The christian love/Agape 1: Meditation for the 14th Sunday after trinity
The lesson for the day, as summarised in the Collect, is that love is paramount in the life and activities of a Christian. Anything he does without love is worthless and living without love is to be dead. Love is the most excellent way and the greatest of all virtues.
Love, here, is the translation of Greek agapē.
Agapē is an unconditional love, which does not depend on the recipient’s attitude or goodness. It is called Christian love. This is not because other English concepts of love are unchristian. For instance, it is also the English word “love,” which as well translates the Greek philos, ēros and storgē. Philos describes friendship, relationship and appreciation of value and worth. Peter used it in his response to the Lord’s call for love, whereas the Lord kept using agapē in his call/questioning (John 21:15-17). Ēros has to do with sexual attraction and relationship. This is part of Christian marriage package. And storgē is about familial or natural affection, such that a parent has for his/her child. Indisputably, these “loves” are also Christian or of God. But while they depict love for the deserving and desired, Agapē goes the extra mile of loving even the undeserving and repulsive. Thus, It mostly reflects the love of Christ, Who, while we were yet sinners, died for us. Besides, almost all the time, when Christians are enjoined to love in the New Testament, it is the word agapē that is used. It is both selfless and forbearing.
Lessons From The Readings
The readings for the day show various ways how love should be practically expressed.The OT (Lev. 19:33-37) is a legislative injunction for the practical demonstration of love. People of God are to love and treat others as self, irrespective of relationship. Foreigners should be treated as indigenes (son of the soil) and people should not be cheated.
In the Epistle (1Cor. 13:1-13), Paul expanded “the most excellent way”, with which he ended the preceding chapter, into a “Hymn of Love”. Three points are to be noted in the hymn, namely:
• Even the Spiritual gifts, which the Corinthians make much fuss of, are worth nothing if love is lacking.
• It is not anything that goes for love. Love is a sterling virtue with qualities, which encompass the fruits of the Holy Spirit. It is sacrificial and unconditional.
• Love is the ultimate and the greatest of all virtues.
The Gospel (LUK 10:25-37) is the parable of the Good Samaritan. The occasion was Jesus’ interaction with a lawyer. The question is on the means to eternal life, and the agreed answer is love – for God and neighbour. It is in answer to the lawyer’s further question of who is one’s neighbour that Jesus told the parable of the Good Samaritan. The conventional understanding of a neighbour (which the lawyer would have expected) is a person in one’s vicinity, his friend and relative. But Jesus shows in the parable that being a neighbour is more than friendly/family relationship or proximity. It is showing the love of God to all who are in need, whoever they may be, wherever they may be. Jesus expounds on the law of love. True love is put into action. It is not merely a concept or a feeling.
The relationship between the Jews and Samaritans was one of hostility. This is, for instance, clearly reflected in some statements in the Mishna as this: “He that eats the bread of the Samaritans is like to one that eats the flesh of swine” (Mishna Shebiith 8:10). The Samaritans were so hated by the Jews that perhaps the lawyer did not want to mention “the Samaritan” and instead said, “The one who showed mercy toward him.” But he is the one that loved!
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