about the word “Love”
Corinthians 13 * Luke 18:31-43
the present time the Church and all of society are in a crisis due to the
attempt to rob the word “marriage” of any true definition, adding more
confusion to what has been imposed in the past by a rampant divorce culture.
The secular proponents of what they call this “evolution” justify it by using
the word “equality” without definition and in place of a substantive argument.
The religious proponents of it try to justify it by the word “love.” After all,
“Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” The
problem is that we use the word “love” in English to mean several things,
making it unlike many words in our language that are precise. You may say “I
love a juicy steak.” But you cannot have charity for a juicy steak.
The King James version of today’s
Epistle reading, I Corinthians 13, uses the word “charity.” In most other
places where the same word, agape (ἀγάπην),
appears in the original Greek, the King James Version has it translated
as “love.” Here it is translated, however, with the word “charity” perhaps to
be very specific, coming as it does from the Latin caritas, into which agape
was translated by St. Jerome. Good Biblical exegesis and study places agape on a higher level than the other
words also translated “love.” Indeed, it is not too much to say that this word
speaks of the love of God, and that this love is a virtue that can be grown in
our lives only by the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5, Galatians 5:22). The character
of this love is described very powerfully in today’s Epistle reading, and in
the character of this love we see the character of God, in fact, we see Jesus.
character of this love is completely giving and selfless, and this love was the
love that kept Jesus Christ from coming down off the cross. This love, not the
nails, held Him there. As I have said before, take that love personally, as did
St. Paul : “…the Son of God who loved me, and gave
Himself for me (Galatians 2:20).” In no way is this love ever selfish,
self-seeking, indifferent, or apathetic. It overcomes anger, and wants the best
for everyone in a sincere, indeed active, manner. It produces spontaneous fruit
of good works and it forgives instantly. We also see that “Charity…rejoiceth
not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth.” And, to that point we will
word that is used in the original Greek New Testament, and that is translated
“love,” is philea (φιλία), which means brotherly love and
also friendship. From this we have the words Philadelphia,
that is, City of Brotherly Love,
and philosophy, that is, love of wisdom, philanthropy, that is, love of
mankind, etc. It is a very good and positive word when speaking about human
relations, love of friends and family. It is consistent with agape, though not itself as high and
spiritual in nature. Surely, philia
is present where agape is present;
however, I cannot make the same guarantee in reverse. One’s sincere and heartfelt
love might fall just short of Divine love, choosing in some crisis the comfort
of being loved in return over that of complete selfless giving, or maybe
failing in courage.
Greek word is storge, (στοργή), which is the affection of parents to their
children. It is a word that was not used much in ancient literature, but it has
The fourth Greek word for love is
never used in the New Testament, though it appears in the Greek Apocrypha. That
word is eros (ἔρως), and from it we have the English word “erotic.”
It is the love of sexual passion. When the word has a good meaning it is only
between a man and his wife. It can be present side by side with both philea and even agape. But, again, only between a man and woman who are married to
each other is this kind of love a good thing. Eros can be present, however, with practices forbidden by God’s
commandments in such sins as adultery or fornication.
Here we must deal with another Greek
word that appears quite a bit in the New Testament, a word that is never
translated “love,” and never should be so translated. In the Gospel accounts of
things that Jesus said when warning against carnal sins, in the Greek
manuscripts quoting Him, He used this word; that word is pornea (πορνεία). From it come the words pornography
and fornication. Obviously, pornea
has no redeeming value. It is always sin. The weakness of translating the word pornea as “fornication” is that modern
people assume that fornication is limited in definition to premarital sex. But,
in fact, pornea means any and every
kind of sexual immorality, from adultery to incest, from premarital sex to
same-sex acts, etc.
The following things, therefore, can be
present in combination:
even eros and agape, but only in marriage.
(In the above, bear in mind that pornea is never translated as love.)
what can never be present in combination is pornea
and agape, for, as we heard read in
today’s Epistle, “Charity … rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the
truth.” We also heard, “Charity … seeketh not her own.”
equate love of neighbor, which is agape,
with eros is a problem. Such love
should be exclusive of a man for his wife, and a woman for her husband. And
since pornea is not love at all, but
lust, even if it is combined with eros,
it is certainly not the love God commands us to have for our neighbor, and is
far from the new commandment of Christ, “That ye love one another as I have
loved You (agape).”
when it comes to the subject of sin, if seeing that one’s neighbor is in the
grip of sin and needs to repent and be forgiven by Christ, charity, agape, cannot rejoice. Charity moves us
to pray and hope for the person’s repentance and salvation. It cannot move us
to participate or enable sin. Such is not the love of God.
indeed protest that their acts and relationship of pornea are a kind of love, a kind the Church needs to affirm. So
they tell us that the Church ought to bless same-sex “marriages.” But, I ask
you, cannot two people in an adulterous affair also claim that their acts and
relationship are a kind of love? Indeed, inasmuch as eros may be filled with emotion, people do say it and mean it. If
we can bless a sinful union then why not have the Church some up with rites to
bless an adulterous affair? After all, they are in love, and love is always
good – right? But the true love of God, charity, agape, cannot rejoice in iniquity. It will move one to repent, and
to want the other party to repent also.
us look at the context of that specific commandment that Jesus quoted as the
second great commandment of the Law:
“Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine
heart: thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbour, and not suffer sin upon
him. Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy
people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the LORD (Leviticus
Does the love of God actually
rebuke? In this case, does it actually move one to urge repentance of his
neighbor? Yes. You see agape doesn’t
seek its own gratification, and is willing to be unloved and rejected, just as
Christ was willing to go to the cross and endure the hostility of sinners
throwing around the word “love,” as these proponents and apologists of sin do
all the time, turns the word into a sound no more meaningful than a dog’s bark.
The Son of God came into the world to save the world, not to make the world
safe for immorality. Jesus showed the love of God by dying for our sins and
offering forgiveness and a new life to all who come to Him with sincere
repentance and true faith.
Father, isn’t adultery a distinct sin from porneia? Where porneia is mentioned in the NT, adultery is listed adjacently but separately.
Not distinct, but rather more specific.
Thank you for this, Fr Hart. I found it helpful in clarifying some questions I had.
I am often asked about the two-wife marriage pattern of Terah, Abraham, Isaac, Elkanah, etc. People want to know isn't this lustful. As you point out, pornea and agape do not/cannot exist as a combination. These men loved/cared for their wives, some of whom were half-sisters, as was Sarah to Abraham. Perhaps this explains why these marriages, as we read about them in Scripture, seem less about passion than about producing heirs.
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