I love rice and curry. I love my wife. I use the word “love” in both sentences but the connotation is radically different, isn’t it? … It is. Trust me.
In English, as in other languages, we do this often. We use a word that might have many nuanced definitions but our meaning when using that word can only be properly understood from the context in which we use it. Yes?
This is also true of the Bible. For instance, there are two Greek words translated “love” that made their way into the New Testament – agape and phileo. Even though these words have overlapping meaning, they also have distinct connotations.
Agape refers to God’s, or godly, love. It’s primarily a covenantal, choice-of-the-will, dedicated love. It’s the kind of love that defines God and the way he loves the world. This is the love with which we are told to love our enemies. I characterize this love as radical commitment.
Phileo, on the other hand, has a dimension of warm affection to it. It is the kind of love that exists between healthy family and friends. We are not commanded to love our enemies with this kind of love. It does not have the same sense of radical commitment that agape does. This distinction is often lost in English translations. For example, when the resurrected Jesus asks Peter, do you love (agape) me? Peter can only express warm affection (phileo) for Jesus in that moment. With the sting of his betrayal on his conscience he couldn’t muster up radical commitment (agape).
The Great News is that the Bible tells us God has both types of love for us!
He loves us with both unconditional commitment and with tender affection. In John 5, Jesus said to his disciples, “For the Father loves (phileo) the Son and shows him all he does.” Later on in John 16 he promised, “No, the Father himself loves (phileo) you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.” Then in John 17 he prays to the Father, “ … Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved (agape) me.”
The father loves you in the same way that he loves the Son! Let the Holy Spirit plant this mind-blowing revelation deep into your spirit. It could potentially change everything about you.
As I continue to feed on my Father’s affection for me it is changing my relationship with him, and me, at a heart level. Here are three ways:
- My self-perception – I am happier in my own skin. Not as pushed around as before.
- I no longer run from him when I blow it. I run to him to receive mercy and grace.
- I’m no longer trying to win God’s approval; I know I have it!
My father’s affection is making me a better person! It can do the very same thing for you as well. Ask the Father to demonstrate his Fatherly love and care for you, ask in earnest and watch how he will show you.
Father, please reveal your warm affection to those reading this.