Trinity 1 - 1 St. John iv. 7                                                                      May 29, 2016 A.D.

 

Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be always acceptable in thy sight, O Lord my strength and my redeemer.

 

What is Love

 

Text: “Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. ” 1 St John iv. 7

 

St. John goes on at great length about love and God. He explains why we should love God and what happens to those who do not love God. Our society today does not understand what the Bible means when it speaks about love. So where can we go to understand what love is - the bible. One of the strengths of the Anglican Religion is the thirty nine Articles of Religion found in the back of your Prayer Book. Article VI - Of the Sufficiency of the Holy Scripture for Salvation states that "Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation:" This is what is referred to as Sola Scriptura meaning "by scripture alone".

To understand what love is we must first understand the word itself. We all know that our language is not perfect, if it was there would be no misunderstandings. The New Testament was translated from both Hebrew and Aramaic into Greek. Ancient Greeks recognized that there are different types of love. As a result there are several words in Greek that we translate today into the single English word love. The two most important Greek words for our purposes today are:

Phileo - which means to have an affection (sentiment, passion or feeling) for someone or something. It is thought of as fondness based in the heart. What the Greeks meant by Phileo love is what we normally think of as "brotherly love" today.

Agape - means to choose to seek the best for others. This is a love based in the mind. We can chose to show agape love by actively thinking about, and deciding how we act toward another  person or group of people. Agape is the word used when the Bible talks about Christian love for one another. Agape love is about our behavior towards others, not our feelings. In other words Phileo love is about feelings. Agape love is about how we act toward others.

The problem we have in North America is that, unlike the Bible, we do not distinguish between these two types of love. We know that we are commanded to love one another in the second commandment, but we think that means we must like one another and accept everything other people say and do. And therein lies the disconnect or misunderstand created by our language. The Bible talks about agape love, and we think it means phileo love.

One example is homosexuality. Christians should love (agape) homosexuals. What this means is that we should want the best for any person who identifies themselves as a homosexual. Christians should treat homosexuals the same as they treat anyone else. That is they should want the best that can be had for them and for everyone. However, that does not mean Christians accept the homosexual lifestyle. It does not mean that Christians agree that the "great teacher" of today, the  television should be promoting homosexuality as an acceptable lifestyle. It does not mean that the Church should redefine "marriage" to suit the wants of some individuals. What we need to learn and should be teaching children is how to act towards others, in a compassionate, respectful manner which is Agape type love.

Another example could be Islamic terrorism. I doubt anyone here accepts and agrees with what ISIS and other radical Islamic terrorists are doing around the world. However, as Christians we should be compassionate and respectful toward them. I read recently where a number of Imam's have spoken out against the radical Islamists. And now they are on the terrorist's death list. This is a situation where we might choose to pray as Jesus did when he was about to be crucified; "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do." We will not change them to our way of thinking, we cannot accept that they kill people. But we can pray for them, feel compassion for them and respect that they think they are doing what is right. We should not hate all people of the Muslim faith because of what some are doing. That would be akin to hating everybody that is German because they followed Hitler and killed thousands of Jews.

Some would say that it is okay to "hate" because the Bible says God hates. Proverbs 6 verses 16 through 19 read; "These six things doth the Lord hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethern." Although we subscribe to Sola Scriptura we are not expected to accept everything written in the Bible on face value. We are expected to learn and understand what the Bible says.

"Miseo" is the Greek word which is translated as “hate”. It has, within its roots in Greek, the fundamental sense of "separation" or "exclusion" of one from another -- usually out of a fear of physical or spiritual harm. It does not include the "psychological sense" of anger or emotional dislike that modern English generally attributes to the word "hate". This word was adopted by those who first translated the Old Testament into Greek (about 200 years before Jesus was born). It is meant to represent God's attitude towards people who were engaged in certain sinful acts which created ritual impurity. For example, those who ate or prepared unclean food (pork, choked chickens, clams, lobster, meat cooked with milk, etc.) were to be avoided (“miseo”) because they were thought of as being unclean, and because they were unclean they could make anyone who came into contact with them unclean as well. When understood in its linguistic context, this word actually highlights that God requires His people to separate themselves out of a fear of ritual impurity.

There is so much scripture that tells us that God is a loving God "for love is of God" that taking one example and concluding that God hates would be short sighted. God does expect us to hate all evil. We are to love all people, but if their actions are not in obedience to God (in other words sinful), we are to hate their behavior not them.   

The concept of love is very difficult for today's society to understand. Many times young adults confuse infatuation with love only to find out later that they really have very little in common with the person they thought they were madly in love with.

Agape type love does not mean you have to like everyone, that is to have phileo type love for everyone. Agape type love means that you should behave -- through a conscience choice you make in your mind -- in a compassionate, respectful manner toward all people.

Today we mourn the loss of John William Crull. His life on this earth has come to an end. His soul has departed this world and joined our Lord and savior in the eternal life promised to all believers. St John tells us "And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment. And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him." Bill did not like everything people did but he made every effort to treat people in a compassionate, respectful manner. A new angel has joined the company of heaven and is there watching over us. Thanks be to God.

AMEN

 

And now unto God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Ghost; be ascribed all might, majesty, power and domination as is most justly due this day both now and forever; world without end.