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The Four Loves: A Lesson from C.S. Lewis

Dr. Dan Russ, 9th grade humanities teacher and curriculum consultant, spoke to the JHCA school community at Monday’s opening ceremony about the theological virtue of love. He used C.S. Lewis’ The Four Loves to explain the different ways we can “love.”
The Greek language has at least four different words for “love,” while in English we have one. The different Greek words for love each describe the various ways we can love, as well as how God loves us. Dr. Russ said, “What does it mean for people like me talk about loving mountains, pizza, my wife, and God using the same word? C.S. Lewis helped me to answer that question when I first read his splendid little book The Four Loves.”

The first and humblest love is storge, or what we might call affection. Dr. Russ explained, “It’s what I feel when my dog greets when when I come home, when my cat jumps on my lap to be petted, eating my favorite pizza, wearing my old worn-out sweater, or greeting the neighbor who walks by my house every day and waves at me, even though we don’t know each other.”

Eros is the love between a man and a woman who fall in love. Dr. Russ said, “If it is eros that is deep and long-lasting, it leads to marriage and children and grandchildren. As Mrs. Russ and I have discovered, such love lasts a lifetime; we will celebrate our 52nd wedding anniversary on June 8th!”

Philia is the love that exists between friends, when two people share the same interests, ideas, and hobbies. Dr. Russ said, “Lewis calls falling in love between a man and a woman ‘face-to-face’ love, so he calls friendship ‘side-by-side’ love.” This is where the city Philadelphia, also referred to as “the City of Brotherly Love,” gets its name. 

Dr. Russ concluded, “Finally, Lewis says the greatest and highest love is agape: the love from God and of God who loves his creation. This love, according to Lewis, redeems and elevates the other loves. It enables me to find that someone I first disliked has become my friend, to love my wife for a lifetime even though we have been through hard times, and to love God because he first loved us.”
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