Two Are Better

“Two are better than one, because they have a good reward  for their toil.  For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow;  but woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to life him up.  Again, if two lie together, they are warm;  but how can one be warm alone?  And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him.  A threefold cord is not quickly broken.”  Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

In an earlier blog, I wrote about how God did not create us to be alone.  When I think back over my life, I see how it has been enriched by the love of others.

What would my life be like without my siblings, with whom I remember my childhood, and who helped to care for my mom in her old age?  Or without my mother who read to me, my grandmother who cooked the best dinners ever, my grandfather who taught me I was smart enough to become whatever I wanted to be?

What would my life be like if I had not had my husband to help with all the child rearing chores, to support me and cheer me on when I wanted to go to school, try a new job, or learn a new skill?  Who stuck with me through all the good and bad times of life?

What would my life be life without the many friends, who over the years, saw talents and abilities in me that I didn’t even realize I had?  Who encouraged me to be a leader, to grow spiritually, and (most recently) to start this blog?

Where would I be without God in my life?  To comfort, to guide, to provide, to accept me with all my quirks?  To be a father whenever my earthly parents failed me?

Storge, eros, philia, agape, we need all those loves.  Life is definitely better when we live it with others.

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Martin Luther on Married Love

“The first love is drunken.  When the intoxication wears off, then comes real marriage love.”

Martin Luther

Which kinds of love is Luther talking about?  Eros and then agape? storge?  philia??  Or is married love really a combination of all of these?  We feel different sorts of love for each other at different times?

All the Loves

“He who does not love does not know God;  for God is love.”  1 John 4:8

The other night I asked my husband, a pastor, which of the Greek words for love best describes God’s love for us?  Of course, we first thought of agape love.  God loves everyone, regardless of our looks, ethnic background, temperament, intelligence, or worthiness.

“But God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  Romans 5:8

However, we realized that God’s love is also eros.  In a number of places in the Bible, Israel, and later the church (the new Israel), are referred to as God’s wife or bride.

“Return faithless people”, declares the Lord, for I am your husband.” I will choose you–one from a town and two from a clan–and bring you to Zion.” Jeremiah 3:14

The fact that God is our father, and Jesus our brother,  exemplifies storge, or family love.  Jesus teaches us:

“And call no man your father on earth, for you have a Father who is in heaven.”  Matthew 23:9

“Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy, are of the same family.  So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers.”  Hebrews 2:11

Of course, philia is part of God’s love nature as well, because through the incarnation, Jesus became our friend.

“I no longer call you servants. because a servant does not know his master’s business.  Instead, I have called you friends, for everything I learned from my Father, I have made known to you.”  John 15:15

So, God no only is love, His is all the loves, and we find every love and everything there is to know about love in Him.  What a wonderful gift!  Remember, He loves you and so do I!

 

 

Loving Motivation

“But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.”  II Timothy 3:14-15

This was the epistle reading in church last Sunday, and the words I highlighted jumped out for me.  It made me think about all the people who’ve taught me about the faith.  What was their motivation to do so?

For many people, learning starts at home at a young age.  Maybe your mother sings hymns, you sit beside your father in the pew, your grandparents give you a Bible or read the Bible to you.  Studies have revealed that when someone is asked this question: “who had the greatest influence on my faith?”, the most frequent answer is “my mother.”  Surely this teaching is motivated by the love called “storge,”  family love, duty, affection.  This love may have its’ ups and downs, but it never stops caring.  Many parents want their children to know about God because they love them in this way. Paul’s acolyte, Timothy, learned in this way because Paul says to him:

I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well.”  II Timothy 1:5

Growing in faith can be part of married life also.  “Eros” is a love which desires closeness and union.  How can we be fully one, if we are not both one in Christ?  This kind of love will create a natural desire to share in everything, to teach the other to love Christ as they do.  Peter says:

“Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives…”  1 Peter 3:1

Then there are our friends.  With them we share “philea” or brotherly love.  In Via de Cristo there is a saying, “make a friend, be a friend, bring a friend to Christ.”  Most people who are unchurched, come to worship for the first time because a friend invited them.  Because we love our friends, we want them to share in the joy of fellowship with Christ.  We invite them to do the things that have been most meaningful in our own faith walk.

Finally, there are loads of people who share Christ simply because they love everyone as He did.  Dedicated Sunday School teachers, youth leaders, pastors, choir directors and others.  This is agape love, with no motive except to serve and edify others.

So it seems to me that some sort of love is the motive behind all Christian teaching.  No wonder the Bible says “God is love.  How would we learn about His love, how would we begin to experience it, without the love of others who spread it?  Think about the many people from whom you have learned.  Give thanks for their love.

 

 

Talks On The Song of Songs — Book Review

Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153), a French abbot and reformer, was a founder of the Cistercian monastic order.  He spent 18 years writing sermons which served as a commentary on the Song of Songs.  He died before completing an exposition of  the entire book. He only made it through the third verse of Chapter 3 in 86 sermons!  Bernard saw the bride in Song of Songs as a representative of both the individual soul and the entire Church;  The Bridegroom is, of course, Christ. The book became for him, an allegory of the spiritual life, and more personally his own life with God.

This book is not easy reading, and not for everyone.  The copy I have is edited and modernized by Bernard Bangley and is still slow going.  I used it as a devotional years ago, reading one small section carefully each day.   Here’s an excerpt from the very beginning:

You have studied, denied yourself, and meditated constantly for a long time.  I am sure you are prepared for a diet of solid spiritual food.  The Song of Songs is tasty bread.  Let’s break it and enjoy a substantial meal.

The Song of Songs is a book we don’t often study or spend time with.  You might give this book a try and find it well worth the effort.

Song of Songs

The first type of love listed on Michele’s “new month/new theme” post is eros, or passionate love.  When I think about eros in relationship to the Bible, the first thing that comes to my mind is “Song of Songs.”  On the surface it is a lyrical and intimate love poem, possibly intended as a wedding song. The bride and bridegroom address one another in mutual adoration:

“How beautiful you are, my darling!  O how beautiful!  Your eyes are doves.

How handsome you are, my lover! O how charming! And our bed is verdant.”  Song of Songs 1:15-16

At times it becomes unabashedly sensual:

“How beautiful your sandaled feet, O prince’s daughter.

Your graceful legs are like jewels, the work of a craftsman’s hands.

Your navel is a rounded goblet that never lacks blended wine.

Your waist is a mound of wheat, encircled by lilies.

Your breasts are like two fawns, twins of a gazelle.”  Song of Songs 7:1-3

There has been great debate about this book.  Why is it even included in the Scriptures?  God is never explicitly mentioned. Some consider it simply a literal story of married love.  If, however, we accept the teaching that “all Scripture is breathed out by God, and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction and for training in righteousness”( 2 Timothy 3:16) then there must be a deeper meaning.

See the source image

Over the years Christians have seen “Song of Songs” as an allegory of God’s love for His people, Christ’s love for the church and the Christian’s love for the Lord.  Shouldn’t this love be passionate?  Isn’t it appropriate to describe it in terms of the most intimate of human relationships?  Shouldn’t we to know God personally, rather than just know about Him?  Could this be the answer to “why” God chose to include this erotic love poem in His Word?  That’s my guess, anyway.  What’s yours?