Today has been a strange but good day. I didn’t get everything I wanted to done and I got drawn into a discussion with Jeremy Pierce of Parableman about The Moral Value of Meanings of Words.
Our discussion focused down to love and the Greek words used in the New Testament (agapao/agape, philios, sturge – self-sacrificial giving, friendship, familial love) and whether they were as distinct as some want them to be or others don’t believe they are. I believe they are significant and distinct and that God’s use of them through his authors in the New Testament has a lot to tell us about the nature of God, of love, and ourselves as well as the nature of redemption and how salvation works as a revelatory statement about God and the Godhead.
I thanked Jeremy for engaging me in discussion since it has been a while since I went over this ground with any sense of probing. I spent ten years on and off wrestling with love and its faceted use (as I see it) in the Bible, especially in the New Testament. The short is this, which I take from my comments on Jeremy’s post.
I do believe that God can love in all aspects, agape, philios and sturge to his creation but since eros focuses on the other it could only exist within the Trinity itself, from God’s perspective, if at all…
Father/Son. agape/philios…it demonstrates two kinds of love within the Godhead, willingness to sacrifice and the joy of true friendship. If friendship cannot exist in the Trinity, how does it have meaning in our own existence since the Trinity models ideal relationships for us?
…One reason agape/agapao is so significant and is applied so universally to God is it is the root of the other two (philios and sturge) since without sacrifice there is no friendship and no family. It is more than that, but it is not less.
Additionally the great mystery of salvation has at its root sacrifice (agapao). There are no accidents in God’s choice of words or in their context. We just have to let him explain it to us. They make perfects sense to me at a fundamental level, at a discernment level that causes the eternal puzzle to fall lovingly into place (pun intended).
Jesus said in Matthew 13:35, echoing Psalm 78.2.
“I will open My mouth in parables; I will utter things kept secret from the foundation of the world.
I believe one of those things is the mystery of the agape of God; his personal sacrifice; by the Father of the Son (exampled in Abraham and Isaac), and the Son of himself, example by Jesus and his admonition that greater love has no one than to lay down their life for another.
Agape imparts worth to the unworthy, that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. We were chosen before we chose.
Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world… Matthew 25:34b
And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified. Romans 8:28-30
Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore with loving kindness I have drawn you. Again I will build you, and you shall be rebuilt, O virgin of Israel! You shall again be adorned with your tambourines, and shall go forth in the dances of those who rejoice. Jeremiah 31:3b-4
Lent begins with a reminder of our death, ashes placed on our forehead and the words of finality spoken to our rebellion: “You are dust, and to dust you shall return.” It ends with Christ’s death for our sins, the ultimate sacrifice, the ultimate expression of love, validated by the resurrection and the promise that we too shall follow in his footsteps.
Remember and never forget that nothing, no not anything, can separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord, for it was sealed before the world was even created by God’s choice to model agape to creation, to his honor and eternal glory. That so many, so undeserving, can receive so much at so great a cost is a mystery beyond imagining.
May grace and peace and an abiding sense of the agape of God be with you today, every day, and for all eternity.