Love is many things to many people. Love is defined in the Merriam-Webster's Dictionary as, "Strong affection for another arising out of kinship or personal ties; attraction based on sexual desire: affection and tenderness felt by lovers affection based on admiration, benevolence, or common interests, an assurance of love warm attachment, enthusiasm, or devotion the object of attachment, devotion, or admiration, a beloved person." For many, this definition of love will do, but I would like to explain love to you according to the Bible. Additionally, I want to help you understand what it looks like to be a loving, concerned, and loyal friend.
There are many ways that I could explain love to you. There is the love that God has for His Creation, the love that a parent has for a child, the love that a child has for his parents, the love that a husband and a wife have for each other, the love that brothers have for each other, and the love that sisters have for each other. As you can see, there are many different types of love in our society.
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What Are the Four Loves?
In the Bible, and in our everyday lives, we actually see four different types of love. Author and theologian C.S. Lewis explains each in detail in his book The Four Loves. The most common love in our society is Eros. This love is known as romantic, passionate love (husband/wife, lust, many things).
Storge or familiar love refers to the natural or instinctual affection, such as the love of a parent towards offspring. Lewis describes this as the love for “the people with whom you are thrown together in the family, the college, the mess, the ship, the religious house.”
"Ajgapavw," transliterated from Greek, means "Agapao" in English. Agapao is used to describe God's, perfect love. The definition from Greek is, "Of persons to welcome, to entertain, to be fond of, to love dearly of things; to be well pleased, to be contented at or with a thing." Agapao is the greatest love of all because it costs Jesus His life in our place and for our sin so we could have eternal life.
"Filevw" transliterated from Greek is Phileo meaning, "To love, to approve of, to like, sanction, to treat affectionately or kindly, to welcome, befriend, to show signs of love, to kiss, to be fond of doing be wont, use to do." This is the love between friends.
Friendship is an essential part of who we are. We were created to be friends. There is a hole in each of us that causes us to belong or to be accepted. Only "Phileo" love can fill this hole in our lives.
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What Does Phileo Love Look Like?
The story of David and Jonathan has always struck me as intriguing. David was a boy from "Nowheresville,” Israel. He was chosen as a shepherd of sheep to be transformed by God into a Shepherd of the Lord’s People (1 Samuel 16:1-13). Acts 13:22 describes him as a man after God’s own heart.
And then there was Jonathan, one of Saul’s sons—a mighty man of valor and likely the heir to the throne. Yet, what makes this story truly unique is that Jonathan loved and cared for David like a brother. He wasn’t like Job’s friends, who were cynical of Job and, instead of finding out what was going on in his life, chose to ridicule him. No, Jonathan was a real friend. Jonathan was a loyal, caring, and concerned friend.
Please think back to a time in your life when you had a loyal, caring, and concerned friend. Perhaps you have had more than one friend like this, and I genuinely hope and pray you currently have one (or more) of this type of friend now.
I remember sitting alone (by choice) at the high school youth camp while thinking to myself. I’m all alone. True, I had chosen to be by myself at that moment, but the real truth was that I felt all alone. My parents were getting a divorce, and my heart was broken over this fact. Suddenly, however, two guys from the high school youth group, who also happened to be juniors (like me), saw me sitting alone and came over. I told them I felt like no one in our junior class cared about me. Do you know what they did? They reached out to me and went so far as to call a class meeting, telling everyone that we needed to care for one another. Theirs was a call to model what I’m about to explain next in this article: what it means to be a loyal, caring, and concerned friend.
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How Can We All Embrace Phileo Love This Year?
Are you a loyal friend? At some point in your life, you’re going to need a loyal friend. Resolve right now to be that friend to someone else. All around us are people who are hurting, struggling, and in need of help. This year, instead of focusing only on what is going on in your own life, I want to encourage you to reach out to the person next to you in the pew on Sunday. Men, go to that Men’s event at your local church and make new friends. Women, go to that ladies' event and meet the other women of your local church.
To be a loyal friend, you first need to reach out to other people with a hand of friendship. You may not always connect with everyone, which is okay, but be willing to reach out nonetheless. I assure you that you’ll find people at your local church with whom you’ll naturally connect with, but don’t settle only for those you easily connect with; reach out to those who are neglected in your church. By doing so, you are not only being a loyal friend but a true disciple of Jesus Christ, one who loves to reach out to those who are lonely, broken, and outcasts.
Please, brothers and sisters in Christ, be a caring friend. We live in a world where challenges on every side confront us. Many of us have gone through the wringer, and the last thing we want or need is a cynical and judgmental “friend” who questions our situations and motives at every turn. Do not be that type of “friend.”
As Christians, we are called at times to speak hard words to one another. We have the credibility to do so in the eyes of our friends because we’ve shown them that we are loyal and caring. I’ve been the receiver of such hard words, and I can verify that they are not fun to hear. I’ve often had harsh words delivered to me by people who didn’t know what was going on in my life. I’ve also heard these words from people who I assumed cared about me but spoke those hard words in such a way that made it hard to listen.
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Loyal, Caring, Concerned
Friends, let us be loyal to one another. After all, we are friends of God. As Christians, we are family! Let us treat one another as a family—not judging one another, but showing godly care and concern. After all, the world is to know us by our love for one another (John 13:35).
Be a concerned friend. Be the kind of friend that you know you need in your own life. At various times in my life, I’ve needed the type of friend who was willing to speak hard words into my life. They spoke, and even more importantly, the reason I listened was because I knew this type of friend was loyal and cared about me. They were genuinely concerned about the direction of my life, and I was ready to hear what they had to say.
You need to realize that even if you’re a loyal and caring friend, your friend may not be ready to hear what you have to say. So, before you speak, ask the Lord, “Is this person ready to hear what I have to say?” If you feel the need to speak after praying and seeking godly counsel from other believers (in the abundance of many counselors, there is wisdom), please do so only in a grace-centered fashion. Don’t make demands; show grace. Give the benefit of the doubt in a large portion. Listen to how the other person responds to you and clarify if that person doesn’t understand. But above all, be sure to give a lot of grace.
Lastly, godly friendships are a great need in our day. The kind of friend I’ve described in this article is the type of friend I strive to be. It’s not always easy, but it is always worth it. The kind of Christian friends who have invested in me have displayed these three attributes: loyal, caring, and concerned.
I hope and pray that today you’ll begin to be this kind of friend—the kind that loves his/her friend so much that he/she is willing to sacrifice as Jonathan did with David. This is the kind of friend who enters the mess of life, knowing that God meets us in the muck of our lives and desires to change us by His grace. Brothers and sisters in Christ, be that kind of friend to someone else by the grace of God. I assure you that if you’ll be a loyal, caring, and concerned friend that God will use you in mighty ways in the lives of His people (His friends) for His glory.
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Dave Jenkins is happily married to Sarah Jenkins. He is a writer, editor, and speaker living in beautiful Southern Oregon. Dave is a lover of Christ, His people, the Church, and sound theology. He serves as the Executive Director of Servants of Grace Ministries, the Executive Editor of Theology for Life Magazine, and is the Host for the Equipping You in Grace Podcast. He is the author of The Word Explored: The Problem of Biblical Illiteracy and What To Do About It (House to House, 2021). You can find him on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Parler, Youtube, or read his newsletter. Dave loves to spend time with his wife, going to movies, eating at a nice restaurant, or going out for a round of golf with a good friend. He is also a voracious reader, in particular of Reformed theology, and the Puritans. You will often find him when he’s not busy with ministry reading a pile of the latest books from a wide variety of Christian publishers. Dave received his M.A.R. and M.Div through Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary.