As a guy from Ohio who has made his home in Georgia, I really enjoyed watching snowfall here. Deanna grew up in the snow belt off of Lake Erie. It was common for a foot of snow to be dumped from the sky when it snowed. In fact, semi-regularly, her dad had to shovel the roof of their house for fear of the weight of the snow causing a collapse. Trust me, it is good to be here with you in the South!
If you are not used to the snow then you may not know that there are different types. Varying atmospheric conditions help to determine the consistency, density, as well as how it changes once it hits the ground. Snow comes in lots of different shapes and sizes. Growing up in the snowy North, there were few things more frustrating than a bunch of snow that wouldn’t pack into a tight snowball. Sure, sledding was fun, but powdery snow always foiled my sneaky ambush assault of my brother. What’s the point of snow that can’t make snowballs is one of the questions that a younger me was going to ask the Lord when I see him face to face.
If you are not used to the snow you think that this one word encapsulates every form of the white stuff. It doesn’t. In fact, the Inuit people (Eskimos) have more than 40 different words for snow—each describing a different type of snow.
The same is true for us. We use the same word to express our appreciation for tacos as we use to express our thoughts, devotion, and affection for the most important people in our lives. I love tacos. I love my wife. These two statements cannot and must not express the same sentiment. Yet, we use the same word. Love.
The Greek language, which is the original language of most of our New Testament, uses 4 different words that we translate as love. Philia—the root word for Philidelphia— describes brotherly love. Eros is the word used to describe romantic or intimate love. Storge is the love and affection that is best characterized by the bond between family members. Finally, Agape is best understood as God’s unconditional love that never stops pursuing you.
Most of the focus in Christian circles is on Agape love, as it should be. However, there is a reality that each of us, for our health and well-being, needs to have a healthy dose of all 4 types of love.
As we walk through February together, I invite you to assess your health of giving and receiving in all four types of love. What does true friendship look like? How does emotional intimacy bring joy to your life? What can you do to enhance the bond with your family? How can you live into the unconditional love that God heaps on you in His grace?
I don’t think we are going to be able to introduce new words to further nuance our use of love. But, in being aware and intentional, we can grow in love and further live out the calling of Christ on our lives.