Agápe (ἀγάπη agápē) means “love: esp. brotherly love, charity; the love of God for man and of man for God.” Agape is used in ancient texts to denote feelings for one’s children and the feelings for a spouse, and it was also used to refer to a love feast. Agape is used by Christians to express the unconditional love of God for his children. This type of love was further explained by Thomas Aquinas as “to will the good of another.”
Agápe does not have the primary meaning of affection nor of coming from one’s feelings. Jesus displayed this Agápe kind of love by going to the cross and dying even though He didn’t feel like dying. He prayed, “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.” Matthew 26:39. Jesus sought the betterment of mankind, regardless of His feelings.
We, too, can agape (love) our enemies, even though we don’t have any warm feelings of affection for them. If they are hungry, we can feed them; if they thirst, we can give them a drink. We can choose to seek the betterment and welfare of others regardless of how we feel. The Apostle John said, “Let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth” 1John 3:18. Jesus referred to His love for others (John 13:34; 15:9, and 12), but He never directly told anyone, “I love you.”
Eros (ἔρως érōs) means “love, mostly of the sexual passion.” The Modern Greek word “erotas” means “intimate love.”
Philia (φιλία philía) means “affectionate regard, friendship,” usually “between equals.” It is a dispassionate virtuous love, a concept developed by Aristotle. In his best-known work on ethics, Nicomachean Ethics, philia is expressed variously as loyalty to friends, family, and community, and requires virtue, equality, and familiarity. Furthermore, in the same text philos denotes a general type of love, used for love between family, between friends, a desire or enjoyment of an activity, as well as between lovers.
Although phileo-love is encouraged in Scripture, unlike agápe-love, it is never a direct command. God never commands us to phileo (love) anyone, since this type of love is based on feelings. Even God did not phileo the world, He operated in agápe love toward us.
Storge (στοργή storgē) means “love, affection” and “especially of parents and children” It’s the common or natural empathy, like that felt by parents for offspring.
“Many of us have been told that agape love is the highest and best because it is unselfish. Erotic or friendly love provide enjoyment, but agape is utterly self-forgetful and entirely concerned with the welfare of the other. God loves this way and so should we.
The problem is, God does not love this way. God does not love without regard for His own pleasure or purpose. What sense would that even make? I want to help these people because – well why? Whether God loves us because He enjoys our delight, or because He wants to bring glory to Himself, or because it’s just the right thing to do, God is still getting something out of the bargain.
And there is nothing wrong with that.
Hebrews 12 directs us to consider, “Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith… [who] for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of God.”
Love is not a zero-sum game, despite Darwinist or agapist reductionists. Love is a circle of reinforcing delight, a spiral of ever-increasing joy in mutual concern for everyone’s welfare. It’s a win-win-win situation.”