I want to return to my conversation with Tom Oord's definitions of love, which he offers in an effort to write a theology of love. In previous conversations we've discussed agape as "in spite of love," and eros as "because of love." The third form of love that Oord discusses is philia, or what he calls "alongside of" love.
He defines philia as:
Acting intentionally, in response to God and others, to promote overall well-being by seeking to establish deeper levels of cooperative friendship. (The Nature of Love, p. 115).
Note once again two key points to this definition -- it is intentional and it seeks to "promote overall well-being." Love isn't accidental!
One important point here is that he applies philia to God, that is, God is involved in intentionally creating friendships. This is an important response to those who see God as being aloof and untouched by relationships. Such a view of God is rooted in Greek categories that suggest that God is "impassible" -- that God is without passion and in truth unable to truly be part of relationships.
Thus, he writes:
Philia is alongside of love. Philia expressions require mutuality, and long lasting philia depends upon a friendship heritage. Because the deepening of God's friendship with creatures requires a span of time, a theology envisioning God as time-full is more adequate as a theology of love than a theology considering God in all ways timeless. (pp. 115-116).
If God is relational and engaged with us in true friendship, what does this mean for us and for our vision of God? How do we separate out a truly relational God from a sentimentalizing of this relationship with God being a relationship of buddies? But also think about the ways in which a relational understanding of God enhances the way we live together in community. If God can be in relationship, then certainly we can as well.