Love and the culture war

Let brotherly love continue.  Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.  Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; and them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body.  Hebrews 13:1-3 

To brotherly love, by which he does not only mean a general affection to all men, as our brethren by nature, all made of the same blood, nor that more limited affection which is due to those who are of the same immediate parents, but that special and spiritual affection which ought to exist among the children of God.  It is here supposed that the Hebrews had this love one for another.

In his concise commentary on the entire Bible, Mathew Henry [1]—a  Presbyterian minister—included these words more than 300 years ago in order to explain the meaning of—Love—a concept that is being mistranslated in what many refer to as the modern day culture wars.

Christians who take a stand against immorality and sinful acts—as aptly described in the bible—stand accused by those that either purposefully or due to their substantial lack of knowledge of the scriptures claim that we are failing to “Love” one another as the Gospels inculcate.

Please bear with me as I digress for a moment:

Those of us that are past middle age, remember a time in which two or more men might be seen in public or posed for a photo with their arms around each other’s shoulders; an innocent sign of brotherly affection or brotherly love for one another.  However in today’s overly secular world in which everything has been hyper sexualized, few men are willing to show openly their affection for a best friend, lest the gesture be confused as a sign of men expressing same sex intimacy or attraction.  This is a sad state of affairs.

The form of love considered to be Christian Love transcends even the love between a married man and woman, or even that of a parent for a child; never is it to be confused with any form of lust nor as a justification for the same.  The Greek word Agape is one of the Koine Greek words translated into English as love, one which became particularly appropriated in Christian theology as the love of God or Christ for humankind. In the New Testament, it refers to the covenant love of God for humans, as well as the human reciprocal love for God; the term necessarily extends to the love of one’s fellow man.  [2]  Agape is almost universally recognized as the Christian word for brotherly love.  A quick look at the other three words from the ancient Greek generally translated to mean love; Storge (pronounced store-gae; love between a parent and child), Philia, and Eros should indicate to one that if what Paul had in mind when he was ministering to the faithful in the Apostolic era was something other than brotherly love (agape) he would have used a Greek word meaning such.

While in modern times the word love can mean many different things; when searching for meaning of the scriptures we have to consider the languages—such as Greek—and examine the meaning of the original word to arrive at something we can relate to in our language.  Obviously there are great differences between Agape, Philia, and Eros—which we should not have to explain here—and these Greek words, all meaning a type of love, should not be confused, nor used out of context to condemn Christians for practicing a form of Agape, that form of brotherly love of recognizing and attempting to help a sinner find the way.  Far too often we see our accusers judging us to be as falling short of God by not embracing a form of Love that is obviously more closely related to the Greek Eros or Philia.

Christian tradition tells us that we are each and every one a sinner.  Scriptures tells us that Jesus—the son of God—died on the cross for our sins.  During his ministry Jesus said; “I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God (John 3:3).”  Which means that after we accept Christ, we must be as though we are once again a child,  innocently starting out on our life’s journey, making a very conscious utmost effort not to sin or do wrong.

 

Jesus told the woman accused of adultery; “…go, and sin no more.”

 

In John 8:1-11, we find the story in which the Pharisees had brought a woman who had been accused of adultery—a capital offense—before Jesus for judgment as they were planning on stoning her to death.

“Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act.” They exclaimed to Jesus.

They continued their tirade point out; “Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou?”

Disregarding the fact that they brought this poor woman before Jesus and made this demand of him as a means to trap Jesus in the Hebraic Law, he told them; “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.”

The accusers were being consumed by the guilt of their own consciences—each knowing that he was not without sin—left the woman alone with Jesus.

Jesus asked her;  “Woman, where are your accusers? Hath no man condemned thee?”

She answered him, “No man, Lord.”

And Jesus said unto her, “Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.”

 

This passage is often used—among other passages—as a means to make Christians feel guilty for pointing out the immoral acts or sins of others.  But we must look at the context before accepting this postmodern meaning.

Adultery was a capital offense in that long ago era, an offense punishable by death and reportedly this woman had been caught in the act and brought before Christ for two reasons, (1) to be judged guilty and sentenced to death by stoning and (2) Christ’s detractors and enemies were hoping to catch him in a legal quagmire; if he condemned the woman to death he would appear harsh, insensitive and hypocritical to his followers or if he refused to sentence her to death they could charge him with violations of Hebraic Law.  He surprised them by asking of their righteousness.  Critics of modern day Christians insinuate that we are wrong to point out or suggest that certain actions are sinful; often these insinuations are quite nasty and in themselves hateful.

Jesus was expected to condemn her to death, he asked her if anyone else remained at that place in order to condemn her to death and when she answered him in the negative, he said the he would not condemn her to death either.

But, Jesus told the woman; “…go, and sin no more.”

So since he was saying that she should sin no more cannot we extrapolate that he thought she had indeed committed the sin in question?  Cannot we assume that he was pointing out that she had sinned and should therefore repent and sin no more?  If we can extrapolate and assume this to be a truth—and it is part of God’s Holy word—cannot we also assume that we should gently remind others who continue to sin of their failings as we also ask God’s forgiveness for our own short comings?

Missing The Point

A common Greek word for sin is hamartia:  which means failure, missing the mark as an archer might miss the target.  How often does each of us fail to live up the innocence of a new born babe, born again in which we are called to do as the woman Jesus told to go and sin no more?   How often do we miss the point and commit moral sins, thinking that because secular society or some modern day false prophet of secular teachings says that it is acceptable to do those things that God’s holy word says not to do?

Putting Christianity aside—forget for the moment that we are Christians—let me ask is it wrong to tell a drunkard in the gutter that he is endangering himself?  Is it wrong to insist that a friend who is staggering drunk relinquish his car keys and not drive dangerously impaired?

I am an ex-smoker, so would it be wrong for me to tell someone that they need to quit smoking when I see them smoking a cigarette through a stoma after he or she had been diagnosed with throat cancer from smoking and forced to undergo a tracheostomy?  How could anyone say that it would be wrong to counsel such a person not to smoke?  In the same respect how is it wrong to counsel others who are involved in lifestyles and acts that are spiritually wrong, potentially fatal due to possible health related issues, and acts that send the wrong idea to the innocent or naïve that the act in question is acceptable and safe.

Embrace Love

A popular mantra these days is; “Embrace love: no matter what form it presents itself in.”  Okay, what does this actually mean?  “No matter what form it presents itself in…”  Agape—brotherly Christian love—would be a form of love that is understandable and acceptable.  So would Storge, the very special and near spiritual love between parent and child.

The love between siblings, best friends, or any other loving but non-sexual interpersonal relationship is understandable; a form of love that which we can “embrace.”  But I ask you what about pedophilia—a psychiatric disorder—which is the illicit, immoral carnal intercourse with a child by an adult?

Perhaps pure shock value is the best way to make the point that the argument that says that we should embrace love regardless of form is a fallacy, so keep in mind that “philia”—as we mentioned earlier—is a Greekword for love.  Consider necrophilia (sexual attraction to corpses), coprophilia (sexual pleasure from feces), zoophilia (sexual attraction to animals), and what about other forms of love such as incest?  Yes these terms are shocking even grotesque, but perhaps including these repulsive examples in this discussion demonstrates how we must be careful not to allow the cultural debate to extend to the point that we tolerate forms of Love that are beyond reason.  And yes there are other philias that are not sexual in nature, but are also potentially dangerous in a spiritual manner, the unreasonable love of money comes to mind, or any love of an inanimate object that is so great a passion as to become idolatrous.

 

Let brotherly love continue.  Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.  Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; and them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body.  Hebrews 13:1-3

Yes, unconditional brotherly love—Agape—must continue, and we must always accept those that come to us seeking fellowship, and we must always have compassion for those who are in spiritual bondage, those who are totally oblivious to the consuming fires of their unrepentant nature.  We must be ever vigilant, having faith in God’s word, and steadfastly continue the battle of these so called culture wars, compassionately and gently leading the lost sheep back to the fold.

 

[1]  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matthew_Henry

[2]  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agape

 

Advertisements
This entry was posted in Opinion and Editorial and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s