In Episode 2 of Yuri!!! on Ice, the two male figure skaters named Yuri want to have the famous skater Viktor Nikiforov as their trainer. They want Viktor to help them prepare for international skating competitions. To decide whether or not he will take on either of them, Viktor proposes a competition between the two. He proposes two parallel music pieces and shows the accompanying choreography. The two are both about love – one is called “Agape” and the other “Eros.” He calls upon the Russian Yuri to skate to “Agape” and the Japanese Yuri to skate to “Eros.” The two men are uncertain at first and Viktor goes on to describe it through skating.
What we see is beautifully choreography and beautiful dancing upon the ice. We see during “Agape,” Viktor pour out and show us through interpretive skating what love in a friendship and brotherly sense of the word. We see compassion and connection on a personal level through this interpretive dance on skates. He shows friendship on a deep, connective level through each beautifully flowing movement. It is impressive and wows everyone. Then we see him perform “Eros.” It is erotic and sensual. His movements are fluid and purposefully meant to make you stare. They work well and the viewers themselves are once more mesmerized by his skating. This is what he wants the two Yuri’s to evoke. These are the emotions – agape love and eros love. There is a bit of a problem in that what Viktor describes isn’t quite agape.
Let me explain. In both cases, agape and eros, the words have Greek origins. Agape is love in its purest and most raw form. In the Greek it is intended to be the highest form of love, like that of the perfect God’s love toward mankind. This is not what Viktor describes. What he describes is philia love, or brotherly love. The love of camaraderie we have for our fellow man. The love of our neighbor. The love of our friends. It’s important, it’s critical, and it was done purposefully because the Russian Yuri lacks this type of love in his interactions with others. Then what is eros? Erotic love.
Eros is rooted in the name of the Greek god Eros, a god of love and son of Aphrodite. Traditional interpretations of Eros have him as an adult male embodying sexual power and energy. Viktor wants to see the Japanese Yuri present this type of love to the people through figure skating. He wants Yuri to ooze sex out of his pores so that his raw sexual energy comes out on full display for everyone. We see this on display in the next episode as Yuri successfully pulls off the choreography, with a few technical mistakes. It’s beautifully done and truly does ooze sex.
Love has a few different meanings as we see here so it begs the question, what do people mean when they say love? In a cultural context, it really can be confusing and unclear. People will shout that they love someone when really they are merely lusting for them. Some will say they love someone in a brotherly or familial way. Few will use agape love, pure unadulterated love in its most raw form.
Agape love is pure and complete. Agape love is self-sacrificing. Agape love puts the other entirely first. Agape love thinks not of its own wellbeing, but of the wellbeing of others. Christ displayed that type of love as He willingly gave His life for sinful man on the cross. In his first letter to the Corinthians, the Apostle Paul describes love in a well documented passage in chapter 13 verses 4 through 7. Here is the text from the English Standard Version:
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
While we’ve heard it said at weddings a million times, do we truly think about what this means. This is agape love. This is perfect love. This is a love that is patient even when the toilet seat is left up. This is love that is not boastful, even when you accomplish something great. This is love that is never rude to another, even when you feel they deserve it. This is a love that does not rejoice in the failure of anyone including an enemy. This is a love that will endure to the end through it all. How can one truly skate and display this type of love? It’s hard to imagine, but the other two types we are capable of displaying very clearly.
Philia love is on display as we love our friends and neighbors, putting their needs first. When we help out a friend, when we enjoy the closeness of our brothers or sisters and share our all with them. That’s philia love and the Russian Yuri displayed it very well. Viktor continues to show it to both Yuri’s at this point in the series. Eros is one we can and do display with regularity. While the Japanese Yuri jokes about his erotic love of pork cutlets, in reality we find ourselves drawn to others. Is sexual love okay? Let me be clear on this – yes, if it wasn’t then we’d cease to exist as a species. I spoke about this at length in March in my piece on hentai, sex, and culture. In the end, sexual love is right and good even from a Christian perspective when in the right context. Let me from March explain further:
Now, I’ve spoken all this time about sexual gratification from a hentai, pornographic mindset. It’s a wrong mindset and I’m firm in that belief. But, does that mean that sex is bad and wrong and awful? Absolutely not. Sex is a beautiful thing designed for marriage (Genesis 2:24, 1 Corinthians 7:8-9). It is a moment where two become one flesh in a physical and spiritual union. God does not want us to be ashamed of sex, but to embrace it in a Biblically ordained manner within the marriage bed (1 Corinthians 7:3-5). Sex outside of marriage is not ordained by God and not endorsed (1 Corinthians 6:18). As Christ says, lust in the heart for a woman is adultery and sinful (Matthew 5:27-28). With lust being sinful, the act of sex outside of marriage is of course sinful as well. For those who know Christ, we are to control our sexual urges and keep them where they are a blessing – inside of marriage (1 Thessalonians 4:3-5, Hebrews 13:4). Don’t believe me that the Bible is pro-sex in marriage? Let’s go to Song of Solomon for more.
W: Oh, that he would kiss me with the kisses of his mouth! For your love is more delightful than wine. The fragrance of your perfume is intoxicating; your name is perfume poured out. No wonder young women adore you. Take me with you—let us hurry. Oh, that the king would bring me to his chambers.
Y: We will rejoice and be glad for you; we will praise your love more than wine.
W: It is only right that they adore you.
Song of Solomon 1:2-4
Oh, my. The W and Y are generally understood to be the woman (wife) and young women in the city where this takes place. The wife is speaking of how much she wants to be kissed, how intoxicating her husband is, how she adores him, how she knows other women want him, and how she wants him to take her to their marriage bed. Why yes, that is in the Bible. Why yes, the Bible does promote a sexual and intimate relationship between husband and wife and has since the beginning (Genesis 1:28, Genesis 2:24). In fact, in many ways the initial definition of marriage was in fact defined by sex. We see this image painted most clearly in the story of Isaac and his wife Rebecca, whose marriage is not defined by a huge ceremony, but by the two going into their tent and consummating their union (Genesis 22:64-67).
Eros is fine within the marital context. While society tells us that free sex is all good, don’t listen. It’s hard to avoid it as it’s everywhere, but it’s worth avoiding. Sex within marriage is better, is more pure and connected, and you are with a partner who is ready to handle whatever the consequences may be; a partner who has chosen a life with you before God and family (and the state, but that’s another story).
Love can mean many things to many people. What we generally get is philia or eros love. What we want and crave is agape. Let us try each day to love more like that.