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I’m your host AMBrewster and welcome back to our study of Family Love.
I am a biblical family counselor, and I can say without any question in my mind that every single time there is conflict and issue and breakdown between family members, there’s always a love problem. Every single time that happens, Fake Love is present.
And I want to help you and your family avoid those pitfalls by learning about what real love is and how it can strengthen and nourish and heal your family.
So, if this is the first you’re hearing about this series, please start at the beginning in episode 469.
If you’re returning, I hope you’ll click the link in the description to access today’s episode notes, transcript, and related resources.
I also hope that you will download the Wisdom app from the link in the description, follow me @AMBrewster, and join me every Wednesday at 11am EST to take the topic from the most recent episode and discuss it in greater detail.
I’ll answer your questions, excitedly listen to your biblical additions to the conversation, and even engage in your debates.
As always, these new shows post on Tuesday, that means I’ll be taking to Wisdom tomorrow to get even more practical with the Natural Love we’re going to discuss today, and I hope you’ll join me there.
And I also hope the whole family has their notebooks and are ready to go for part 3.
Today we’re going to be looking at another Greek word, but don’t forget what I told you last time. Your ability to understand, interpret, and live life correctly is directly tied to having a biblically robust vocabulary.
Therefore, it’s very important for us to understand the Greek word storgē.
Now, just to be fair, I told you last time that there were four main Greek words for love and that only one of them wasn’t found in the Bible. Well, it’s true that eros isn’t in the Bible, but the word storgē isn’t there either.
But there are two forms of the word storgē that do show up in three different verses.
So let’s start by discussing the Greek understanding of storgē 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 one’s own nature. Unlike eros that has its basis in selfish desire, storgē is a natural affection or natural obligation.
I’ll put it to you this way, even infants who don’t possess the ability to cognitively exercise their selfishness feel this storgē affection.
Storgē is a natural movement of the soul for a husband, wife, child, friend, or even a pet.
Storgē is 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 like eros is.
God created all humans with an instinctual affection for things around us. Young children feel it most strongly with their parents and siblings. Like I mentioned before, 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 out there who are like that.
But I think most people who lose a pet — or especially a loved one — experience storgē most profoundly.
Here’s the unique thing about storgē -- for the most part, storgē is usually unconditional.
For example, 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 with whom we feel close.
But we’re going to see that storgē which is supposed to be a "natural" affection isn't always natural.
And with that, let’s jump into Romans chapter 1.
I talk about Romans 1 a lot on this show, but today we’re going to have 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 the consequence of their eros is that 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 actually allows them to destroy themselves. And then we get to verse 28 where God “gives them up” even more.
“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 understand. Did you hear that awful lists and terrible sins — evil, murder, deceit, haters of God? Guess what the next sin in the list is?
God says that people who reject God’s Truth are also “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 just like they are.
Let that sink in for a second, and then we’ll continue with our list.
So, Paul continues with his depressing list: “inventors of evil, 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 storgē? Did you catch which of those words had storgē as its base?
The word to which I’m referring is “heartless,” and in the Greek it would sound like this — astorgē.
When you put the letter “a” in front of a word — generally speaking — you negate the root word. For example: asocial means “not social.” Amoral means “not moral.” Atypical means “not typical.”
The “a” is called an alpha privative, and it’s used in Greek and English.
So, here in Romans 1, the word astorgē means “without natural affection.” In fact, that’s exactly how it’s translated in the King James Version. The New American Standard translates it simply as “unloving.”
Now, at the beginning of the episode I mentioned that storgē isn’t found in the Bible, but two forms of it were found in three different verses. So, 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 this same thing in the days of Noah, and we see it 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? How does a person lose something that should come naturally to them?
Well, since these are the only two times in the whole Bible where this word is used, much of what we can learn will come from these two passages.
So, since 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 accessing this grace.
Ephesians 4:17-19 sheds some more light on this: “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!”
Do you see how having a hard heart caused their minds to be dark and futile, and they became alienated from God? And because of their hard hearts 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, working in the garden, and cooking in the kitchen.
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.
What about you? Parents, you should have a natural affection for your children that you don’t have for other kids. Children, you should have a natural affection for your parents and siblings that you don’t have for other people.
If you don’t, there is a problem, and that problem is not necessarily with them. The problem is definitely with you.
Now, I’m not saying they haven’t sinned against you, and I’m not saying they don’t have to change, but I am saying that when you lose your natural affection for people, that’s your fault . . . not their’s.
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 different version of storgē.
For that we’re going back to Romans, but this time we’ll be in chapter 12. Starting in verse 9, Paul says, “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 in that passage, 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 a mix of two of the Family Loves we’ll be discussing.
The Greek word in question 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 God is commanding us to have this love-hybrid for each other.
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 of us here, and what’s the implication?
Well, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the Apostle Paul is commanding us to exercise an affection 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?
Growing up my sister and I were best friends, but when I got into ninth grade I started rejecting God’s Truth in my life, and one of the consequences was that I stopped loving my sister like God commanded.
Yet 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 probably kill anyone who may have threatened her safety.
You see, even though I wasn’t exercising true biblical love for my sister, I still had a natural storge for my sister.
By God’s grace, as I started to submit back to God’s Truth, I started loving my sister more the way I should, we went back to being best friends, and — praise God — I never became so calloused that I completely 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 our second point 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?
If you were given a choice to go on vacation with your friends or your family, which would you choose?
As I mentioned earlier, when our natural affection starts to callous over, we cannot blame the other person.
It’s super easy for parents who are 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 move away from them.
But the reality is that if your natural affections are slipping, it’s your fault. And the reason should be very distressing to you because losing your natural affection for your family means that somewhere in your life you’re repeatedly choosing to disobey God’s commands.
And the really scary thing about this is that your sinful choices may not have anything to do with the family member you’re struggling to storge. Bad 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 or school 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 than regular old storgē. Regular old storgē comes naturally and can’t be commanded, but the natural affection amongst the family of God can be commanded.
So, let me ask you, how do you feel toward your saved children, born again parents, and Christian siblings?
Do you enjoy spending time with your born again family members whether they be your immediate or extended family? What about your church family?
Is going to church and fellowshipping with God’s people something to which you look forward?
What about family devotions? What about the time you’re spending studying God’s Word right now?
If you don’t enjoy those things, if you’re not naturally drawn to spending time with your saved family members and your God, then there’s a problem.
And . . .
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 your parents don’t do annoying things. I’m not saying they’re always likable and lovable. I’m not saying they don’t sin.
I’m simply saying that there should be a deep and abiding affection for family. That’s on you. Only consistent sin steals that storgē from us.
So, how’s your family doing?
This is the first of the real Family Loves, and it’s the easiest. You were born with the ability to experience this love.
The other loves about which we’re going to talk tend to be more challenging because they require more from us.
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.
But before I answer it, I want to observe that some of you should be asking that question, but you’re not. Maybe you’re not asking that question because you don’t care to rectify the problem.
I encourage you to listen to the answer anyway.
And if everyone in your family is doing a great job with their Natural Love, I want to encourage you to continue listening as well. Families who don’t currently have a storgē issue can glean helpful ways to strengthen and maintain their storgé.
On the other hand, families who realize 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 learn to love again:
1. Repent of your sin.
Of course, you can’t do this for your unwilling kids, but you can teach them about confession, seeking forgiveness, and repentance.
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. So 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. One way you can do this is by . . .
2. Schedule deliberate time to spend time 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.
So you need to start slow, and keep the word “recreate” in mind. The word “recreate” literally means to “re-create,” to “create again.”
I have an episode on The Celebration of God podcast called “Celebrating God with Recreation.” You should check it out.
Either way, 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.
And if your family struggles with valuable family time, you need to work hard on learning what it means to have fun together to the glory of God.
Moving on . . .
3. Be people who are fun to be around.
This is a big one. No one wants to re-create a relationship with someone 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 in the first place.
I used to work in a place with guys who often had little to no natural affection and who were not always fun to be around, and sometimes it was nothing more than the work of the Spirit in me to have fun with those 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, this goes for you too. Fun doesn’t have to be about you. In fact, if your family time is consistently about you, then you are well on your way to callousing your heart and losing your natural affection. You’re all wrapped up in your idolatrous Fake Love, and it’s already destroying you.
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.
And lastly . . .
4. We need to be productive in our relationships.
I mentioned earlier that infants have natural affection for their parents, even if the parents aren’t the greatest people. But that doesn’t always last; as the child becomes more attentive, the parents’ shortcomings will be a larger and larger strain on the relationship.
But it’s also 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.
That means that we should strive to be a blessing to the people in our lives. That will make it even easier for storgé to thrive.
So, my friends, that’s storgé.
It’s the love that should be natural, and I hope it’s flourishing in your family.
But if it’s not, I pray your family will repent, submit to God, and start cultivating relationships where storgé can regrow and thrive.
You can start right after this episode is over by talking about the storgé in your home. It would be a good idea to confess, seek forgiveness, and start repenting now if you have to.
But — here’s the thing — this Natural Love, as wonderful as it is, is the simplest of the real Family Loves.
Next time we’ll talk about a more powerful family love that grows as we invest.
Love doesn’t have to be complicated. God actually wired us to love. And even when we’ve worked hard to desensitize ourselves, God calls us to repent and provides the strength to change.
I hope you’ll join us next time as we once again open God’s Word to discover how to thrive in life and godliness.
To that end, we’ll be discussing the Reciprocal Family Love.
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