About Jesus  -  Steve Sweetman

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Reciprocal Love


In the first century Greco/Roman world there were a few words that can be translated into English as love.  Two of these words, "agape" and "philos," appear many times throughout the New Testament.  We have come to associate "agape" with sacrificial, or God's love as was demonstrated on the cross of Christ.  We associate "philos" with brotherly love, or love that is reciprocated between two people.  We, thus, often mistakenly conclude that "agape" is a superior expression of love than "philos." 


If you study how the New Testament uses agape and philos you will notice that both words are used in reference to God.  God expresses both sacrificial love and reciprocal love.  These words are also often used interchangeably. Although they have their differences in specific meaning, they have their similarities.  This tells me that both expressions of love are equally important and necessary in maintaining healthy relationships, whether these relationships are with Jesus or with each other.  This is important, and here is why. 


Sacrificial love is primary in building a good relationship because it sets aside self to love and serve another, but relationships are not built on agape alone.  As important as agape is, it does not necessarily produce good relationships.  That is clearly seen with Jesus' agape expression of love on the cross.  Not everyone appreciates His sacrificial love.  Just because you sacrifice yourself for another does not mean the other person will reciprocate your sacrificial love or appreciate your acts of love.               


This is where "philos" comes into play.  Philos is love that is reciprocated between two people.  It is a free flow of love from one person to another and back again.  It is this exchange of love that produces healthy relationships.  When agape is reciprocated through philos, relationships become meaningful. 


Whether the relationship you desire is between you and Jesus, between you and your spouse, or between you and someone to whom Jesus has placed you alongside, both agape and philos are fundamental in creating and maintaining these relationships. 



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