Romans 12:9-10. Let love be genuine….Love one another with brotherly affection.
As you probably know, in Greek there are several words for love:
Agape: this is the covenant love of God. God IS agape. In scripture this is God’s unique self-giving love that he shares with us. To agape is to seek the well-being of others, even if they will never “pay you back.” Agape is far more than a feeling, at it’s core it is action. It is love that moves towards others and meets practical needs. Jesus is God’s agape. His action toward us. His self-giving.
In Romans 12:9 Paul says let agape be genuine.
Now, there are two other words for love that Paul will use in Romans 12:10 – storge and philia. As we can see they are not different from agape, they are manifestations of agape. They are agape specified.
Storge: this love is affection, usually that of a parent to a child. It is familial love. Storge is connected more to feelings, feelings that are generated naturally by the people we love and the situations we love. It’s the love we feel when we’ve been away from home for a while and we walk in the front door to the hugs, laughs, and cries of our family.
Philia: this is friendship love. Camaraderie. A shared journey or vision. It is side by side love. Philia is also called “brotherly love.” But even here the brotherhood of friendship is in view.
OK now look again at Romans 12:10 – Love one another with brotherly affection.
Love one another: The word for love here used by Paul is philostorgos. Do you see what he did? Philostorgos is not a real word. It occurs nowhere else in the Bible or all of antiquity except here. Why? Because he made it up. He smushed philia and storge together and made up a new word for love.
with brotherly affection: “brotherly affection” here is the word philadelphia. Brotherly love. Kinship. Friendship.
Oh by the way. In Greek the order is reversed. It literally says “With philadelphia philostorgos.” Paul moves us from friendship love to family love.
So…what do we learn about how to love?
Love like friends and love like family. Love like a framily.
The truth is that most of our love is quite shallow isn’t it? How well do we really know anyone? Even the people in our biological families, much less our church. We are also painfully unaware of our own need for affection. Philostorgos is a call for knowing each other and showing affection to each other. Why? Because we all need to be known and cared for.
I grew up in a home without much affection. My parents did things for me – fed me, clothed me, bought me my first car. But hugs? Kind words? Gentle touches? Handwritten cards on birthdays? These are affections that I’ve only experienced in marriage. Showing this kind of affection to others has always been difficult for me. But I am learning how to show brotherly and familial affection with the men in my church. And how to show it appropriately with the women in my church.
The church can do for us what our families never did. Or our families can be a training ground for learning how to show affection within the church. This is the purpose of the church. To learn tenderness. To love by doing for, but to love also by being with. To love with a gentle word and simple gestures. To move into relational intimacy. To express love verbally.
“I’m glad you’re here.”
“I care about you.”
“I’m so sorry that you are going through this.”
“Can I pray for you right now?”
If the church could learn how to love this way, and welcome everyone into this kind of love, it would go a long way to seeing a far more healthy expression of sexuality as well. How much of our fantasy lives, our porn addiction, our hooking up is rooted in a failure to simply know how to express our social sexuality through genuine agape expressed as storge and philia? Men with men. Women with women. Men and women together as the Body of Christ. Could our wounds be healed? Could our fears be abated? But I digress.
“To live is Christ” is to live in a Christian community that lives and loves like friends and like family. Christ is in us. God is in us. The Trinity. The greatest family, the greatest of friends. The greatest affection, kindness, and caring. Now we can love the way we are being loved. Like framily.