Board Reflections: Love and Compassion – The Word Love
Submitted by Kim Chappell
The theme of “love” has been the basis of Board of Trustees members’ thoughts this
month. The English word “love” is used in so many ways that it requires context, either
in writing, speaking, or one’s situations for the reader or listener to understand exactly
how it is meant. Consider these few examples: “I love you!” “He loves his new car.” “We
love going to the beach.” “Love ya!” “I love my country.” “God so loved the world….”
As a language person, I like to think about the precision of classical Greek. There are at
least seven Greek nouns which can be translated into English as “love,” but specify the
context. Some of their linguistic descendants are still with us in English. Here are a few
of the seven, with an English derivative.
“Eros” refers to physical, sexual love (“erotic”). “Philia” is affection, often referring to
friendship (“philanthropic,” “Philadelphia”). “Pragma” refers to duty, obligation, or logic
(“pragmatic”).”Mania” refers to obsessive love and often has a negative connotation
(“pyromania”). The Greek “agape” which refers to unconditional, selfless, or sacrificial
love, is said to be the chief word used for “love” in the Bible. Interestingly, it seems to be
used largely unchanged in English, especially in theology.
So, when we say “Love is the spirit of this church…” in our Affirmation of Faith, which
Greek word comes closest to what we are trying to express?