Our relationships define us as much as anything else. They say more about who we are than basic biographical information. We can't go anywhere without acknowledging who we are or who we belong to.
One relationship that defines who we are to every fiber of our being is our relationship with God. He defines our past, present, future. We are his masterpieces - each and every one of us. He calls us his children. He knows the number of hairs on our heads. He knows when each of us lie down to sleep and he knows when we rise. He knows the number of beats our hearts will have and he knows the number of days we have on this earth. He is familiar with every detail of every single one of us. That kind of love is completely crazy and crazily complete. But isn't this what we are all searching for?
It’s his love that truly defines us because God loves us with an Eros kind of love. This kind of love stands out above the rest. So, what is Eros and what does it mean for us in our relationship with God?
According to Greek mythology, Eros was a person. He was the Greek god of love. In some stories he appears as a primordial god, born from Chaos, and in others he is the son of Aphrodite. He's depicted as mischievous, meddling in the affairs of gods and mortals. In early Greek poetry and art, he was handsome in human form carrying a lyre or bow and arrow. He became known as Cupid in Roman mythology and is depicted as a child carrying a bow and arrow. Hence, the cute little cherub we often see on Valentine's Day cards. But Eros in terms of love was only one kind of love; the Greeks had four words to describe love. Eros (romantic love), Phileo (friendship), Storge (family loyalty) and Agape (unconditional love).
History and Origin of Greek Terms for Love
Eros: the word often used to express sexual love or the feelings of arousal that are shared between people who are physically attracted to one another.
Storge: refers to natural, familial love. Storge (a word not found in the Bible) refers to the type of love shown by a parent for a child.
Philia: refers to brotherly love and is most often exhibited in a close friendship.
Agape: defined as a self-sacrificing love. It is the love that focuses on the will, not the emotions, experiences, or libido. It is the love God shows his people in sending his Son, Jesus, to die for our sins.
Even in today's culture, love has many different meanings and is a flexible term in our language. A person can say, “I love tacos” in one sentence and, “I love my husband” in the next. But our God doesn’t use the word lightly. He loves us so deeply I don't think we'll ever comprehend it in our lifetime. When this strong love is mentioned in the Bible, it is often the Greek word Eros!
Biblical Significance of Eros
Eros is used in the Old Testament to express the physical and sensual intimacy between a husband and a wife. Because God deliberately uses the relationship of marriage as an illustration of the relationship he has with his people, the Bible, his love letter, illustrates this love with its varying intensity and the beauty of the relationship that exists between God and those who believe in him.
God loves us as a Bridegroom, as “a lover with all the passion of a true love,” he says. Within the boundary of marriage, Eros love is to be celebrated. One example of this beautiful imagery is found in the Song of Solomon. Because God deliberately uses the relationship of marriage as an illustration of the relationship he has with his people, this book illustrates this love with its varying intensity and the beauty of the relationship that exists between God and those who believe in him. The fact that this is the “greatest of all songs” focuses on romance and marital love shows us what a high regard God has for the institution of marriage and how he feels about each of us:
Awake, O north wind, and come, O south wind! Blow upon my garden, let its spices flow.
(Her) Let my beloved come to his garden and eat its choicest fruits. (Him) I came to my garden, my sister, my bride, I gathered my myrrh with my spice, I ate my honeycomb with my honey, I drank my wine with my milk. (Others) Eat, friends, drink, and be drunk with love!
Max Lucado once said, “If God had a refrigerator, your picture would be on it. If He had a wallet, your photo would be in it. He sends you flowers every spring and a sunrise every morning… Face it, friend. He is crazy about you!” God is not only crazy about us individually; he wants us to experience the joy of intimacy in marriage.
Is Eros Love Sinful or Good?
It has been confused with vulgarity due to its similarities to the word erotic or erotica, which is defined as a state of sexual arousal. This makes reclaiming the true holiness of the word a challenge. However, Eros love is a good thing. This love is a physical and sensual love between a husband and wife. Within marriage sex is used for emotional and spiritual bonding and reproduction. The Apostle Paul noted it was wise for people to marry to fulfill their godly desire for this type of love. See what I said there: to fulfill their godly desire. Eros love is good because God designed us with this desire!
1 CORINTHIANS 7:8-9 Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I do. But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.
Within the boundary of marriage, Eros love is to be celebrated:
HEBREWS 13:4 Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.
1 CORINTHIANS 7:5 Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.
The book Song of Songs is perhaps one of the most poetic and steamy books of the Bible that illustrates this kind of love. It was written expressing the passionate love of King Solomon for his new bride, and hers for him.
It celebrates the romantic aspects of Eros.
“Oh, that he would kiss me with the kisses of his mouth! For your love is more delightful than wine. The fragrance of your perfume is intoxicating; your name is perfume poured out. No wonder young women adore you. Take me with you — let us hurry. Oh, that the king would bring me to his chambers.” Song of Solomon 1:2–4.
The book illustrates that men and women are created physically, spiritually, and emotionally to live in love. The love between a husband and a wife should be, among other things, an erotic love. However, a marriage based solely on erotic love will fail. The thrill of sexual love tempers and wanes. Healthy marriages will have what God intended: a mix of Eros, Agape, and Philia.
Eros love affirms God’s gift of sex and sexuality. For those who are single, it is worth the wait. Sex between a husband and his wife is the only form of sexual relations of which God approves. Christians can mess up and receive God’s full forgiveness. But there is a stark difference between messing up and continuing to do so with the mindset, “I can always ask for forgiveness.” What matters is a fully repentant heart. Repentance isn't just an attitude of the heart; it literally means to turn from the former life with a commitment to change for the better. We, as followers of Christ, must strive to live within the confines of his loving boundaries and celebrate the good gifts he’s given us — even if that means we have to wait until our wedding day.
Image courtesy: ©marcelo chagas
Heather Riggleman is an award-winning journalist and a regular contributor for Crosswalk. She calls Nebraska home with her three kids and a husband of 22 years. She believes Jazzercise, Jesus, and tacos can fix anything and not necessarily in that order! She is author of I Call Him By Name Bible Study, the Bold Truths Prayer Journal, Mama Needs a Time Out, and a contributor to several books. You can find her at www.heatherriggleman.com or on Facebook.