Christian Decision Making


Christian Decision Making

(Relationship or Desire versus God's Principles of Righteousness)
(Phileo, Storge, Eros versus Agape)

In every situation into which providence (the Lord's direction in our lives) brings us, we are each time challenged to identify His leading versus our preferred (i.e. more comfortable/desirable) direction to take.  This is true in both parts of providence; the 'trial' portion of providence which is to teach us lessons in God's "principles of righteousness" (Mt 6:33; Ro 3:21-26; Ro 5:21; Ro 6:13, 16; 1 Jn 3;7) , and the 'opportunity' portion of providence which is to test us concerning our willingness "to always do good for others" (Mat 25:40; Gal 6:7-10).  

These challenges to us are in fact the essence of the "trials" or "tests" in which we find ourselves as in James 1:2-5, 12, and 19, 20, Ro 5:3-5 and Gal 6:10.  The outcome for us in each and every one of these "trials" or "tests" is to be "good" and even "perfect" as in Mt 5:44-48; James 1:4,  Ro 8:28, and Ro 12:2.  And the guarantee for us is that the outcome indeed will be good and even perfect if we identify and apply His will for us in each trial (Ro 8:35-39, and 2 Pet 1:4-11). But if instead, we identify and apply our more "comfortable/desirable" will for ourselves, in pursuing our will we will be denying His will, and thus not achieve what is either "good" or "acceptable" or "perfect" for us.  We will instead have found and applied what is our own "comfortable/desireable" but also "selfish" will for us and thus the opposite of what is God's true love and His "perfect" will for us, and in this, we will have lost the best "gift" for wanting and accepting the much lesser "desire".  

Greek scripture identifies four "loves" that can exist in the lives of humanity.  Three of these "loves" in fact do exist in the lives of all humanity.  The fourth exists only in the lives of those who have a close personal relationship with God.  These are identifiable only in the ancient Greek language of the New Testament period.  Modern Greek usage has confused these, and is of almost no value in understanding scriptural usage of these words.  And most all other languages have only one word for love, so the distinctions in meanings and applications of the four "loves" as given in scripture can only be identified by the use of additional descriptive words and phrases to categorize each of the four types of love.

In the ancient Greek the four words involved are Phileo, Storge, Eros, and Agape.  Without making this a detailed analysis of these words, let us just say that their most simple and clear distinctions and thus definitions would be:

Phileo = the "liking" (from light emotion to strong passion) of things in general, including people, places, animals, things, experiences, views, food, etc.  (Mt 10:37; Mt 25:36; Lk 20:46; Jn 11:3; Jn 12:25; Jn 15:19; Jn 21:15-17 [compare Jesus' use of Agapao and Phileo vs John's use of Phileo only]).  Where humans and animals are involved, this is most often a strongly reciprocal relationship.

Storge =  the "favoring" (from light emotion to strong passion) of relatives in the closer and broader sense.  The responsibility or obligation felt to give support to relatives of one's closer or more distant family, even when there may not be also a strong personal "liking" or "phileo" of the person.   This is the "blood is thicker than water" association that compels most humans to give favorable advantage to their relatives over other people, or even 'brethren'.  This is almost always a strongly reciprocal relationship.

Eros =  the "liking" (from light emotion to strong passion) of the sexual relationship between a man and woman as applied in scripture in the "righteous principle" sense only between a married man and woman.  But it is also recognized in scripture in the "unrighteous" sense between unmarried men and women, and between people of the same sex.  This is most often a strong passion and seldom only a light emotion.   Righteously applied this is always a strongly reciprocal relationship.  Wrongly applied this may still be a strongly reciprocal relationship, or it can be a unilaterally forced relationship.

Agape (noun) = "God's perfect will for everyone", as defining the "perfect love" that God is (1 Jn 4:8, 16), and that God has, and that is commanded of us (Jn 13:34).  (Agapao [verb] = "doing" God's perfect will for everyone).  This is in essence the actuality of every principle of absolute righteousness, every absolute truth, every aspect of absolute faith which are identified by God to us as defining his character, his plan for man, our commanded part in it, and thus our requirement to apply to all of our brethren, to those in the world, and to those who are our enemies.  This is what we are commanded to apply to ALL of mankind!  (Jn 3:16, 17; Mt 5:43, 44, 48;  Mk 12:30, 31;  Jn 13:34, 35; Jn 15:9-14;  Ro 13:8, 9; 1 Cor 13:1-3; 1 Jn 3:14, 16; 1 Jn 4:8, 16; 1 Jn 5:2, 3).  This must by virtue of itself be always a unilaterally applied relationship from one for the good of all others.  When applied mutually between two or more people it can appear reciprocal, but that is in appearance only for the actuality of that would negate the definition.  When it 'appears' to be reciprocal it is actually righteous Phileo that is seen in 'addition' to the Agape/Agapao.  Thus this Agape/Agapao is not motivated by an initially emotional/passionate love as are the other three, but is motivated by what is "righteous", "right" and "good".  Since the development of these in our lives is seen by us as a great gift from God, it follows that these lead us to an very exalted spiritual appreciation of God which is indeed a great emotion and passion in our lives, but one that follows the gift received, and does not humanly motivate it.

Phileo, Storge and Eros, righteously applied fulfill our human needs and our legitimate wants, and there is a proper place and time for them, and a proper application of them.  That "proper" application will always be subservient to Agape/Agapao; that is, the righteous application of Phileo, Storge, and Eros can never, never set aside or usurp the position, power and goal of Agape/Agapao.  Whenever we would let any of these take preference, priority, and ascendency over Agape/Agapao we will have let our personal 'desire/pasion' of Phileo, or Storge, or Eros set aside the highest 'perfect' application and reward of Agape (Agapo - verb) for us, and that would automatically put us in a mode of 'selfishness' and totally in opposition to God and His Agape/Agapao, and His command to us to Agapao (do His perfect will for ALL mankind).  (Selfishness, by contrast is me doing my 'perceived' perfect will for me).  

Every sin in the world is based on the "unrighteousness" application of Phileo, Storge, or Eros.  In 1 Jn 2:16 we read of "The lust of the eye, the lust of the flesh, the pride of life".  These are all very strong passionate applications of these three loves; the lust of the eye being 'covetousness' of what is not legitimate; the lust of the flesh being unbridled passion for what serves our flesh in food, drink, physical form, or sexual desire; and the pride of life being the arrogant elevating of ourselves above the rest of mankind.  1 Jn 2:15 and 17 warn that these are of the world and are passing away, but he who does the will of God (Agape/Agapao) will live forever.  

Eve saw, felt and acted upon these three aspects and sinned as described in Gen 3:6  So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food (lust of the flesh), that it was pleasant to the eyes (lust of the eyes), and a tree desirable to make one wise (pride of life), she took of its fruit and ate.  The first sin therefore in mankind was formed of and fulfilled in these three illegitimate desires.  It is known that Eve knew she was to do only what was commanded by God (His Agape will for her).  It is not clear that she understood the differences of each of the four potential loves, and from this it is clearly stated that she was "deceived" while Adam who followed her in the sin was not at all deceived!  Both Eve and Adam put the emotional/passionate loves above Agape; Eve being deceived; Adam willingly!

Jesus was tested upon these same three aspects in Mat 4:1-11;  Stones to bread (lust of the flesh).  Cast yourself down and be saved by angels (pride of life).  Fall down and worship Satan to receive all the kingdoms of the world (Lust of the eyes).   But he rejected each of these thus keeping His Agape/Agapao for the Father far above the other loves in every respect.

The clear possibility of sin enters our consecrated lives when there is a strong temptation considered on our part to live in the full and illegal emotion/passion of any one of these lusts or pride.  There is a much more subtle and deceiving temptation not so easily seen or recognized when we are faced with the emotional need to judge between our legitimate responsibility to Phileo, Storge, and Eros versus our legitimate responsibility to Agape/Agapao.  We know that there are scripturally legitimate needs and applications of each of the emotional loves and it is not too far to go when a more "personal" trial enters our providence and we are challenged to consider whether we have not put too narrow of a definition on them and also on Agape/Agapao.  We think that maybe we should 'extend' the boundaries of our definitions of Phileo, Storge, and Eros, and of Agape/Agapo also, so that we can reason why it is 'necessary' in a more personal situation to give more 'need' or 'respect' to one of the first three, and less 'need' or 'respect'  to the Agape/Agapao.  Each and every time this is done, Agape/Agapao is then set aside in favor of supporting one of the more emotional/passionate loves, and "sin" has just entered our lives.  This is always a self-deception.   But equally sad is that it brings us to the position of 'supporting' or 'enabling' the other person in what is scripturally a wrong in their life.  So in accepting this deception in our reasoning, and in entering into it for the supposed benefit of another, we do harm both to ourselves and to them also.  It is a double loss!

Agape/Agapao is the highest and most all-encompassing and all-fulfilling command we have received from God and from Christ, and it cannot ever in any circumstance be set aside in the slightest way or moment for the pursuance of any of the other three loves.   To do so is ALWAYS a deception on our part that gives false definition to ALL four loves, and separates us from the true Agape of God (we from His Agape love for us and in us, and we from doing His Agape for ourselves and for others).  But the righteous applications of Phileo, Storge, and Eros will never be in conflict with Agape/Agapao!

To know the will of God for us in the general sense is to study the bible to know all of His Principles of Righteousness in all aspects of life, and especially in living in the character of Jesus Christ.  To know the will of God for us in the more personal daily and  practical sense is His 'providence' for us, and is to pay close attention to all that the Lord permits to come to us in experiences of trials to test and develop our faith (learn and grow in righteousness and the clear knowledge of good and evil; Heb 5:14 "But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.", and in opportunities to do good for all other people who pass through our days; Gal 6:10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.

There are clearly many temptations to sin that we can enter on our own, with no one else aware or involved in any sense.  If we fall to these temptations, it will always be that we have unwillingly deceived ourselves concerning God's absolute principles of righteousness, or willingly convinced ourselves to broaden the definitions of all the loves, so that we can pursue one of more of the emotional/passionate loves in a wrong way at the expense of our correct responsibility to Agape/Agapao.  To do this for our own personal pleasure is a great sin, and one that takes us on a road apart from God.  If continually pursued, it can lead us to a permanent separation that can end in second death.

But when we are involved with others in any deception, willingly or unwillingly we enter with them into the same conditions of sin by enabling them in what is wrong behavior, whether initiated by us or by them.  If initiated by us, our sin is all the greater.  But if initiated by them and supported by us, we still sin and support them also in sin by enabling them.   Most always we do this out of 'fear' of what they will think if we do not support them, or out of their pressure that if we do not support them that we do not "love" them.  But the "love" they challenge us with is one of the three emotional/passionate loves, and the "love" we need to show them is the "Agape/Agapao" love; the perfect will of God for them.  To bend our wills to their pressure is for us to put one of the three emotional/passionate loves above Agape/Agapao, and this is always sin on our part, and enabling them in sin on their part.  This we cannot do.  We must for ourselves, and also for all others hold Agape/Agapao always in the highest position of all, and never permit it to be set aside, slowed down, or less that fully applied in each and every occasion.  Only this is the best for us.  Only this is the best for all others.  And only this is the greatest righteousness in our lives, and thus the greatest glory to God.

So in all "tests" that come to us individually, or in our relationships with others, we need to first know and have accurately scripturally defined all the principles of God in His terms of all absolute definitions of moral and practical absolute righteousness, so that we clearly know "good" and "evil" from His definitions, and we seek to lead ourselves and all others to all that is "good" and away from all that is "evil".  

We'll often find that we "think" we have very accurate and scripturally narrow definitions of many principles of God's righteousness until the time comes with we are personally challenged with an overpowering personal desire for one of the emotional/passionate loves, or when we are personally challenged by someone else very close to us with their perspective of intricate personal involvement in one of the emotional/passionate loves.  This then is the time when we begin to question if maybe our definition of each of the four loves is not as well defined as we had thought, as we find these would move us away from our personal desire, or away from a long held human relationship.  Do we then find it more 'reasonable' to 'rationalize' our own personal desire(s), or to give 'compassionate support' to a close "brother's" or "sister's" desire(s), or to a close relative?  This is the time of our own greatest challenge to our personal faith and trust in God, and in His ability to lead us to clear truth through His spirit.  Will we review again from scripture God's perfect definition of the particular Principle(s) of Righteousness involved, or will we without benefit of review of scripture through the spirit seek to arrive at what would be the most "comfortable" and "friendship-maintaining" position and decide to go ahead with that without considering what it is doing to our original definitions of Agape/Agapao and the other three loves, and of our personal relationship with God and Christ?

We must always realize and never forget that we cannot love the world or the things of the world and love God equally.  We cannot have them on an equal footing.   They are not at all equal!  God is the creator!   All other things and people are His creation!  We must insist on loving and obeying only God, for our good, for the good of all those around us, and for God's eternal glory.  Let us not allow ourselves to be deceived by ourselves, or by false pressures from any others that it is ever appropriate to set Agape/Agapao aside, or permit it to be slowed in any sense for the advantage of the other three loves, or of any other thing or motive or person in the entire universe.

God alone is supreme and to be obeyed and worshiped.  Let us not even consider to permit any other gods before us.  And let us do this for our own best good, and for the best good of All those around us, and for God's greatest glory!

May the Father and the Son enlighten us all to understand these strong principles of righteousness, and strengthen and embolden us to live them every moment of every day toward and for the good of everyone!

May our studies, our understandings and wisdom, and all our applications be to God's glory, and to His eternal good for us and all with whom we have contact.