Your family’s been wired to love, but it’s possible to lose our natural affection. Many people in this world have become calloused in their love, but the Bible offers hope for regaining it. Join AMBrewster as he teaches Christian families all about the first family love.
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Welcome back to our study of The Four Family Loves, or — as we saw last time — The Three Family Loves.
If you’re just joining us, welcome to the #1 podcast for Christian parents on iTunes.
Mindee, the creator of Boogie Wipes and president of Juicebox Moms recently gave us a 5-star rating and left this review: “Getting to the heart and motivation of issues in parenting is the only way to truly parent with the love of Jesus. The tools, wisdom and practical applications my husband and I find here for help raising our blended family of 6 have been absolutely extraordinary. We are so grateful!”
Thank you so much, Mindee! I could to agree with you more, there is nothing more revolutionary for our parenting than Truth of Christ and the love of Christ.
And speaking of love, we are five episodes into our month-long discussion of biblical love, so if you are new to the show, I strongly recommend you stop this episode and start with number 126 so you can understand the foundation of our discussion.
However, if you and your family are returning to hear about the first real family love, I welcome you and hope you’re ready to get into God’s Word.
And I hope you share this episode on social media and take a moment to rate and review us on iTunes. We’d love to hear what your family is learning.
Alright, last time we discussed the Greek concept of love called eros. And we saw that it’s not so much love as it is lust. It’s a selfishness that takes from others and rejects them when we don’t get what they want.
It’s not the biblical, romantic love that some people have made it out to be; we’ll learn about that love in a couple episodes.
But today we’ll be learning about another Greek word for love.
And if you think that all this Greek is unnecessary, let me encourage you. The New Testament was written primarily in Greek and Aramaic. The biblical writers didn’t use the English word “love” with all of its modern denotations and connotations. The Holy Spirit inspired the biblical authors to use the word we’re going to discuss today. That’s why it’s important to understand what the authors meant.
Now, many people refer to today’s word as storgē. But there’s an issue with that.
Just like eros, the root word storgē doesn’t appear anywhere in Scripture.
But two forms of the word do show up in three different verses, so we’re going to start by discussing the Greek understanding of the word and then look at the three passages where the Bible uses it.
Are you ready?
Here we go.
Storgē is interesting because this love has its basis in ones own nature. Unlike eros that has its basis in selfish desire, storgē is a natural affection or natural obligation. Even infants who don’t possess the ability to cognitively exercise their selfishness feel this affection.
It’s a natural movement of the soul for husband, wife, child, friend, or pet. It’s a quiet, abiding feeling within a person that rests on something close to him about which he feels good.
It’s also interesting to note that — like eros — anyone can feel storgē. You don’t have to be a Christian to feel this love for another person.
Now, that doesn’t mean this love is not true love or that it’s some sort of perversion. That’s true of eros, but not of storgē.
God created us with an instinctual affection for things around us. Children feel it most strongly with their parents. Pets can also receive this love. Any of you who’ve ever lost a pet understands storgē.
If you had eros for the pet, you may have been mad when it died because you no longer received any benefit from the pet. And there are definitely people like that.
But I think most people who lose a pet, or especially a loved one experience storgē most profoundly.
But here’s the unique thing about storgē -- for the most part, it's usually unconditional. It doesn’t matter if the baby’s parents are good people or not, the baby storgēs them anyway because it’s simply a natural response to those to whom we feel close.
But this "natural" affection isn't always natural. And with that, let’s jump into Romans chapter 1.
I’ve referenced this chapter a number of times, but today we’re going to investigate it a little deeper.
Here’s a quick overview of verses 18-26. Basically, the passage tells us there are people who know Truth about God, but they reject that Truth and follow their own hearts. They basically eros their way through life, and God allows their wickedness to destroy them.
It’s a scary passage because in verse 26 it says that God gives them up to dishonorable passions. He allows them to destroy themselves. And then we get to verse 28 where God gives them up even more.
“28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. 29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil”
Let me stop right here for a moment. This is really important for the children in the room to grasp. Did you hear that awful lists and terrible sins? Evil, murder, deceit, haters of God. Guess what the next sin is?
God says that people who reject God’s Truth are “disobedient to parents.” If you don’t obey your parents, you have the same thing in common with murders and haters of God . . . you’re rejecting God’s Truth.
Let that sink in for a second, and then we’ll continue with our list.
Paul continues with his depressing list: “disobedient to parents. 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Though they know God's righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.”
Did you hear our word? Did you catch which of those words had storgē as its base?
The word was “heartless,” and in the Greek it would sound like astorgē. When you put the letter “a” in front of something — generally speaking — you negate the root word. For example: asocial means “not social.” Amoral means “not moral.” Atypical means “not typical.”
That’s called an alpha privative and it’s used in the Greek or in English words borrowed from the Greek.
So, here in Romans 1, the word astorgē means “without natural affection.” In fact, that’s how it’s translated in the King James. The New American Standard translates it “unloving.”
Now, at the beginning of the episodes I mentioned that storgē isn’t found in the Bible, but two forms of it were found in three different verses. Before we discuss the implications of astorgē, let’s look at the one other verse were astorgē is found.
For that we turn to II Timothy 3.
In this passage, Paul is explaining to Timothy what the world will be like in the last days.
Let’s start in verse one, “But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. 2 For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, 4 treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power.”
This passage should sound an awful lot like Romans 1. As time goes on more and more people will reject God. We saw that in the days of Noah, and we see that today. Broad is the way that leads to destruction and many there be that find it.
Well, as people reject the Truth of God they will exercise more and more of their depravity. So much could be said about each of the sins we just read, but hopefully this time the word “heartless” stuck out to you.
That’s our word astorgē.
So, what does it mean that people can be without natural affection?
Well, these are the only two times in the whole Bible where this word is used. That means that much of what we can learn will come from these two passages.
And — as we already mentioned — storgē is a natural, instinctual love. It’s an extension of God’s common grace to us. But it appears that repeatedly rejecting the Truth of God removes a person from this grace of God.
Ephesians 4:17-19 sheds some more light on this: “17 Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. 18 They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. 19 They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. 20 But that is not the way you learned Christ!”
You see how having a hard heart caused their minds to be dark and futile, and they became alienated from God? And because of that they eventually became callous.
A callous is a tough layer of skin that’s built up because of repeated friction. I have callouses from playing the guitar, the martial arts, and working in the garden.
But God is saying that because of the repeated friction of coming in contact with God’s Truth and rejecting it, a person can become callous in their spirits. This causes them to give in to sensuality and greed and impure lifestyles.
So, it’s clear that we lose our natural affection — our storgē — by repeatedly refusing to submit to God.
Now, I have more to say about this when it comes time to apply this to our families, but I want to look at the one other verse that uses a version of storgē.
For that we’re going back to Romans, but this time we’ll be in chapter 12.
“9 Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. 10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.”
Now, the word “love" was used a number of times, but only one of those “loves” is the word for which we’re looking. We’ll talk about the other ones in a later episode.
The word for which we’re looking is translated “love” at the beginning of verse 10: “Love one another with brotherly affection.”
But what’s interesting about this word is that it’s almost a mix of two of the Three Family Loves.
The Greek word is philostorgos. It’s a combination of storgē and philos, and philos means “beloved, dear, and friendly.” The love-word we’re going to study next time is phileo, which clearly has the same prefix.
What’s interesting is that we’re being commanded to feel this love-hybrid. Now, remember, Storge is nowhere commanded of us because it’s considered a natural affinity, and the biblical author chose not to use the word phileo.
So, what’s being commanded here and what’s the implication?
Well, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit the Apostle Paul is commanding us to exercise a devotion that should be natural among believers. In fact, the New American Standard Bible translates philostorgos as “devoted.”
All of this to say, whether we’re born again or not we should all exhibit the natural affection for family that God created us to have.
But once you’re born again into a new, spiritual family, God expects that there will be a new kind of natural affection for our fellow believers.
So, what’s the application of all of this for your family?
1. God created all of you to love each other with a natural affection.
Do you experience that natural affection that enjoys being around your family?
When something negative happens to your family, do you respond with a desire to protect them?
My sister and I were always best friends, but when I got into ninth grade I started rejecting God’s Truth, and one of the consequences was that my sister and I started to drift apart because I was a jerk. But one day my dad and my sister played a practical joke and me and my mom. My mom and I were waiting in the car for my dad and sister to pick up a few things in the grocery store. Well, my dad came out and pretended that he didn’t know where my sister was. I remember being very angry with my dad and immediately jumped out of the car to find her and kill anyone who may have threatened her safety.
Even though I wasn’t exercising the most godly type of love with my sister, I still had storge holding on. By God’s grace, as I started to submit back to God’s Truth, I started loving my sister more, we went back to being best friends, and I never became so calloused that I lost my natural affection for her.
But what about you?
Does the thought of losing any of your family members make you sad? If not, your callouses may be growing. And that makes number two very important.
2. This natural affection can only be lost as we repeatedly choose to disobey God’s Truth.
Do you love your pet more than you love your parents?
Does the idea of spending an evening home playing games with your family make you cringe?
Mom, if I told you that you would have to homeschool your child for the rest of the year, how would that make you feel?
When that natural affection starts to callous over, we must not blame the other person.
It’s super easy for parents terrorized by their child to blame the kid for the aversion they now feel.
It’s second nature for children to blame their parents when the child starts to grow away from them.
But the reality is that if your natural affections are slipping, it’s your fault. And the reason is distressing because it can only mean that somewhere in your life you’re repeatedly choosing to disobey God’s commands,
And the really scary thing about it is your sinful choices may not have anything to do with the family member you’re struggling to storge. Choices at work can cause a man to drift away from his wife. Inappropriate responses to trials in the extended family can affect the relationship between a child and her parent. Even repeatedly responding sinfully to tensions at church can cause our natural affections to break down.
The point is, if we feel that natural affection slipping away, the answer is personal and the answer is sin.
3. If you and your family members are born again, God actually commands you to exhibit philostorgos for your born again family.
You see, this is a much bigger deal. Regular old storgé comes naturally and can’t be commanded, but the natural affection amongst the family of God can be commanded.
How do you feel toward your saved children, parents, and siblings?
Do you enjoy spending time with your born again family with your extended born again family . . . at church?
Is that something to which you look forward?
What about family devotions? What about right now?
If you don’t enjoy that, if you’re not drawn to spending time with your saved family and God then there’s a problem.
4. This natural affection for other believers can also be lost only when we choose to disobey God’s Truth.
Like I observed before, if your parents are saved and you really don’t like hanging out with them, the issue is yours.
I’m not saying they don’t do annoying things. I’m not saying they make consistent strides to be likable and be lovable.
I’m simply saying that there should be a deep and abiding affection for family. That’s on you. Only consistent sin steals that from us.
So, how’s your family doing?
This is the first of The Three Family Loves, and it’s the easiest. You were born with this love.
The other loves tend to be more challenging because they require more.
But before we finish up today, hopefully some of are asking, “Wait! What do I do if my storgé is gone? Is there any way to get it back?”
That’s a fantastic question, and I definitely want to answer it before we finish. Now, many of you may not be asking that question either because it’s not an issue in your family, or you don’t care to rectify the problem.
But I encourage you to listen to the answer anyway. Families who don’t currently have this issue, can glean some helpful ways to strengthen and maintain your storgé. And families that have this issue can benefit two ways:
Families who realized they need to regain this love, will have things they can work on, and even if the culprit has no desire to glorify God by loving his or her family, you moms and dads can benefit by knowing how to create an environment that may one day help them submit to God and regrow that natural affection.
Alright, so in closing, here are some practical ways you can learn to love your family again or help your unwilling family:
1. Repent of your sin.
Now, you can’t do this for your unwilling kids, but you can teach them about repentance and the need for them to return to truth.
When you rightly see God, and when you rightly see yourself in light of God’s Word, and if you truly believe what God has to say about family love, you will want to repent. You will want to change.
This is the most important part of rebuilding storgé in your life. Natural affection dies in an atmosphere of habitual sin.
It’s like throwing salt in a garden. If you want something to grow, you need to start by refusing to throw anymore salt in the garden.
And then you need to start cultivating the ground.
2. One way you can do this is by scheduling deliberate time to recreate with your family, specifically the family with whom you’re at odds.
Now, this can be tricky. This takes a significant amount of prayer and a deliberate desire to glorify God. Generally speaking, if you’re becoming calloused in your natural affections, then things are pretty rocky as it is. Much of the time you spend together is probably dripping with relational carnage.
Start slow, and keep the word recreate in mind. The word means to “re-create,” to “create again.” Look at it as an opportunity to create a new relationship with that family member.
If you’re already a strong family in this area, you still need to take deliberate times for recreation. Many times our relationships get strained because we push them and push them and we go through difficult family times and we just assume the good relationships will hang in there under the strain.
By God’s grace, they can, but a wise family will regularly schedule times for the family to enjoy each other.
3. Be people who are fun to be around.
This is a big one. No one wants to re-create a relationship with someone else who’s a jerk.
Parents, there’s no excuse for not being any fun. There’s no excuse for not pretending with your kids. There’s no excuse for not having a tea party or playing Uno or running around outside or going on a bike ride.
Storgé thrives when we have fun together, but it’s really helpful to be fun people.
I work in a place with guys who often have little to no natural affection and who are not always fun to be around, and sometimes it’s nothing more than the work of the Spirit in me to have fun with the guys.
That is the response of a mature believer, and most of our kids aren’t there. Let’s make it easy on them.
But, kids, that goes for you too. It doesn’t have to be about you. In fact, if it’s consistently about you, then you are well on your way to callousing your heart and losing your natural affection.
So, to recap, all of us need to repent of our sin and submit to God. Second, we need to intentionally and premeditatedly plan for family time. And third, we need to have and be fun. I highly recommend you listen to one of our earliest episodes — episode 8. It’s called “One Step to Making Family Time Work,” and it offers one important thing to remember, especially for parents of younger children or children who have interests that differ from yours.
4. And lastly, number 4, we need to be productive in our relationships.
I mentioned earlier that infants have natural affection for their parents, even if they’re not the greatest people. That’s doesn’t always last; as the other person becomes more attentive, your shortcomings will be a larger and larger strain on the relationship.
But it’s pretty easy for an infant to give their natural affection to someone who’s not their parent. A parent who abandons their child sacrifices that storgé, and it will likely be given to the next person who cares for and provides for the child.
It’s great to have fun, but I firmly believe that storgé thrives in relationships where people are beneficially caring for one another to the glory of God.
So, that’s storgé. It’s the love that should be natural. I hope it’s flourishing in your family, and if it’s not I pray your family will repent, submit to God, and start cultivating relationships where storgé can regrow and thrive.
But this love, as wonderful as it is, is the simplest of the Three Family Loves. Next time we’ll talk about a family love that grows as we invest.
And, you know what would be really loving — sharing this episode with your friends and family!
It’s super easy to share this from the Apple podcast app, and most podcast directories have that option as well.
You can also swing by TruthLoveParent.com and enjoy our other parenting resources, including today’s episode notes on our blog, Taking Back the Family.
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Love doesn’t have to be complicated. God wired us to love. And even when we’ve worked hard to desensitize ourselves to love, God calls us to repent and provides the strength to change.
Have a great day!
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