Natural and Unnatural Affection

Why do senseless killings happen? What does God’s Word say we can do as believers?

Natural Affections

There were four main Greek words used for love in the New Testament times. Two are used in the Bible. The first is philia, friendship love. It is defined as the love between friends and the strong bond between people who share common values, interests, or activities. C.S. Lewis says this love is the least biological, organic, or instinctive. It is the least natural of the loves, he says, which is why we are often commanded to love with brotherly kindness. We are to pursue, by God’s grace, friendship love.

The more familiar word for love used in the Bible is agape. This is the love most associated with God; this is His love. It is defined as the love that serves regardless of changing circumstances. It is described as unconditional love, the greatest of loves. It does not refer to a love rooted in attraction but of moral goodwill. It is not a cold, religious love, but truly altruistic, loving someone with no intention of receiving anything in return. It is the love God has for us. 1 John 4 teaches that we love Him because He first chose to love the unlovely.

In John 14:21, Jesus said, "The one who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and the one who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will reveal Myself to him." If we say that we know the love of Jesus Christ and have been saved and have turned from our wicked ways, we are taught of God how to love. We love everyone regardless of whether it is reciprocated or not.

Let us consider the other two words for love known in the first century in the common Greek language and why these two words are not used in the Bible. The first word is storge, a natural affection between kin. It is the natural affection of those brought together in the common bond of family, the love of home: husband for wife, wife for husband, parents for children, children for parents. Storge love was not frequently used in the first century. It did not need to be talked about because this domestic love was instinctual and naturally practiced. Even in pagan cultures, to love one’s spouse and child was considered perfunctory.

The other Greek word for love in the first century which is not found in the Bible is the word eros. This word is used for marital intimacy or the act of marriage. It was rarely used in the first century in common conversation in the marketplace or even in homes.

These two words are natural, instinctual loves. These loves were granted to us because every person is created in the image of God. It is natural to want to love and be loved in our families, and it is natural within the bonds of biblical marriage to be physically intimate. The Lord gave each of us an appetite for intimacy. Like the love for eating food, we do not have to be told to eat, although we typically have to be told to curb and control our appetite. It is natural for us to love our families and to enjoy watching others love their families. The Bible does not need to exhort us to love in those two ways because God knew we just would.

However, we do have to be encouraged to love like God does and to love His friends, which is not as natural for us. God’s grace enables us to love with agape and philia love, selfless and friendship love.

As we remain Spirit-filled, God’s grace helps us; but if we are struggling in our walk, we need God’s Word to give us a command to love in these ways. For example, Ephesians 5:25 commands husbands to love their wives like Christ loved the church. Sometimes we do excel at loving each other, as the Thessalonians did in 1 Thessalonians 4:9-11, and Paul exhorted them to keep increasing in that love more and more.

Unnatural Love

What happens to a society when a love that is natural becomes unnatural or an alternative way to love is pursued? When the natural appetites for intimacy between a man and a woman in the context of marriage are altered and changed into that which is unnatural, that affects the normal way which God has created mankind to live and to love. Something happens to children’s souls when their God-given craving to be loved by family is altered and sometimes never realized. Romans 1 discusses the downward progression. People become unthankful, ungodly souls who despise God, taking that which He has created as normal and natural and declaring it to be unnatural. Intimacy is just one kind of love that can be altered and cause intense emotional and physical difficulty for anyone who chooses to love unnaturally.

Although the natural family love of storge is not mentioned in the Bible in its root form, its opposite is mentioned in 2 Timothy 3:1-5. The word "unloving" at the beginning of verse 3 is the opposite of storge love, meaning without natural affection for family.

What happens to a child who does not see natural, instinctual, family love that God has created for them to experience and enjoy? What happens to the condition of any soul who has not had the privilege of growing up in an environment with natural love? What happens to the soul of a boy who has never known the presence of a father in the home and may not even know his father? What if this boy’s mother is a drug addict or alcoholic, and there is no responsible family member nearby to love him or show him the natural love for which his soul cries to have? A child cannot even begin to process the world around them in a healthy way if everything around them is unnatural.

Many young people in unnatural domestic situations also have friends who also are not experiencing environments of natural love. These hurting kids are further confused by education, entertainment, and other media that saturate their environments with unnatural indoctrination. God has created each of us with the same natural desires in our appetites and our domestic realities, but some kids never see the natural love they crave.

Because most of us are living with natural affection, we do not instinctively look for those who are in crisis, struggling without natural affection. We need to be discerning. These children who never experience natural affection will do what is unnatural.

Theological Truths Leading to Action

As saved people, we must regularly pray according to 1 Timothy 2:1-4 and 2 Thessalonians 3:1-3. Prayer brings safety. A lack of safety or security could be due to a lack of prayer.

As saved people, we must love! Love is not real until it is put into action. We must act. We need to pray about being an influence on a soul being reared in unnatural affection. We need to beg God to give us a redemptive relationship in that person's life so they can see and know natural love.

This is how we follow the Great Commission of Matthew 28, going into all the world to make disciples, which includes these souls that have never learned love. Find them and be Christ to them! Do not be surprised when they see natural love from us and think it is odd. They may have never seen it, yet they crave it because that is how God has created them.

God’s saving grace can restore a soul that was reared in an environment of unnatural affection. Only God’s saving grace can do that. As the love of Jesus Christ is introduced to these souls’ minds and hearts, and as they learn His love and watch how natural love is lived out in our homes, these souls can be changed by God.

We can pray, we can reach, we can love, but first we must be willing to go and make disciples. If we pray, God will bring these souls to us because it is His will.

Practical Conclusions for the Believer

In our own Christian homes, is unnatural love being lived out? We need to consider if we are a professing Christian or a confessing Christian. Remember, it is natural for unsaved people to instinctually love their families too. That is why it is not mentioned in the Bible; we do not need to be told to love our families. If we claim to be saved and not loving that way, then we need to consider if we need to be born again. With saving grace on top of common grace, how are we not loving?

If we are certain we are born again and we are struggling with domestic love, we need to get help! We can watch how our pastors and our disciplers are people love in their homes and model our lives after how we see them living. Paul says follow me as I follow Christ (1 Cor. 11:1).

Never forget, there is at least one child, if not in our homes, then outside our homes, watching how we love inside our homes. We might be the only people some ever see who are living natural affection in a Christlike way. Let us pray that God would lead each of us to those children who have not been a witness of natural affection, that we would be an influence on these children because Christ loves them.

Application Points

  • Are you living out natural affection in your home? Do you need help in growing in specific areas of natural affection? Ask your discipler or let our church leadership give you guidance in this area.
  • Are you praying for God to bring you a soul who needs to see or experience natural affection? Ask God to help you be discerning as you live out each day, intentionally looking for those who need a model of natural affection in Christ Jesus.
  • Love without action in not love. What can you do?

Tools for Further Study

Cross References to Explore
  • Lev. 19:18; Deut. 10:19; Psa. 133:1; Matt. 25:35-39; Luke 6:31-35; John 13:14-15, 34-35; Rom. 12:9-10, 15-16; 1 Cor. 13:1-8; 2 Cor. 1:4, 4:5; Gal. 6:10; Eph. 4:2, 32, 5:2; 1 Thes. 3:12; 1 Tim. 4:12; Heb. 13:1-3; Jam. 1:27; 1 Pet. 2:17; 1 John 3:16-18, 4:20-12 – Brotherly love
A Quote to Ponder

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. – Edmund Burke