Sound Teaching

This is the teaching site of the West Side church of Christ in Fort Worth, TX. Unless otherwise indicated, all materials were written and prepared by Stan Cox

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In the News: St. Valentine’s Day and Love

Image Last Tuesday was Valentine’s Day, originally a Catholic holiday celebrating the burial of a Roman bishop by that name on the Via Flaminia, (one of the most famous roads in ancient Rome), on February 14 in or around A.D. 296. Of course, the holiday, like many others, has become secularized in our time. It was not until the 14th century that the day had any link to the romantic love that is currently celebrated by cards, candy and flowers.

While we should be aware of the sectarian history of the holiday, I find nothing wrong with observing the day in a secular way. It is interesting, however, while hearing so much criticism about the secularization of Christmas (which started as a pagan holiday), or the observance of Halloween, most seem to have forgotten that Valentine’s Day had a religious origin.

Besides the ubiquitous heart. Cupid is perhaps the image most associated with Valentine’s day. Cupid is actually one of the Roman gods, the god of desire, affection and erotic love. In fact, the Greek equivalent was the god Eros, from which term we get the concept of sexual desire. In Roman mythology whoever was shot with Cupid’s arrow was overcome with uncontrollable desire (what the Bible student would recognize as lust). In the modern Valentine construct, Cupid’s arrow encourages romantic love.

The Greek term eros is not used at all in the Greek scriptures. The most literal meaning of the term is “desire”, and it is one of several Greek words that are used to translate the various types of love that may be experienced and expressed by mankind.

While this concept of desire or sexual love is appropriate between a man and his wife (cf. Hebrews 13:4), it is not the term used by the Holy Spirit to describe the relationship between spouses. For example, in Ephesians 5 when Paul tells husbands to “love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church, and gave Himself for her” (vs. 25), the term used by the Spirit is agapao. The term refers to a beneficent love that seeks the welfare of the recipient. In Titus 2:4, Paul instructs the older women to teach the younger women to, “love their husbands.” The Greek term here is philandros and indicates the needed fondness or affection for their mates.

Another term, commonly used for love of kindred is the Greek term storgos. While the term is not found in the Greek scriptures, it’s opposite is, astorgos. It is found in Romans 1:31 and 2 Timothy 3:3. It is translated “unloving” in the NKJV, but perhaps more clearly as “without natural affection” in the KJV. Imagine a woman who has no affection for her children, and you get the picture. Storgos has reference to the tender feelings that are a natural outgrowth of a parent child relationship.

The root term phileo, seen in philandros above, and in the term philadelphos (love of brother), has a connotation of tender affection. Where agape is commanded of man (love God, love your neighbor, love your enemy, even love (agape) your brother (adelphos) (cf. 1 John 3:14) – the term phileo is never used in conjunction with a command.

The Greek language is a fertile one when considering love in all its forms. The Christian who desires to know what is expected of him regarding affection and benevolence would do well to become familiar with all the terms as they are used in scripture.