The Four Loves is a book by C. S. Lewis written from a series of radio talks in 1958 and published in 1960. The book examines love from Christian and philosophical perspectives. In his book, Lewis distinguishes between Need-pleasures (e.g. water for the thirsty) and Pleasures of Appreciation (e.g. the love of nature). To his exploration of Need-love and Gift-love, he added what he called “a third element”— Appreciative-love.
Not all love is the same, so after addressing distinctions of need and love, Lewis then addressed four categories of love. He did this by defining and explaining the four Greek words for love used in the Bible—storge (affection), phileo (friendship), eros (romantic), and agape (sacrificial). Because “God is Love” (1 John 4:8) understanding how the Greeks distinguished love is helpful. Borrowing from Lewis’s writings, let consider how we should understand love.
Storge (storgē, Greek: στοργή) is liking someone through the fondness of familiarity, family members or people who relate in familiar ways that have otherwise found themselves bonded by chance. Some refer to this as familial love. Lewis referred to it as affection.
According to Lewis, this kind of love is based on both Need-love and Gift-love and it generates human happiness. However, the strength of this love is lacking. Lewis says it is “built-in” or “ready-made,” is expected and liable to “go bad,” and is a dependency-based love that risks extinction when needs are not met.
Philios (philíos, Greek: φιλία) is the love between close friends. It is a strong and lasting bond between people with common values, interests, and/or activities.
Lewis described this as friendship love—”the least biological, organic, instinctive, gregarious, and necessary…the least natural of loves.” He suggests this because man does not need friendship love in order to reproduce. However, he also notes that friendship love is a freely chosen love, thereby setting it above other forms of love. Examples of this deep and abiding love between two friends are David and Jonathan in the Bible,Orestes and Pylades in Greek mythology, Roland and Oliver and Amis and Amiles from French literature. Such friendships have diminished in our time, with the shallowness of social media friends and brief, often misunderstood, text communications between friends. In addition to David and Jonathan,
Lewis wrote, “to the Ancients, friendship [love] seemed the happiest and most fully human of all loves; the crown of life and the school of virtue. The modern world, in comparison, ignores it.”
Eros (erōs, Greek: ἔρως) is described by Lewis as “being in love” or “loving” someone. Lewis illustrated this as the difference between wanting a woman and wanting only one particular woman. This reflected his view of man as a rational animal, a composite both of reasoning angel and instinctual alley-cat.
In his day, Lewis wrote of the modern tendency for Eros to become a god to people who fully submit themselves to it. How much more so, in our day, is eros a justification for selfishness? In his book, Lewis examined sexual activity and its spiritual significance in both a pagan and a Christian sense. Being in love (eros), he wrote, is in itself an indifferent, neutral force, suggesting that “Eros in all his splendor … may urge to evil as well as good.” Lewis noted the dark side of eros love, in that it could lead even to suicide pacts or murder, as well as to furious refusals to part, saying, “mercilessly chaining together two mutual tormentors, each raw all over with the poison of hate-in-love.” In this, we understand the hot “fires” of emotion that exert control over man’s reason and rationality.
Lewis distinguished between erotic and phileo love by saying that erotic love is personal and not to be shared, but sharing friendship love is desired:
If one who was first, in the deep and full sense, your Friend, is then gradually or suddenly revealed as also your lover you will certainly not want to share the Beloved’s erotic love with any third. But you will have no jealousy at all about sharing the Friendship.” — CS Lewis
Agape (agápē, Greek: ἀγάπη) is a sacrificial love given without conditions. It exists in good times and in bad, regardless of changing circumstances or the influences of others. The Bible, as well as Lewis, define this love as selfless, generous, virtuous, and the greatest of the four loves.
In Old English translations of the Bible, this word was translated as charity, indicating a heart of love being worked out in sacrificial service. In his book, Lewis wrote “The natural loves [storge, phileo, eros] are not self-sufficient.” As Christians we know, from the writings of Paul, that it is the agape love of God, expressed in the gift of His grace, that is truly sufficient (2 Cor 12:9).
Agape love is counterintuitive to human love. I suggest that we only have it when we receive it from the One who is agape love (1 John 4:8). It is the love of God in which we stand and in which we rest (that’s true abiding love). It is God’s love freely given to us, and freely received by us, that enables us to freely love others.
Lewis’s Words About Love
“To love at all is to be vulnerable, love anything and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make of keeping it intact…you must give your heart to no one not even an animal…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.”
This is a truth that is hard to hear. If one’s heart is hard and cold as stone, one is safe and protected from outside forces. But sadly, one is also shut out from receiving love—both the love of God and the love of others. When we come to Jesus in trusting faith, He removes our hearts of stone and gives us new hearts of flesh (Ezek 11:19, 2 Cor 5:17). He gives a warm and tender heart that is able to receive the greater love of all — the agape love God so freely gives. And when we receive God’s love, His love “grows” in our hearts in a way that we are able to freely, generously, and graciously love others.
Agape love, loves the unlovable, gives to the undeserving, accepts the repulsive, expects nothing in return, and rests in Christ. It is the fuel that fills our tanks (hearts), the power that stirs our souls, and the joy that gives us strength. It comes from God and it is the riches of Christ’s glory and grace “shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit” (Rom 5:5), and, therefore, we can love others as we are loved.
1 John 4:19 We love Him because He first loved us.
John 13:35 “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Note: Only the words phileo, eros, and agape are used in the Bible. There are many examples of storge, familial love, found in Scripture (e.g. the love of Jacob for his sons, the love between Martha and Mary and their brother Lazarus), but in the New Testament the Greek word storge is not found.
Read more about love:
- A-Z Proof of Love that Never Fades
- What are the 10 Ways We Can Love Like Jesus?
- You Ask Why I Follow This Jesus? -- a short poem
- Because He First Loved Us - 1 John 4:19
- Faith, Hope, and Love — Why is Love the Greatest?
- Testify to Love (VIDEO)
- Does a Wedding Ceremony Have Prophetic Typology of the Rapture?
- Extravagant Love that Captures our Hearts
- Fun Facts about Love
- Kids Say the Darndest Things (video)
- “The Five Love Languages” by God
- Do You Really Love Him?
- What Do Kids Say About Love?
- What’s Love Got to Do With It?
- What is Love?
- Is the Bible a love letter to me?
- Does God love the lost?
- Extravagant Love
- O Love That Will Not Let Me Go
- 24 Reasons “Why I Love America,” by John Wayne (video)
- The Legacy of Love — It’s Not Just For Fathers
- Mother’s Love
- Love Lifted Me
- True Love is Jesus (video)
- Won't You Be Mine (video)
- He Loves Me (video)
- Love One Another (video)
- True Love is Jesus (video)
- How Can I Understand the Love of God?
- Do You Have a Heart for God?
- A Heart for God Revealed in St. Patrick’s Prayer
- My Beloved is Mine and I am His
- Oh, To Love With a Pure Heart
- Love is. . .
- Is All Love Created Equal? CS Lewis Answers
- What Can Love Do? (video)
- What is the Biblical Definition of Love?
Jesus is the Reason this Ministry Exists
Thank you to all who contributed in 2020. Your generosity is a blessing and encouragement to us. We did not meet expenses in 2020 and still need your help to continue our global outreach in 2021. Our mission is to glorify God by equipping, encouraging, and empowering YOU to understand the Bible and grow in faith. If our online resources have blessed you, we hope you will support Reasons for Hope* Jesus. Our ministry outreach has grown significantly and. . .
Please support Reasons for Hope* Jesus with a donation of $5, $10, $20, or more. A donation of any amount is needed and greatly appreciated.
CLICK TO DONATE
to Reasons for Hope*Jesus(a 501c3 Ministry)
Use a Credit Card or PayPal for safe, secure giving.
***A Hidden Message in Psalm 23?***
Hidden in the six verses of Psalm 23 are 11 names for Jesus. When you subscribe to our newsletter, we’ll send you The Names of God in Psalm 23 PDF that reveals all 11 names and Scripture verses of comfort and hope (link will be sent in your confirmation email).
The Top Ten Got Questions? in 2020
- The Meaning of NUMBERS in the Bible?
- The Meaning of COLORS in the Bible?
- Did The Wise Men Arrive 12 DAYS AFTER JESUS’ BIRTH? Or Was It Much Later?
- What is the Significance of the Wise Men's THREE GIFTS? And were they kings?
- How are the Shepherd’s Rod and Staff Different?
- What Does It Mean to TASTE & SEE That God Is Good? (Psalm 34)
- What do the 12 stones UNDER the JORDAN River mean? (Joshua 4)
- Is Leonard Cohen’s “HALLELUJAH” a Christian Song?
- How was Jesus Like a Worm? What’s the CRIMSON (OR SCARLET) WORM? Psalm 22
- Is my TATTOO a sin?
More Popular Got Questions & Articles
Was Jesus CRUCIFIED on Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday?
Where did OT Saints go at death? ABRAHAM'S BOSOM?
If BAPTIZED as an Infant, Do I Need to Be Re-Baptized?
What Does it Mean to Be A CHILD OF GOD?
Which OT Book Did JESUS QUOTE Most Often?
How Did the Wise Men Know This Was the Messiah and KNOW TO FOLLOW HIS STAR?
What Did Jesus Say About HEAVEN (and HELL)?
How long did JOB SUFFER?
Three Heavens? Where is the THIRD HEAVEN?
What are the “I Will ” STATEMENTS of Satan, God, and Jesus?
SIN, INIQUITY, TRANSGRESSION? How are they different?
Should we call HIM JESUS? Or Yahweh? Or Yeshua?
Is Satan’s Real Name LUCIFER?
JESUS WEPT. Why?
Is There a Remez (HIDDEN MESSAGE ) in Revelation 7? Why is Dan Missing?
Is It a Sin to Drink ALCOHOL?
Is SUICIDE an Unforgivable Sin?
Something ALL Christians must know: IVDARR
TOP TEN Videos from Reasons for Hope* Jesus
- Memorial Day BAGPIPES TRIBUTE: Amazing Grace
- Christian Version of Leonard Cohen's HALLELUJAH
- RISE AND SHINE and Give God the Glory, Glory!
- WERE YOU THERE When They Crucified My Lord?
- PAUL HARVEY: THE BIRDCAGE
- PRESIDENT RONALD REAGAN: A SOLDIER'S PLEDGE
- JOHN WAYNE ~ WHY I LOVE AMERICA
- THE LEGEND OF THE CANDY CANE - A Christmas Story to Share
- TASTE AND SEE that the Lord is Good ~ Psalm 34
- Hark! the Herald Angels Sing -- CHARLIE BROWN Christmas