A More Excellent Way
And I will show you a still more excellent way. If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. 4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. 13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
The ancient Greek language uses several words for “love”.
One word is EROS from which the word “erotic” comes to us. Simply, it is a selfish love. It loves the object not for the object’s sake but for the sake of the self. Let me use the example of asparagus. I love asparagus. I don’t really care how the asparagus feels. I only care how it makes me feel. When I eat asparagus, it satisfies me, my taste buds, my hunger. This type of love objectifies. Unfortunately, this is often the love we use in our interaction with other people. We often objectify people with this type of love.
Another word for love is PHILOS from which the word “philanthropy” comes. Philanthropy literally means “a lover of men”. The city of Philadelphia means the city of “brotherly love”. This has the idea of mutual love. This type of love is concerned with the self. However, this type of love is also concerned with the other. This involves friendship, humanity, similarity, and familiarity with another person.
Finally, there is the word AGAPE. I can not think of an English equivalent. Maybe that says something about our culture. This type of love is independent of the self. It can rejoice because the other is rejoicing. It can feel sorrow because the other feels sorrow.
Paul calls this “a more excellent way”.
I think I feel this with my family. When they rejoice, I rejoice. When they hurt, I hurt.
I think I felt this today. A friend of mine bought a car this past week. It was his dream car, a make he has always desired. Finally, he was able to purchase the car. I could not help but share in his joy and excitement. I think this might have been an “AGAPE” moment.
May God grant that we have more “AGAPE” moments.
Peace Lutheran Church
Mill Valley, California