By Jared Salomon, Crosswalk.com
We often use the word “love” to describe our feelings for our friends and family, our favorite food, and hobbies, and God calls us to love everyone. However, the love for these people and things is not exactly the same. We use the word “love” in English for all of these things, but this is not how it is for Greek, a language used in the Bible. In Greek, there are different words used for different kinds of love. Phileo love is essentially friendly love. It is the love we have for our friends, especially close friends.
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Where Does the Bible Mention Phileo Love?
The Bible mentions phileo love throughout both the Old and New Testaments. In 1 Samuel 18:1-2 Jonathan develops a strong friendship with David. “Jonathan’s soul was tied to David’s soul.” Proverbs 3:32 says that God is a friend to good and honest people. Proverbs 18:24 says that a true friend can be better than a brother.
According to John 11:3, Lazarus was Jesus’ “dear friend.” Jesus says in John 15:13 that the greatest love people can show is to die for their friends. In verse 14, Jesus tells his disciples that they are his friends if they do what he tells them to do. In verse 15, Jesus calls the disciples his friends. According to Romans 5:10-11, all Christians are God’s friends.
Maybe the best example of phileo love in the Bible is 1 Samuel 20. In this chapter, Jonathan finds out that his father, King Saul, wants to kill David. So, Jonathan tells David about this so that David can escape. David and Jonathan cry together before David leaves.
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What Defines and Separates Phileo Love from the Other Loves?
There are four main loves the Bible speaks about.
- Agape love is sacrificial. It does not expect love in return. It is the love God showed when Jesus died on the cross to give us salvation.
- Storge love is familial. It is the natural love one has for their family. It is the love that comes naturally when you spend enough time with someone or grow up with someone.
- Eros is sexual love. It comes from being sexually attracted to someone. This love is demonstrated in Song of Songs.
- Phileo love is friendly. It is the natural love one has for their friends, especially close friends. David and Jonathan had this kind of love for each other.
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What Makes Phileo Love So Important?
Phileo love is firstly important because love is important. The two most important of the Ten Commandments have to do with love. One of these Commandments is to “love your neighbor as you love yourself.” Luke 10:25-37 indicates that a neighbor is anyone in need of help, not just the person who lives next to you. The Bible is full of passages that say to love others. Also, love is a part of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22), so loving others shows that the fruit of the Spirit is in us. So, loving others is important.
We’ve established that loving others, in general, is important. But loving friends has a specific importance. We need someone we can trust and be vulnerable with. We can’t go through this life alone. We can’t go through this life without at least one close friend. To have someone we can rely on, we need to love that person. Then they will probably love us back enough to be reliable and trustworthy so that we can be vulnerable with them.
Also, friends hold each other accountable. They influence and convict each other to be more spiritually mature. Godly friends can influence us to be godlier. Proverbs 27:17 says, “As one piece of iron sharpens another, so friends keep each other sharp.” Friends strengthen each other.
According to Galatians 6:1-3, we are to help make our friends right when they sin. We are to help each other with our troubles. When we do this, we obey Christ’s law. If we do not do this when our friends sin, we disobey the law of Christ. To obey God, we must love our friends by helping them with their troubles and making them right when they sin.
According to Romans 1:11-12 Christians can help each other’s faith grow stronger. Ultimately, our increased faith can bring us closer to God, and this increased closeness with God comes from loving Christian friends.
Christians should do their best to be like God according to Romans 13:14, Ephesians 5:1, Philippians 4:9, and 1 John 2:6. It is part of sanctification. God loves us as friends according to Proverbs 3:32 and Romans 5:10-11. So, we should be like God by loving our friends.
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How Can We Practice Phileo Love Today?
To practice phileo love, we first must invest in friends. If we do not have close friends, then we cannot fully love our friends in the way that God wants us to.
To practice any spiritual thing that God wants us to do, we need God’s help. To get God’s help, we must connect with God by reading the Bible and praying. The Bible, God’s Word, has advice for any situation. It is full of wisdom for love and friendship. The Bible says to pray and ask God for everything we need (Philippians 4:6), which could include phileo love. God will help us practice phileo love if we call out to him and ask for help (1 John 5:15). Putting God as the main focus of practicing phileo love and relying on him to help us give phileo love is the best thing to do when wanting to practice phileo love.
Inspire friends to glorify God. Loving and glorifying God is the best thing a human can do. We humans exist to glorify God. It is our purpose. So, helping friends to follow this purpose is showing phileo love to them. It is a way of practicing phileo love.
Follow the examples of people in the Bible who practiced phileo love (like David and Jonathon).
According to Galatians 6:1-3, we should intercede and talk with our friends when they sin. It may seem harsh, but ultimately we are convicting our friends to turn away from their sins. As long as the intervening and talking occur in a loving way, it is phileo love.
1 Thessalonians 5:11 says we should encourage our friends and help them grow stronger in faith. Although we must call our friends out on their sins, we cannot leave it at that. Even if done gently in love, it can still be discouraging for the friend. So, we must also encourage our friends and build them up to balance it out. Encouragement and stronger faith are blessings, so encouraging our friends, helping them to grow stronger in faith, practices phileo love.
Pray for your friends. Pray that they come to God or closer to God. Pray that they love God above all else and love him more. Pray for their struggles (especially if they ask you to). When you have been praying for your friends, tell them about it. It will most certainly encourage them. What better way to practice phileo love than to bring our friends and their struggles to the one who loves them more than anyone else?
When unsure how to practice phileo love, practice agape love for your friends. Agape love looks different from phileo because agape is more charitable and sacrificial. It is not a relationship-based love. It is important in its own way. Agape love can never go wrong. Love your friends relentlessly. Love them selflessly. Love them like Jesus would love them. Follow his example (Romans 13:14, 1 John 2:6). Forgive your friends and be willing to make sacrifices for them. Honor them more than yourself (Philippians 2:3). God wants us to love everyone this way. So, we should certainly love our friends in this way.
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