Genesis 2:25; Prov. 17:17; 18:24
In England, long ago, men met weekly in a restaurant called The Eagle and the Child. These men wrestled with deep issues of spirituality, life, love and brought forth ideas for books, both fiction and non-fiction. This group of friends or band of brothers was known as the Inklings. Two famous members were J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. These two men grew close as best friends and helped encourage one another to write and publish their books of fantastical fiction. Their ideas in the academic and christian world were not necessarily well-liked. The academic world considered the stories of fantasy to be childish, while many of those in the Christian arena considered the magic and wizards demonic. They have a now famous friendship that was rooted in the love of companionship. C.S. Lewis, in his book The Four Loves talks about this friendship love as one of utmost importance in one’s life. Here’s how he describes the genesis of this type of love: “Friendship arises out of mere companionship when two or more of the companions discover that they have in common some insight or interest or even taste which the others do not share and which, till that moment, each believed to be his own unique treasure (or burden).” (The Four Loves, pg. 65). They begin to see they are not alone and there are people who get them. Slowly they then begin to reveal more of themselves and develop a deep, rich friendship. This type of love is also described in the Scriptures and is in Hebrew called Rayah and in the Greek Phileo or Philadelphia. Lewis (and I believe scripture agrees) would go on to say that this love is vitally important in a persons life. Too often, we only take the emotional and romantic aspect of Phileo and miss the deeper reality of this type of love This love offers deep companionship, rooted in authenticity.
Lewis saw the importance of a life balanced with Phileo. Emotions are an important aspect to love, but are not the only driving force. Although Phileo/Rayah is expressed as emotional and sometimes-romantic love, it is also the love of companionship. Many times, we miss this. We over simplify love by defining it only as an emotional reality. Yet, here we come to a definition of the second aspect of love, which could be defined as “A decision of companionship, where one is seeking to know and be known”. There may be attraction, but in Phileo there doesn’t always have to be. It is intrinsic in a romantic relationship but is not just for romance.
We live in a world, both in and out of the church that fails to rightly define and explain what love truly is. The current definition of love is shallow and lives only on the surface. There is more to love than simply emotions, there is unwavering commitment as we discussed last week as well as a deep, side, by side decision of companionship. We must again ask the question: What is Love?
We were made for deep, rich and authentic companionship (Gen. 2:25)
One of the most beautiful passages on not only our connection to one another, but also to God Himself is this passage in Genesis. It defines the utter reality of the core of the Rayah and Phileo type of love. There is a sense of open honesty, a sense of living an open life with those we choose to love in this manner. We talked last week about Agape/Ahava love, which is defined as an unwavering commitment. Here, the focus changes and that is why it is a separate type of love from Agape.
Think of a stool. It clearly needs all three legs in order to be functional and fully be used as it was designed to do…which is to hold weight. Each leg on a stool represents one of the three aspects of love we’ve been discussing. All are powerful and necessary in their own right, but it is when all three are combined that you find the full reality of the love that God has designed for us to experience in a deep, marital relationship. Take one of the legs out and you are left with a useless hunk of ugly looking wood. This is why I am taking time to describe the three aspects of love that are needed for a healthy marriage and that begin to be discovered through dating. I am simply taking the stool of your relational life and putting legs on it.
One of the deep realities of the soul is that our souls desire to know and be known. We have a deep intrinsic desire for deep companionship on the level of being naked and unashamed. We are wired with this desire to really be known and understood. Yet, we struggle to find any friendship, dating or non; where we don’t experience ourselves being forced to wear masks. We fear that if we are truly known, the person will walk away and never end up giving us the fullness of love we are longing for. Knowing “facts” about someone is not really knowing them. You could know all there is to know about someone on Facebook as far as raw data goes and still never have met them face-to-face. Phileo is the love of knowing. We experience this deep revealing of self and see others who love this way revealing themselves to us. We are knowing them and being known by them. This is true friendship, true companionship.
Love in all its forms is a choice, we choose to love, it is not a fleeting reality. We don’t choose our families, but we do choose our friends. Once you decide to go all in with Agape love, it becomes second nature, the person becomes in some sense a part of you and the choice of commitment was settled long ago. Here, with this expression of love, there is a consistent choice, there is a daily choice of walking in companionship and revealing self. Many people verbally applaud community, but this is where most community’s break down…they simply don’t want to be this honest. Although it’s a desire to be known, there is a deep fear of being rejected. Attraction draws us to this point and that is why this love is where most relationships, dating and non-dating begin, yet to remain in phileo there is a conscience, daily choice. Friendships grow and deepen, so does Phileo. In the passage above, this type of intimacy was the original intent of God for His people; there was no shame at being naked with one another and with God. There are certain people we let in. We may say we “love” people, but we are only usually using the cultural understanding, not this deeper, Biblical understanding. Are you safe to be yourself around the people you “love”? This type of love is a love that expresses itself in companionship and is honest about its fears, doubts, struggles and joys.
This passage in Genesis lets us know that we were created for Phileo community. We were designed for the intrinsic desire to live naked and unashamed with God and with others…most closely obviously with our spouse, but also with folks of our own gender. Men, we need men we can experience phileo with, women you need women whom you can experience phileo with as well. We were created to live in community, not isolation.
Love can make friendships closer than family (Proverbs 17:17; 18:24)
These passages in Proverbs discuss the close-knit relationship of the type of love we are discussing. A friend loves at all times and there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. We’ve heard these truths before, but have we really experienced them? Have we seen friend’s stick closer than family? Have we experienced friends who are willing to see us as we are and stick around? Or, are the majority of our friendships (or all of them) shallow? We have a deep desire to know and be known built within us, we are not mean to live in isolation. These types of relationships are possible. True community starts with us being willing to be a friend who loves at all times, and a friend who allows others to be vulnerable and open.
Jesus was such a friend to his disciples and a man named Lazarus. When his friend Lazarus died. Jesus wept and those gathered there exclaimed: “You see how he loved (Phileo) him!?” (John 11:36). The book of John records many instances of using the word Phileo, mainly by John himself describing himself as the disciple which Jesus loved. He knew Jesus knew him and stayed. Jesus knew everything about John and yet still loved him as his own family.
The main angle I am coming at with the idea of Phileo/Rayah type love is that of two lovers finding this type of love within their relationship, because as we will see next week all three aspects of love are absolutely necessary to develop a real, long and lasting marriage between two people. Many times in todays dating world, this type of love; the kind where we can be ourselves, is always desired but rarely realized. Even people who’ve been married for decades fail to live out this aspect of love, yet it is vital to a healthy relationship. This is not for dating/engagement/marriage type relationships either. We were created to experience this type of love with others as well, this is the love of true friendship. May we seek to be people who love those who are seeking to be known by us and may we be people who allow others we love to truly know us.