Having quit Greek after only a semester nearly fifteen years ago now, there is very little that I’ve actually retained. I still know how to use a Greek lexicon, I’ll never forget the aorist tense being like the refectory’s Fiesta Dog, and because I use it in pre-marital discussions, I’ve got down the four words for “love” in Greek. I’ve written about it before, so regular readers of this blog may want to skip ahead, but as a review:
- Eros is the passionate love we associate with an intimate partner
- Storge is the natural affection felt within families
- Philia is the catch all type of love between friends and for Alabama football
- Agape is self-giving love that seeks the needs of the other
The First Sunday after the Epiphany <colon> The Baptism of our Lord Jesus Christ is a day set aside each year to ponder Jesus as God’s beloved. In the Collect of the Day, new to the 1979 Book of Common Prayer, the author, the Rev. Dr. Charles M. Guilbert, chose to highlight that in his baptism, Jesus was anointed with the Holy Spirit and God proclaimed him beloved. The lesson from Luke appointed for Year C, despite being mostly about John the Baptist (yet again), also makes note that the voice from heaven declared Jesus to be “the beloved,” o’ agapetos.
Jesus isn’t just loved by God because he is God’s Son (storge). Jesus isn’t just loved by God because God loves everybody (philia). Jesus is declared by a voice from heaven to be The Beloved (agape), the one whom God’s self-giving love is directed towards.
Here’s the neat thing, however. That belovedness, that desire on the part of God to pour out agape love on something or someone isn’t the exclusive property of Jesus. As we can infer from the story in Acts, this belovedness, shown forth in the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, is the status of all who have been baptized into the family of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. That Jesus is the only, pre-existent Son of God doesn’t mean that he is the only one whom God loves with agape love, but rather, Jesus serves as the harbinger of that love, the exemplar of that belovedness, in the world.
Imagine how different the world would look if we truly lived into the reality that we are beloved by God? How would it change the way we saw ourselves? How might we see our neighbors differently? How might it impact how we treat the stranger in our midst, our enemies, even the creation which God has entrusted to our care? Being the recipient of God’s agape love has the potential to allow you to love the world with that same sort of love.