Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A Call to Love

In John 21 there's an exchange between Jesus and Peter involving the word "love". It's a pretty common word in the Bible, particularly in the New Testament. In Matthew 22:37-40 Jesus summarily condenses the entire Jewish law into these to basic premises; love God, love people. In John 13:34 Jesus commands his disciples to love each other as they have been loved by Christ. Needless to say, it's a pretty important concept in the scheme of Christianity. Now, we can go on discussing the different kinds of love, as C.S. Lewis does so well in his book The Four Loves. I'm not a Greek expert, so I'll basically just give a summary here and recommend that if you have time, pick up Lewis's work and give a good go through. From the Greek, we know that there are four words to express what we currently translate as the word "love"; storge, phileo, eros, and agape. I'm sure that many of you have heard this before in a sermon somewhere, but to give a brief recounting, storge is affection through familiarity, phileo is love between family and friends, eros is the emotional state of being "in love", and agape can also be translated as charity, it is an unconditional love. Now, knowing the basic differences between each of these aspects, Christ commands us to "agape" others, as agape is the only love of the four that can be commanded, as it is the only love that is demonstrated through physical action, the only love without the prerequisite of "liking" the subject of love prior to that action. It's a little difficult to put into words, however, I believe this distinctive difference is something that is important. I can't "phileo" or "eros" someone I don't like, because those two aspects of love are based on my emotional attachment to the person whom I am loving, however, with agape, I can still love said person, as charity is not based entirely in emotional connection. Granted, liking the person makes it easier to love that person, but only in a situation where our love is not tied to our emotions can the concept of "loving our enemies" be a command that we can expect to fulfill. As far as I've seen, I've definitely not suddenly started liking everyone I met since becoming a Christian.

So where am I going with all this? Well, I believe that there's an inherent change that needs to take place in how I perceive things that happen around me. Naturally, we've all heard that we need to see others "through the eyes of Christ", that we need to have compassion for the lost around us, yet my pondering has led me to ask what that really looks like. It's pretty hard for me to say where I'm going because naturally, I'm not entirely sure myself, but I believe that this is something that needs to be pondered.