The Four Loves

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “All the world loves a lover.”DSC_8909

I think that’s true. We, as humans, are obsessed with love: finding love, falling in love, staying in love. Loving children, animals, hobbies, friends, family, God–the list is endless. Although I prefer romantic comedies to action, almost any action movie works for me if there’s a love story imbedded in it.

I suspect that all the issues of the world can be traced back to love or the absence of it.

In February, my C. S. Lewis book club read The Four Loves.

I have four loves in my life (pictured above), and I believe I incorporate all four loves, in a variety of combinations, in the process of loving them, as well as in liking and loving other people.

Although it’s been months since I read this book, the concepts have stuck with me.  So I’m writing about them now. I’m quite impressed by Lewis’ wisdom and perspective on such an over-discussed, misunderstood topic.  I will attempt to comment on each of the four loves, as they occurred to me during my reading. Perhaps you can find some overlapping characteristics surfacing in your life. Maturity is all about introspection and metamorphosis, right? So commence with the enlightenment . . .

AFFECTION (storge)

“Affection can love the unattractive.” (p. 37)

Affection is a type of family love, rooted in meeting needs and keeping the unit tight. It feels threatened by un-needy love because it feels validated through service. It fights against change. In parenting, this accounts for the difficulty in letting go; in friendship or dating relationships, this manifests itself through possessiveness, exclusivity and cliques. Affection, however, is a valuable and completely necessary part of close relationships; its danger is to remain a love entirely on its own.

FRIENDSHIP (phileo)

“Friendship must be about something.” (p. 66)

Friendship is companionship, comradery, unity, and equality. Individuals enjoy one another’s company because they have similar interests. As long as they enjoy and do the same things, they can talk and fellowship together. If the relationship doesn’t involve another type of love, they will cease to be friends if their interests change. Real friendship is all-inclusive; it welcomes others with similar desires and hobbies. It is purposeful and not organic. These descriptions do not in any way demean friendship; they show the depth and value of its character. Friendship is absolutely essential to life. It constitutes the ability to make friends at work, church, and neighborhood. More importantly, it is an important ingredient for keeping a marriage enjoyable for 50 years, or making friends out of siblings. Lewis said it was “as great a love as Eros.” (p. 67)

ROMANCE (eros)

“The real danger seems to me not that the lovers will idolize each other but that they will idolize Eros himself.” (p. 111)

Eros (Venus) was the ancient god of love, particularly passionate love. Obviously, this is a necessary part of marriage, but it is only a part. A good marriage must have all the loves. Passion, however, takes more credit than it deserves and causes more problems than it will admit. Eros is our culture’s chief obsession and perhaps greatest misconception, because romantic love is expected to be passionate and sexual, fueled by biological attraction, infatuation, and conquest at all costs and at all times. The problem with eros is that it is also a needy love, fueled only by the response of the loved. “The god dies or becomes a demon.” (p. 115) Passionate romance has an appetite. It doesn’t run on kindness and patience (that would be the next love), but on lust and fulfillment. Consequently, it leaves idolatry, martyrdom, and brokenness in its wake. What should you do when romance dies, but you are determined to stick? (a good decision, if you’re married)–Lewis says, “We must do the work of Eros when Eros is not present.” (p. 113)

CHARITY (agape)

“Natural loves are a rival to the love of God.” (p. 118)

“Do not let your happiness depend upon something you may lose.” (p. 120)

Charity is the love of 1 Cor. 13, the text of wedding ceremonies. It gives. It waits patiently. It doesn’t envy, resent, or say “I told you so.” It’s the love we aspire to have. Naturally, charity, or agape in the Greek, is the word used for the love God shows to us. Like any of the other loves, it has dangers: it requires sacrifice and suffering. It is extremely intentional. The Bible considers the other loves as “hatred” when compared with this baby. Like affection, it can love the unlovely. Like friendship, it is absolutely necessary. Unlike eros, it will never cease or be selfish. But together, the 4 loves will complete any person, and certainly any marriage. Lewis explained, “The natural loves are summoned to become modes of Charity while also remaining the natural loves they were.” (p. 135)

So think about the way you love and the people you love. But here’s a wise perspective–“The only place outside of Heaven where you can be safe from all the perturbations of love is Hell.” (p. 121)

Charity is the love of God.

 

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