As we have discussed throughout this series on love, we have seen that sacrificial love which the Greeks in Jesus’ time classified as Agape, is the foundation on which true and pure human love is built. Since God is love, and since we are made in His image and likeness; we are made to love.
Since the last two loves have a lot in common, this article will expound upon these loves in the series: Storge and Philia. The love of family and friends is part of our human nature. We are made to be in community, not to be alone. Adam, when he was created, experienced an unfulfilled emptiness despite the world being his. Adam enjoyed the beauty of creation, but felt that there was something missing in his life. God knew this and created Eve (Genesis 2:20-24, Genesis 2:18). With the creation of Eve by God, Adam was finally complete, because he got the human companionship he was missing.
Because God is Love and made us for human companionship; Jesus chose to experience the human condition, by experiencing Storge (family love) and Philia (friendship or brotherly love), too. Jesus loved His mother, His step-father Joseph, and His relatives, through Storge. Through Philia, Christ loved all His friends, when He entered the world to redeem us. Since Agape is the foundation for which the other three loves get their fuel from, we must see Storge and Philia through the lens of sacrificial love, Agape.
Love hurts when it is honest and true, because true love is self-giving. St. John declared in chapter 15, verses 12-13;17 of his Gospel that love is self-giving and sacrificial. A ManHusbandDad loves his family and his friends. This love of family and friends can only be fruitful if it is centered on Agape. When Storge and Philia live out sacrificial love by a ManHusbandDad, this love is not selfish, but is true love. The love of family and friendship is not a love that is self-seeking. A ManHusbandDad must always live out Storge and Philia to the point where it hurts.
In other words, love can only be true when it is self-giving, and when the giver empties himself to the point where he doesn’t get any prideful benefit. The image of the crucified Christ is the embodiment of true love. Jesus emptied Himself out of love for us, and He didn’t do it for His benefit, but for ours. Jesus, without being selfish, died for our salvation. Jesus shows us what true love is meant to be: Agape. “…love one another as I love you” (John 15: 12), is the command Jesus gives to us, which in its essence, is sacrificial love. Jesus shows us that love hurts, because love must always be self-giving. If it doesn’t hurt, it isn’t love.
Let us now apply this understanding of sacrificial love, to the love of family and friendship. For example, say a young man is asked by his grandmother to mow her lawn. That young man, if he loves his grandmother, will do the request even though he will not get anything substantial in return for his good deed. His grandmother may give him a couple of dollars or provide some food for him, but this gift is irrelevant, because the grandson would do the task for nothing in return, because the young man loves his grandmother more than the compensation for the task.
As one can see through this example, the grandson is living out a sacrificial aspect of Storge. It must be noted, that family members being a “doormat” to one another, is not Storge, nor Agape. For Storge to be true love, it must be respectful of the dignity of the human person, through the Virtue of Humility.
In the area of Philia, this love of friendship can be seen in the example of a ManHusbandDad helping his friend move into a new apartment. The ManHusbandDad helps his friend, not for his own personal benefit, but because he has brotherly love for his friend, and desires to be there for his friend in his friend’s hour of need. With this example of Philia, we can see how Agape purifies and empowers this love. Friendship is a love that cares for the benefit of one another, which has no selfish intentions. Not every friendship is long lasting, but every friendship that is true will touch the hearts of each friend, and provide spiritual benefit to everyone involved. When a friendship turns to selfish desires, that friendship is destroyed. The friendship between Judas Iscariot and Jesus is a great historical example of how a friendship can be destroyed when one party has selfish intentions. Judas had selfish intentions toward Jesus Christ, and Jesus paid the consequences of the evil actions of Judas, by dying on the cross. Jesus did everything in His power without denying the free will of Judas to try to restore the friendship, but the apostle refused to accept the hand of friendship.
History also records some amazing holy friendships between individuals, such as St. Francis of Assisi, and St. Clare of Assisi. These two Franciscans had a friendship built on sacrificial love, and did amazing things for the Catholic Church, and for the world. Some people believe that men and women cannot be friends, and that there must always be sexual activity between the two individuals. The term “friends with benefits,” which is used everywhere in our society, is a distortion of Philia, and through the Virtue of Chastity, a friendship between a man and a woman is possible. Another distortion of Philia in our society, deals with the issue of homosexuality. Although homosexuality is intrinsically disordered in its nature, it is only sinful, when it is acted upon. Society teaches that two friends who both have same-sex attraction should act out sexually with each other. These teachings from society dealing with sexuality and friendship are both in error, and both attack the dignity of the human person. Chastity is the only ingredient that sanctifies and purifies any friendship, regardless of gender, and sexual orientation.
To guarantee that the love of family and friendship is true, a ManHusbandDad must be like Jesus Christ in all things: holy. Love is the greatest of all the virtues, because it is the virtue we will be living out in Heaven (1 Corinthians 13:13). All the other virtues are the aids which help us live out the virtue of love, and prepare us for Heaven. A ManHusbandDad must keep his focus on the crucified Jesus, as a reminder of what true love is, to live out a fruitful love between family and friends.
When a ManHusbandDad keeps his eyes on Jesus, he will know how to live out love in any circumstance that comes his way.