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I’m your host AMBrewster and last time we learned about the Natural Family Love. The time before that we studied the unfortunate Fake Family Love that Satan has convinced the world is the real and only love.
If you missed either of those episodes, please go back and listen to them before proceeding today.
However, if you and your family are back to continue learning about God’s plan for love and how your family can grow closer together, then please stay with us.
And, if you haven’t yet gathered your family and listened to this study, I want to encourage you to do so. There is nothing better for family bonding than coming together to study God’s Word.
Even if everyone in your family were diligent and sincere in their personal devotions, so much more could be accomplished by at least sharing together the lessons you’ve been learning.
So, that’s encouragement number one.
Encouragement number two — did you know that if you do your Amazon shopping using our affiliate links, you can purchase all the same stuff for all the same prices, but Truth.Love.Parent. will receive a commission from Amazon?
It’s so simple, just go to truth.Love.Parent.com, click on any Amazon link, and then shop as usual. And Truth.Love.Parent. will be paid by Amazon for sending you their way.
It’s a win-win.
And while you’re at TruthLoveParent.com, you can access today’s episode notes, transcript, and related resources.
And, with that, let’s celebrate love by recapping our study so far and looking at the Reciprocal Family Love.
To-date we’ve discussed the Fake Love, eros, that only takes out of selfish motivation.
Please remember that eros cannot truly give anything. It’s never commanded in Scripture or even implied. It’s an inappropriate lust.
Then we learned about storgé. This is the natural affection with which we’re all born, but which we can lose if we selfishly pursue our own pleasure.
This Natural Love has the ability to give, but it does so in an unconscious, instinctual kind of way. That’s not bad; it’s just not intentional.
And it’s important to note that both of these loves can be experienced by both believers and unbelievers.
And now, to further understand family love, we need to add another Greek word, phileō.
There are a bunch of people from a little place called Philadelphia that know more about this word than perhaps they realize.
The name Philadelphia means “the city of brotherly love.” And “brotherly love” is how most people understand phileō.
Although “brotherly love” definitely speaks to the familial nature of this love, phileō is not restricted to families and close friends like storgé often is. Anybody can have this love for anyone else — saved or unsaved, related or not related.
So, regardless of the people involved in the relationship, phileō is a companionable love.
This Reciprocal Love speaks of affection, fondness, or liking between two or more people. In fact, phileō actually requires at least two people because it’s a love that feeds the love in others. That’s the reciprocal nature of it. You see, phileō responds to kindness, appreciation, and love when it’s offered by another.
Let me put it this way — when I pour water from one cup into another, it naturally fills the other cup. The water level rises in the second cup because the first cup took the time to pour into it. And then the second cup can pour that water back into the first, and they keep feeding each other.
Phileō works much the same way. As love is poured from one person into another, the amount of love in the second person rises and pours back into the first. Of course — unlike cups — when we pour love into others, our own store of love does not diminish. This is an important point we’ll discuss later.
Now, it’s imperative that we don’t misunderstand how all this works.
Humans are so instinctively filled with eros that the concept of unselfish love for others — with absolutely no ulterior motives — is the thing of fairy tales.
Yet, we should never phileō others simply because of the “future love” we hope to get from them. If that’s our goal, that’s eros.
We also shouldn’t phileō others simply because they showed us love, and we want more of that love. That too is no better than eros.
So, you may be wondering, “Is it possible to have a sinful phileō?” And the unfortunate answer is, “Yes.”
Storgé can’t really be sinful. It’s instinctual and natural. The sinful thing would be to not have storgé at all.
But phileō can be sinfully used.
Jesus points this out to us in Matthew 6:5. In that passage He was teaching about prayer, and He said, “When you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love [phileō] to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.”
Jesus shared a similar sentiment in Matthew 23:6. In that passage He condemned the same group of people by saying they “phileō the place of honor at feasts.”
And Revelation 22:15 takes it even further when it refers to people who phileō and practice falsehood.
And it’s very interesting to note that in Matthew 26:48, Judas said the guards would know who Jesus was because Judas would phileō Him. Phileō can mean simply “kiss,” and I don’t believe a kiss was ever used in a more diabolical way than it was the night Judas betrayed God.
Now, like we noticed earlier, phielō has a natural give-and-take about it. Unlike eros which only takes, phileō is cyclical, it requires input. And that means it can be fed by any number of things.
The Pharisees love for praying in public was fed by the praise they received. They also liked the best seats at the feast because of the popularity and honor and prestige that was poured into them when they sat there. In the same way, there are many that love falsehood because of the perceived “benefit” that flows into their lives when they lie.
So, what does all of this mean for us?
Well, like everything else in life, God’s perfect creation has been twisted. What was created to be holy and unselfish can be tainted. Phileō can start to look and act just like eros in many ways.
However, we’re supposed to phileō the right way because that’s how God created it. He wants to use our love to call phileō out of those whom we love. And, as the person we love pours phileō back into us, it should strengthen the phileō we have for them.
This is why this love is often called brotherly love; it’s companionable love. It works with the love in others to bond and intertwine. That’s how it’s meant to work . . . in a perfect world.
Yet we live in anything but a perfect world, and everyone in your family is imperfect. So, we’re going to look at six warnings and then discuss how we can live out this Reciprocal Love at home.
As was already observed . . .
1. We must not show others love simply so we can benefit from it.
That’s fake love. That’s eros.
2. Our Reciprocal Love needs to be fed by the right kind love.
Phileō grows when another person invests in us. That means that phileō can grow even if storgé or eros is being poured into us. Storgé is pure and beautiful, and it should call phileō from us. But phileō that grows from eros alone is tricky.
Eros may do and say on the outside all the same things that phileō may do and say, and we may be none the wiser because we can’t see the other person’s motivation unless they expose it to us.
So, it’s possible that our Reciprocal Love may grow toward the other person even if they are pouring eros into us.
Now, that may not sound too bad, but there are two unfortunate consequences that may arise if we’re not careful.
The first of those is that we may believe we’re truly in a brotherly, sisterly, or companionable relationship with them when — in actuality — we’re not. It’s all one-sided.
This can even happen when storgé is poured into us. Storgé is wonderful and beautiful, but it’s not a conscious or deliberate love. Therefore, it’s not as strong and dynamic as phileō, and such relationships tend to be mostly one-sided.
So, the warning is this: be careful that you keep high biblical expectations in your life and in other’s lives so that you won’t be tempted to eros and so you can help others be honest about their love.
You don’t want to unwisely expect a reciprocal response when the other person has no interest or is too immature to give it.
Unfortunately, this happens in romantic relationships and between parents and children all the time. In romantic relationships, a young lady may pour true phileō into a boy who she believes is pouring true phileō into her life. But then, once married, she finds that his love was only ever eros.
And — like I said — this also happens between parents and children. We foolishly expect our immature children to reciprocate our love. And when they don’t invest phileō in equal portions to our own, we’re surprised . . . and sometimes heartbroken. And — in a worst case scenario — we’re in danger of our third warning.
3. Just because you love someone doesn’t mean they’ll love you back.
This has a significant implication — don’t be so certain that your love will right all wrongs. People are still free moral agents to do as they please.
I Corinthians 16:22 says, "If anyone has no [phileō] for the Lord, let him be accursed.”
The obvious understanding is that God has so abundantly poured love into us, anyone who would not reciprocate that love is not His child and will be accursed.
But you’d think that if God Himself is pouring phileō into someone’s life, they would have to reciprocate. But it’s still their choice.
Moving on . . .
4. If our love is merely phileō, and nothing else, it can gradually become strained and weakened when the other person stops reciprocating.
Again, in a worst case scenario, this Reciprocal Love can collapse in a crisis.
How might this happen?
Well, immature phileō that is newly sown because another’s love has recently called it out, may not be strong enough to stand on its own when the other stops loving. And then it quickly revert to eros or selfish phileō, or it disappears entirely.
In the parent/child example I gave before, a parent may have maturely poured phileō into his child, but when the child immaturely responds with eros, the parent may foolishly counter-respond selfishly because their expectation was wrong.
Instead of having a high biblical expectation that holds people to God’s biblical standards and yet compassionately forbears and upholds them when they sin, the parent may be more of a Dictator in that they expect holy responses without proportional biblical mercy.
In those situations, the parent’s love may become eros or fleshly phileō that dries up because it’s no longer being fed.
Basically, when one cup stops pouring into the other, the second cup frequently stops pouring into the first.
“Well, that sounds very conditional,” you say. And you’re right.
This Reciprocal Love is cyclical in nature. This is one of the key distinctions between this kind of love and True Family love.
And the fifth warning is based off what we learned last time.
5. God commands us to have Natural Reciprocal Love for other believers.
In Romans 12, we were commanded to have philostorgos. Remember, this is a hybrid love that should exist naturally in all believers but that is not merely an instinctual response.
This Natural Reciprocal Love is designed to accomplish a purpose. It’s designed to deepen and broaden the love in others. But if we don’t choose to love the way God commands, we’re not only sinning against God, we’re sinning against all those people He wanted us to encourage in their love.
Of course, we will never derail God’s sovereign plan, but that doesn’t remove the consequences we earn for sinning against others.
And . . .
6. Don’t think that the love that phileō pours into others is only ever hearts-and-rainbows-and-flowers.
In Revelation 3:19, Jesus says, “Those whom I [phileō], I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.”
We see two important truths here. One is that phileō is prepared to do the uncomfortable thing. It’s willing to reprove and discipline. And two, when the love of Jesus is being poured into us, that should draw out of us a phileō response — specifically zeal for right and repentance for wrong.
Alright, so those are the warnings. Now let’s talk about how we can increase the phileō in your family.
First, let me remind everyone that eros is not love, storgé is instinctual love, and phileō is a conditional love. Each of these can be experienced by an unsaved person as well as a believer.
Why do I keep mentioning this?
Next time we’re going to discuss the love that overshadows all loves. We’re going to talk about a love that unbelievers cannot truly experience the way God commands it. We’re going to talk about the love of God in us.
That doesn’t make storgé or phileō inherently sinful, but it does mean that they’re not quite everything we need in our families. If your homes had thriving storgé and phileō, you’d still be missing something very important.
There’s another love, a deeper love, a grander love than storgé or phileō can ever hope to be.
So, with that said, I want to share with you how phileō can be cultivated in your family just like storgé can, but I just want us to be clear that there is still one more love to discuss, and that love takes the cake.
Alright, here are five practical ways to increase phileō in your home.
1. Make sure you phileō God first.
Earlier we looked at I Corinthians 16:22: “If anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed.” That’s very straightforward, and I don’t think any of you will be tempted to misunderstand it.
But consider Matthew 10:37: "Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.”
The I Corinthians passage told us we need to phileō God, but the Matthew passage tells us we need phileō God more than anyone else.
If the individual members of your family aren’t phileō-ing God more than anyone else, there will be problems.
So, make the love of God your first priority.
2. Don’t phileō what doesn’t matter.
John 12:25, “Whoever [phileōs] his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”
Remember how Revelation 22:15b talks about “Everyone who [phileōs] and practices falsehood”?
If we shouldn’t be loving our family more than we love God, then there should be no place in our lives for loving things that God hates.
If you want to cultivate phileō in your family, be sure to stop loving unkindness, disrespect, laziness, impatience, and lust.
3. Don’t accept the phileō of the world.
John 15:19, “If you were of the world, the world would [phileō] you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.”
Listen, if the world is pouring this Reciprocal Love into you . . . there’s a problem.
If we phileō God, then we have the promise that the world will hate us. And if the world loves us, then the world views us as being one of them. And that should never be if we’re followers of Christ.
So, if you want your family to grow in the bonds of love, be sure not to reciprocate the phileō the world uses to tie you to themselves.
Now, this isn’t to say that we don’t love the world — that we don’t love unbelievers. That’s not true at all! But we definitely must be careful that we’re pouring the right love into them.
4. Accept every aspect of the phileō of God.
Revelation 3:19, “Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.”
Sometimes the love God will pour into us will be delightful and comfortable. It will consist of joy and fulfilled promises and blessings. But sometimes that phileō will be uncomfortable. Don’t reject it.
God’s using that correction to make us who we need to be.
I listened to a true story recently about a group of men who — in the 1800’s — sailed over 800 miles in a lifeboat. To make matters worse, they were all starving to death so they were very weak, and the sun peaked out from behind the clouds only four times on their journey. But the navigator was so good that they made it right where they were going.
My point is, the navigator had to make many corrections. Every opportunity he had to change course, he made it because if he were off by one degree, he would have missed his mark by hundreds or thousands of miles. So he had to course-correct left and then right repeatedly over the weeks they sailed.
If you’ve ever watched people who’ve never canoed before, you know what I mean. They will zig-zag all across the lake as they try to get from one bank to another in a straight line.
And that’s not bad! It’s good! If they didn’t swerve back and forth, they would never reach their destination.
In the same way, correction in a person’s live is a good thing. When my life gets off track and someone lovingly steps in and corrects me with God’s Word, I should be overjoyed.
But we’re so often not overjoyed for a couple reasons. First, we often don’t want to go the direction God wants us to go, so a correction that gets us back on God’s track takes us away from our own.
Second, sometimes we don’t like correction just because we’re prideful and don’t like to be told we’re wrong . . . even when we know we’re wrong. And this can happen even when we’re happy to be on the right track!
That’s why we get angry when we’re corrected. And since neither of those reasons are any good, we should take this admonishment and realize that correction from God and our other authorities is a sign of love. It’s good. It should make us happy that we can get back to following Christ after drifting toward sin and destruction.
And lastly . . .
5. Don’t settle for phileō.
John 21:15, “When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?’ He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I [phileō] you.’”
Like I already pointed out, storgé is an unconscious affection. Phileō is called out of us by the love of others and feeds that love in return, but there is a love that far outshines phileō.
The passage I just read was a part of a longer conversation Jesus had with Peter after His resurrection.
Jesus asked Peter two times if he loved the Lord. But Peter did not use the same word Jesus did. Jesus was calling Peter to a deeper, unconditional love, but Peter knew he wasn’t ready for that.
And Peter was right. At that time in his life, he wasn’t ready for something better than Reciprocal Love.
Presumably, it was shortly after this conversation that Peter truly submitted his life to Christ and became a true follower of God.
My point is, phileō is a good start, and it’s a wonderful blessing when used the right way, but it can’t compare to the love we’re commanded to have over 300 times in the New Testament; the love we’re going to discuss next time.
Okay, so I’m very excited about sharing that episode with you, and I hope you’ll share this episode on social media.
But your family has a lot to talk about before we discuss the True Family Love.
You need to consider the Reciprocal Love in your Family. You need to make sure you understand our discussion today, and you need to talk practically about the changes your family needs to make.
By the way, tomorrow on the Wisdom app at 11am EST, I’m going to be talking about this topic in more detail. If you and your family have questions and comments, I invite you to download the app, follow me @AMBrewster, and join me for the live talk. You’ll be able to talk directly with me, and that should make it easier for me to be a blessing to you.
And don’t forget to check out today’s episode notes as you and your family strive to understand God’s expectations for your family love.
And 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 True Family Love
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