SCHOOL OF ISRAEL
Mini-Study Guides, 1994-5
"More Than Conquerors"
2. OLD WORD -- NEW CONTENT
Scripture Meditation: John 15:9-25
"Love each other as I have loved you" (v.12)
Today we have seen that with the coming of Jesus into the world language had to be stretched in order to convey His message. The early Christians had to adapt old words, or lay hold on superlatives, to express their meaning. Nothing could be truer for the word "love".
There were several words for "love" in the Greek language during the time of Jesus, the most common being eros and agapé. Most of the Greek writers, especially Plato, used the word eros to express the idea of love for the Creator or His creatures, whereas Christians opted for the word agapé. And even the meaning Christians put into agapé did not reflect its Greek source. They adopted the word and gave it a content that it never had before.
Our language is constantly changing, constantly being given new meaning, and this can sometimes be very confusing. This is one reason the Bible has to be "updated" with new translations because the old translations can be misleading. Two modern examples of language change might be "gay" and "cool"; whereas 50 years ago "gay" meant "carefree" or "brightly coloured", today it invariably means "homosexual". Similarly, if you said the word "cool" 50 years ago it usually only meant "at a fairly low temperature" whereas today it can also mean "sophisticated" or "impressive".
Thus the Greek word agapé, when filled with Christian meaning, encapsulates the most revolutionary idea ever presented to the mind of man. Anders Nygren, an authority on the use of Greek words, said this: "In ancient times two men commented about God: Plato -- 'God is eros'; John -- 'God is Agapé'. Just the difference of two words but behind them the difference of two worlds."
Well, it's not enough just to talk about "love" -- everyone, it seems, is talking about love these days but they don't usually mean what Jesus meant by it. So Paul had to prophetically explain what love was, which he does masterfully in the thirteenth chapter of his first letter to the Corinthians. So when you read of Godly love in the New Testament, these are the 16 characteristics which the apostle Paul uses to identify it:
I want you to notice that not one of these mentions sex. Over the centuries the other word for love, eros, has come to be associated with sexual love. Today the Greek word Agapé is exclusively associated with God. In its original use, agapé was human; today, it is divine. So that when we think of eros, we think of the pagan philosopher Plato; and when we think of agapé we think of Jesus. And if you think about it, here all the issues of life are drawn. All systems and all life line themselves up on one side or the other. To be sure, eros or sex has a necessary place in life, provided it is used as God ordained, for husband and wife in marriage, and nowhere else. Agapé, by contrast is to be given by everyone to everyone. Jesus said: "My command is this: Love (agapé) each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." Any fool can have sex, but only a life touched by the miracle of Christ can give true agapé love.
1. Love is patient -- it knows how to wait
2. Love is kind -- it is considerate of others
3. Love does not envy -- it is not jealous
4. Love does not boast -- it doesn't show off
5. Love is not proud -- it is humble and meek
6. Love is not rude -- it is polite and well-mannered
7. Love is not self-seeking -- it looks to the needs of others first
8. Love is not easily angered -- it is calm, cool and collected
9. Love keeps no record of wrongs done by others -- it quickly forgets
10. Love does not delight in evil -- it hates all wrong-doing
11. Love rejoices in the truth -- it celebrates righteousness
12. Love always protects -- it is like a mother towards her children
13. Love always trusts -- it child-like and simple
14. Love always hopes -- it never gives up
15. Love always perseveres -- it keeps going when times are tough
16. Love never fails -- it always wins in the end (1 Cor.13:4-8, NIV)
Let us pray: "Father, we see that eros has a place, but there is more to love than eros. There is agapé. Forgive us that in relation to love we are more Greek than Christian. May your agapé create agapé in us. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
This page was created on 15 May 1998
Updated on 15 May 1998
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