Last year I preached a sermon discussing the different Greek words for “love.” One of the words – probably the most well known – is agape. This is an unconditional, sacrificial love that loves even when it’s not reciprocated.
- The love God has for the world: John 3:16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
- The love man has for sin: John 3:19 This is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.
- The love husbands are commanded to have for their wives: Ephesians 5:25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her.
Another word for love is phileō, and it refers to strong affection or brotherly kindness. This is…
- The beginning of words like philosophy (love of wisdom), philanthropy (love of fellow man), or philharmonic (love of music).
- Used of the religious leaders who “love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets” (Matt 6:5).
- The way Mary and Martha described Jesus’ feelings for Lazarus when they said, “he whom You love (phileō) is sick” (John 11:3).
You see the two words – agapaō and phileō – used together when Jesus repeatedly asked Peter if he had agapaō for Him. Since Peter was humbled by his recent denials, he wouldn’t tell Jesus His love for Him was unconditional; instead he said he had phileō for Him (John 21:15-17).
Now the most interesting use of phileō…
Titus 2:3-4 says “older women” are to “admonish the young women to love their husbands.” This word for love is phileō. So even though husbands are to have agapaō for their wives, wives are to have phileō for their husbands. Why aren’t wives expected to have the same sacrificial, unconditional love for their husbands that husbands are to have for their wives? Is it that husbands don’t want or need that kind of love? I don’t think that’s it at all: I think it’s that wives are to love their husbands differently than husbands are to
love their wives. Wives are to love their husbands by being their friends. I think most men – myself included – would say it can be very discouraging and trying at times being a husband, father, provider, spiritual leader, and everything else that falls on most men’s shoulders. Can having a wife with sacrificial, unconditional love be encouraging? Yes. But what could be even more encouraging?
Having a best friend.
What does it look like when a wife isn’t a friend to her husband, when she doesn’t phileō him? It’s described in Proverbs:
- Her “contentions are a continual dripping” (19:13b, 27:15),
- She makes him want “to dwell in a corner of a housetop” (21:9a, 25:24) or “in the wilderness” (Pro 21:19a).
But when a wife has phileō for her husband, when she is his best friend, “the heart of her husband safely trusts her. He has no lack of gain. She does him good and not evil all the days of her life” (Pro 31:11-12).
This post is from my book, Marriage God’s Way: A Biblical Recipe for Healthy, Joyful, Christ-Centered Relationships, chapter fifteen: “What Is Love?”