Teaching Values: Showing Affection

by Jeff Asher

The English word love includes a wide range of ideas either when used in every day conversation or as a translation in the New Testament. Webster defines love as "strong affection for another arising out of kinship or personal ties; attraction based on sexual desire; affection and tenderness felt by lovers; affection based on admiration, benevolence, or common interests; warm attachment, enthusiasm or devotion; unselfish loyal benevolent concern for the good of another; a person's adoration of God."

Four Greek Words

There are four distinct Greek words translated by the English word love. EROS is the word for the sexual expression of love; this word is not used in Scripture. However, the duty of spouses in this matter is expressed by the euphemism "render…due benevolence" (I Corinthians 7:4- 5). This is also the Greek word from which we get our English word "erotic".

STORGE is the word for the tender love and affection which exists between family members; it is the love of kindred. However, it is only used as a negative and translated as "without natural affection" (Romans 1:31; II Timothy 3:3). This sin described the fallen Gentiles and the apostasy in the church. To be without the affection of family is a sin.

PHILEO is that love associated with friendship. It comes into English in philanthropist and Philadelphia. In the New Testament it is compounded with husband and children (Titus 2:4), man (Titus 3:4) and brother (Romans 12:10). In Romans 12:10 it is also combined with the word STORGE, the love of family, and translated, "kindly affectioned".

AGAPAO is the selfless love of marriage (Ephesians 5:21-31; I Corinthians 13:4-8). It is that disposition of the heart that seeks only what is in the best interest of another. This love is not reciprocal; neither does it depend upon any quality in its object in order to be present. This is the love with which God loves us (John 3:16).

Tenderness Expected in the Home

As evident from Romans 1:31 and II Timothy 3:3 tender feelings are expected to be found in the home. As a matter of fact to be without them represents an apostasy and characterizes a fallen condition.

Jesus expected men to love, have tender feelings, for their parents (Matthew 10:37), for their spouses (Titus 2:4; Luke 14:26), their children (Titus 2:4) and their siblings (Romans 12:10; Luke 14:26).

The home is in need of serious repair when these tender feelings are neglected or absent (Proverbs 17:1; 15:17; 21:9, 19; 25:24). God wants and expects us to be affectionate toward our family members.

How to Express Affection

Sometimes we find it hard to express affection. It may be that we do not know how. The Bible gives us examples of several appropriate ways in which to show affection. Men in particular find it difficult to show our tender feelings. Granted we do not all have to be the same, and some of us will be more expressive than others, but we all should learn to show some affection.

Kissing. The Orientals are more comfortable with this form of demonstration than most Westerners it seems. Even today in the East, it is very common for men to "kiss" one another as a form of greeting. In the Bible parents kissed their children (Genesis 27:26; 50:1). Of course, husbands and wives kissed (Song of Solomon1:2: 8:1); brothers and sisters kissed (Song of Solomon 8:1). Brothers kissed one another (Genesis 33:4). Kinsmen kissed (Genesis 31:55). And, grandparents kissed their grandchildren (Genesis 48:10). Family affection may be so strong as to see in laws kiss (Exodus 18:7; Ruth 1:14). The kiss was even common among mail friends (II Samuel 19:39).

Hugging or Embracing. In Scripture it is very common to see kinsmen embrace (Genesis 29:13). Brothers embrace (Genesis 33:4). Certainly we would expect to see parents (Genesis 46:29) and children (II Kings 4:16) freely offering an embrace to one another. Husbands and wives or the betrothed are also shown embracing one another (Genesis 26:8; Song of Solomon 2:6; 8:3).

Gift Giving. A time honored way in which we may show affection is through giving gifts. These need not be expensive. Many of the gifts found given in the Bible prove the adage, "It is the thought that counts." Spouses gave gifts to one another (I Samuel 1:4-5; Genesis 24:22, 30, 47; Ezekiel 16:10-13). Parents gave gifts to their children as expressions of love and affection (Genesis 37:3; I Samuel 2:19; Luke 11:11-13). Siblings gave gifts to each other (Genesis 32:13). The Scriptures recognize the value of gifts in maintaining (Proverbs 18:16; 17:8) and restoring good feelings between the giver and the receiver (Genesis 32:20; Proverbs 21:14). "A gift is as a precious stone in the eyes of him that hath it."

Appropriate Praise. So often it is difficult for us to reward good behavior and gracious deeds with a word of praise. Yet, the Bible recommends praise for those that have done well (Proverbs 23:15-16, 24-25, 25:11; 27, 27:2, 11). Specifically, husbands ought to praise a faithful wife (Proverbs 31:28). Children ought to speak praise of their parents (Psalm 127:3-5) and parents their children (Proverbs 17:6).

Learning to Be Affectionate

It is possible to learn how to become an affectionate person. Do not resist becoming such by saying, "I am not; therefore, I cannot." As with all things right, the Bible points the way.

The first step toward becoming affectionate is to receive affection from others. Jesus set the example in this, when the little children came to Jesus to be touched by Him, He refused them not (Luke 18:15-16). There is always time to hug a child. A very wise and experienced parent once told me when we first became parents: "A child only cries for one of four reasons: he's hungry, he's wet, he's hurt, or he wants to be held." Children need to be held, hugged and embraced. The Lord made time, and we must as well.

Next, you must start showing affection. Jesus returned the affection of the little children, "He took them up in His arms" (Mark 10:16). He received gladly and gratefully the gifts that were given to Him (John 12:7-8; Luke 7:37-38; Luke 8:1-3). Jesus clearly demonstrated his tender feelings for those whom He made His companions (John 11:5, 35-36; 12:1-8). Fathers "pity" their children, that is, they show passion (Psalm 103:13).

Finally, let your words convey your tender feelings. True love can, should and must be demonstrated (I Corinthians 13:4-8; I John 3:18); however, the truth is fathers and mothers must tell their children that they love them (I Thessalonians 2:11; Titus 2:4). Spouses must do the same (Song of Solomon 8:6-7). Everyone wants to be told that they are loved. Learn to say it, show it and mean it.