What is your love threshold? The Bible has interesting things to say about what it takes for us to stop loving someone. The four Greek words for love tell us much about this.
Eros is defined as love that rewards the lover with satisfaction. Often referred to passionate love, it comparatively has a very low threshold. It ceases when the flow of satisfaction and rewards stop. It is highly influenced by attraction and desire (lust, or rewarding the eye). This word is not used in the Greek New Testament, but is referred to with other words, such as epithumia and pathēma .
“So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.” 2 Timothy 2:22.
Phileo is described as love that is mutually beneficial. It is often described as friendship. It has a higher threshold, such as when the person changes, other friends offer more, or distance separates, either emotionally or physically, over time. The word is used not only for brotherly love, but also acts that flow from that love. It was translated in the KJV 20 times as love and twice as “kiss” (Mark 14:44). It is also used in reference to the reward of being seen in public praying (Matthew 6:5 “love to be seen”) and other things we desire.
Storge is family love, natural love, and has often been described as the natural love a mother has for her child. This has a higher threshold, sometimes broken only by betrayal. It was once viewed as the highest possible level of love achievable by mankind. It is not used in the Greek NT as a positive word. However, in the Bible the absence or loss of storge (astorgos) is seen in the loss of “natural affection”, or lack of compassion.
“For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.” 2 Timothy 3:2-3.
The message of “storge” in the scriptures is, although it is not the highest form of love with the highest threshold, the path of sin will even remove this natural love, or natural affection, from the hearts of the wicked, creating an uncompassionate society.
Agape is Godly love, love that benefits the loved, even to a great sacrifice of the lover. This is how God loved us (John 3:16, Romans 5:6-8). This is how we are commanded to love one another (John 15:12-13), and is well described in the scriptures.
- “Agape love is patient and kind;
- “Agape love does not envy or boast;
- “Agape love is not arrogant or rude.
- “Agape love does not insist on its own way;
- “Agape love is not irritable or resentful;
- “Agape love does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.
- “Agape love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
- “Agape love never ends.”
In each relationship, we should ask, “What is my love threshold in this relation? What would cause me to stop, or at least rethink, my love for this person?” For the believer, the answer is short and simple. “Nothing. Absolutely nothing.” However, this kind of love comes only in complete dependence on the one who Agape-loves us.