a relationship in this kind of love. These relationship are usually only happy for a very short period of time. Because this romance without the forgiveness, grace and other blessing of agape and the respect, kindness and other blessings of phileo is shallow and unsustainable. Flirts becomes teases and attraction becomes bitterness. It is also unfortunately very addictive. Many times people who try to base their relationships in this kind of love or place this kind of love as the priority keep seeking it over and over again. They find themselves like a addict chasing that high of romance.
“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”
– C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves
Priority is Premium
The three levels of love should all be present in a biblical marriage for it stay happy and healthy. To fully receive all the blessings of each kind of love that God has created for us they must be kept in priority. Keep the love of the Lord first in your life, then nurture a friendship with your spouse, and finally invest in romance. I wish for us all this kind of fulfilling and God honoring marriage.by