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Love: The Christian Way to Happiness

Love: The Christian Way to Happiness

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Love: The Christian Way to Happiness

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  1. Love: The Christian Way to Happiness “See these Christians how they love one another.” (Tertullian, 2nd Century CE Early Church Father, quoting the reaction of non-Christians after encountering Christian believers) One of the things that attracted people to Christianity was the love that Christians showed for each other. Both the epistles and the gospels stress the primary role that love plays in the pursuit of Christian happiness - In Matt. 22:34-40, Jesus quotes the Torah in stressing that love, love of God and love of neighbor, are the essence of the Jewish Law and that fact ought not be forgotten - 1 John 4:8 reminds us that those who do not love do not know God - 1 Cor:13 speaks volumes about love and reminds us that, while faith, hope and love are the greatest virtues, in the end, only love remains - And the famous passage of John 3:16 tells us of the depths of God’s love for human beings

  2. How Do I Love Thee? Let Me Count the Ways • The earliest versions of the New Testament that exist today were written in Koine Greek and Koine Greek was a language that had at least four different words for love • στοργή (storge) • Φίλια (philia) • ἔρως (eros) • άγάπη (agape) C.S. Lewis wrote a famous book entitled “The Four Loves” that dealt with each of these concepts in great detail. We’ll take a brief look at each

  3. Storge Storge is the most superficial kind of love. We might call it affection. It is more “like” than “love”. It is the kind of affection that people often have for casual friendsand, perhaps, for distant family members. It may also describe those people that we may not know very well but with whom we somehow feel a level of comfort. Storge is probably the most common type of “love” that people experience in their lifetime. It is a very human trait, fairly easy to acquire and easy to display. There is, of course, another aspect of storge. It is just as easy to lose as it is to find. How many times have so many of us said to ourselves that we ought to contact someone whom we consider a friend or acquaintance only to put it off and sometimes even let it go completely. Storge gives us a kind of insight into love but not a very deep one.

  4. Philia Philia describes a kind of love that is much deeper than storge. Philia is the deep affection shared by very close and very serious friends. Philia seems almost completely out of place in the world we live in today. It can more easily found in literature, especially older literature, than experienced in modern life. Philia is the friendship described in Scripture between David and Jonathan or Ruth and Naomi. In Homer, the friendship between Achilles and Patroclus is also an example of philia. For Lord of the Rings fans, philia describes the relationship between Frodo and Sam. Philia describes a love, a friendship that has causes, that has a history behind it. Philia is neither easy to acquire nor easy to lose. Perhaps the fact that philia is such a formal and serious kind of friendship that it seems out of touch in today’s casual world. While philia can lead to romance as it did with Mr. Knightley and Emma Woodhouse in Jane Austen’s “Emma”, philia itself is different from romantic love

  5. Eros Eros is the word that Koine Greek used to describe romantic love but, again, a much deeper understanding of romantic love. Eros, of course, assumes a sexual aspect but implies so much more. C.S. Lewis distinguishes the difference between sexual desire and eros as the difference between the desire in a man for a women (sexual desire) and the desire in a man for THE woman (eros). Eros defines a deep, profound and very personal combination of love and desire that has both a physical and even a spiritual aspect to it. At its best, the spiritual aspect of eros can be extremely profound. At its worst, eros can develop into a mania that can lead to despair and, in some cases, suicide

  6. Agape While storge, philia and eros are different from each other in a number of ways, they do share one common trait. Each, in its own way, has a self-centered aspect to it. There is a certain amount of “what’s in it for me?” that can be detected Agape, on the other hand, is essence of Christian love. It describes the love Christians have for others often at the expense of their own needs. For the early Christian communities, agape is love the way that God loves, selflessly. αὔτη ἐστὶν ἡ ἐντολὴ ἡ ἐμή, ἵνα ἀγαπᾶτε ἀλλήλους καθὼς ἠγάπησα ὑμᾶς: “This is my commandment that you love one another as I have loved you.” (John 15:12) When Tertullian wrote his defense of Christianity, this was the kind of love he was referencing when he wrote, “See these Christians, how they love one another.”

  7. Agape Gets a Bad Rap Almost always identified with religion, agape is often seen as an unattainable ideal rather than an achievable human goal Yes, Mary displayed agape in giving her life to the care and service of her son. But that was Mary! The Apostles showed agape in selflessly spreading the gospel in the face of almost certain death. But they were the Apostles! Early Christian martyrs showed agape as they willingly proclaimed their faith though it would lead them to horrible suffering and death. But they were the martyrs! And don’t even mention Jesus. After all, Jesus was God!

  8. Agape Today • Even many Christians today believe that they can’t possibly hope to display the kind of selfless love that agape describes. And yet they do every day: • Parents sacrifice selflessly for their children. • Soldiers show selfless courage for their comrades in arms and for their country. • Priests, rabbis and pastors give up their own wants and needs to care for their flock (at least many of them do!). • If you think about it, you could probably think of dozens of people who act selflessly every day in their lives. While most of us do not personally know those who display agape love at its fullest, we have seen too many examples of them as they are slaughtered on ISIS execution videos • Yes, agape love has a divine aspect to it but it also has a very human aspect as well. And why not? Are we all not created in God’s image and likeness?

  9. Agape Love and Happiness One of the most beautiful passages of the Christians scriptures can be found in Chapters 5 through 7 of Matthew’s gospel. These chapters include Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. In this sermon, Jesus describes what agape love should look like in the life of those who claim to believe in him. He tells his listeners that agape love will lead to true happiness on earth, to beatitudo. And so, we call these examples the Beatitudes The Beatitudes in their essence described how someone who truly has experienced agape love and who tries to live that experience can find happiness even in the humblest of circumstances. Those who do not rely on the world but on God to meet their needs can avoid the worries of the world and be open to the happiness that God provides Jesus’ message in the Sermon on the Mount was so revolutionary that even Christians themselves, after the first few centuries, came to look at the beatitudes as impossible to live up to. They began to preach the Beatitudes more as ideals rather than real means to experience abiding happiness

  10. Agape Love and the Law The Sermon on the Mount also produced a sea change in the thinking of those early followers of Jesus, most of whom were Jewish, about the role played by the Jewish Law in early Christian morality By the time of Jesus, the Law in Judaism meant far more than the Ten Commandments. The Talmud states that there were, in fact, 613 laws or mitzvoth. Oddly enough, the Talmud never stated exactly what these laws were. The twelfth century Jewish scholar Maimonides offered his list (as described in the article found at the website listed below) In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus made it clear that he had not come to change these laws. He came to fulfill them. He came to show God’s people that the interior change called for by these laws was far more important than an external obedience to them. This change was called metanoia in the Christian scriptures. This Greek word was translated into English as repentance but it was so much more than that. It means a total change in how we look at things. We’ll examine repentance in depth in the next session

  11. Herod Agrippa and a Decision With Great Consequences Around the time of Jesus’ birth, King Herod the Great died. His kingdom (Judea, Samaria and Galilee) was divided up among three of his children; Herod Archelaeus, Philip the Tetrarch and Herod Antipas. Around 6 CE, the ruler of Judea, Herod Archelaeus, was removed from his position by Rome and a procurator was named to rule in his place. Herod Antipas ruled in Galilee where Jesus lived. This was the ‘King Herod’ to whom Pilate sent Jesus at Jesus’ trial. Philip died a natural death around that same time. By 41 CE, rule over the entire kingdom was given to yet another Herod, Herod Agrippa, the grandson of Herod the Great. This meant that the Roman procurators were no longer needed. During his three years on the throne, Herod Agrippa attempted to restore strict observance to the Jewish Law in all the lands that he ruled It was during this time that Agrippa condemned James, the brother of John, to death. Herod also expelled all Hellenist (Greek speaking) Jews (including Jewish Christians) from Judea, Samaria and Galilee. Many fled to Antioch. About this same time, Paul went to Antioch to begin his preaching. Paul first preached to the Jews in Antioch including many of the Hellenist Jews. He had little success so he took his message to the Gentiles at Antioch where he met with great success. His success raised a serious question

  12. The Law and Agape Love in the First Christian Communities The question was basically this. Did Gentile converts to Christianity first have to convert to Judaism and accept the Jewish Law (including male circumcision) before becoming a Christian. The first converts to Christianity came from Jewish communities. Since Jesus said at the sermon on the Mount that he came to fulfill the Law, they saw no conflict in continuing to follow their traditions. There were some Gentiles who were attracted to Judaism (the God Fearers mentioned in the Christian Scriptures) and who were familiar with the Jewish law and what it imposed on the people. Most Gentiles, however, were not familiar with the Jewish Law and saw no need to be concerned about it. They were attracted to Christianity largely because of its message of happiness and love When Paul had his success in the Gentile communities in Antioch, a debate began between the Jewish Christians there as well as in Jerusalem and the increasingly large Gentile Christian community. The debate became so intense that Paul had to go back to Jerusalem to seek a clarification. The basic point seemed to be this. Would the need to follow the Jewish law or the need for inner conversion as expressed in the Beatitudes be at the center of the new convert’s experience with Christianity

  13. The Council of Jerusalem Paul traveled to Jerusalem to meet with James, Peter and other leaders of the Jerusalem community. Both Peter and James agreed that Gentile converts would not have to undergo circumcision and would be free from most of the restrictions of Jewish dietary law Gentile converts would be required to restrain from eating meat that was sacrificed to idols, from meat taken from strangled animals, and to avoid porneia (fornication). This compromise was accepted at first but as Gentiles began to comprise the majority of some Christian communities, questions about even these aspects of the Law were once again asked James, the brother of Jesus and the leader of the Jerusalem community, seemed to believe that Judaism and the Law should continue to be play a role in the Christian community while Paul seemed to believe that the Law no longer applied, at least to Gentile converts

  14. Paul on the Jewish Law • “By the works of the law no flesh shall be • justified.” (Gal. 2:16) • “For if justice is by the law, then Christ • died in vain.” (Gal. 2:21) • “All who rely on observing the law are • under a curse....Christ redeemed us • from the curse of the Law.” • (Gal. 3:10-13) Paul stressed the need for inner conversion and faith in Jesus as the center of life of the Christian community. Paul used Abraham as an example of a man who had such faith and noted that it was Abraham’s faith the made him righteous in the eyes of the Lord

  15. James on the Works and the Jewish Law “Do you want proof that faith without works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered his son Isaac upon the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by the works. ..... For just as a body without a spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.” (Jas. 2:20-26) James agreed with Paul about the necessity of faith in the life of the new Christian but James insisted that faith must be tied to an inner conversion that produced good works not just a “said faith”, an intellectual faith Modern writers tend to position James and Paul as holding different views about good works but that view may be overstated. Paul is clear that works of the Law cannot “oblige” God to save us. Good works done out of love on the other hand, can lead us more deeply into our relationship with God

  16. Paul vs. James ? Modern writers tend to position James and Paul as holding different views about good works. Like many TV news shows today, they try to set up a “Paul vs. James” dispute. That view may be overstated. Paul is clear that works of the Law cannot “oblige” God to save us. Salvation comes from grace alone. It is a gift that is offered. James is simply explaining that that same grace that saves us open us up to have a new relationship of love with God. Good works done out of love can lead us ever more deeply into that relationship

  17. Did Paul Attempt to Separate Christianity from Its Jewish Roots? The Apostle Paul has often been accused of changing the nature of the movement founded by Jesus Christ. These critics claim that Paul changed what started out as a reform movement within Judaism led by James, a member of the family of Jesus, into a Hellenistic cult celebrating the life-death-resurrection cycle found in nature and led by Paul himself Such claims have been raised in the past by a number of theologians. As early as the 19th century, F.C. Baur, founder of the Tubingen (Germany) school of theology claimed that Paul was a schismatic teacher and the character Simon Magus mentioned in Acts was really a nickname for Paul. More recently, G.A. Wells, in his book “The Jesus of the Early Christians” published in 1971 claimed that Jesus never existed and was invented by Paul. Most recently, fictional novels by writers such as Dan Brown, continued to develop similar themes It is true that there were men such as Marcion who did try to separate Christianity from its Jewish roots and did so in the name of Paul. There is little evidence however that Paul ever tried to do that. After all, Paul himself was a rabbi and a student of Gamaliel

  18. Paul’s Focus on Agape Love as the Foundation of the Law What Paul did try to do was to stress Christ’s own viewpoint that a proper understanding of the Jewish law did not include obedience based on fear of punishment but rather a joyful focus on the understanding of agape love, love of God and love of neighbor that was the foundation of the Jewish law. Consider these passages from the Torah. שְׁמַע יִשְׂרָאֵל יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ יְהוָה אֶחָד וְאָהַבְתָּ אֵת יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ, בְּכָל-לְבָבְךָ וּבְכָל-נַפְשְׁךָ, וּבְכָל-מְאֹדֶךָ Hear, O Israel: the LORD our God, the LORD is one. And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might (Deut. 6:4-5) וְאָהַבְתָּ לְרֵעֲךָ כָּמוֹךָ: and you shall love your neighbor as yourself (Lev. 19:18)

  19. Matthew Also Focused on Agape Love as the Basis of the Law Those critics who called Paul into question often referenced the gospel of Matthew as the true representation of Jewish Christianity. Yet Matthew, who may have originally written his gospel in Hebrew or Aramaic to a community of Jewish believers, makes the same point as Paul about love being at the basis of the Jewish Law. In Chapter 22 of Matthew’s gospel, Matthew quotes Jesus as he makes the following statement. ὁ δὲ ἔφη αὐτῷ: ἀγαπήσεις (agapeseis) κύριον τὸν θεόν σου ἐν ὅλῃ τῇ καρδίᾳ σου καὶ ἐν ὅλῃ τῇ ψυχῇ σου καὶ ἐν ὅλῃ τῇ διανοίᾳ σου. αὕτη ἐστὶν ἡ μεγάλη καὶ πρώτη ἐντολή. δευτέρα δὲ ὁμοία αὐτῇ: ἀγαπήσεις (agapeseis) τὸν πλησίον σου ὡς σεαυτόν. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matt. 22:37-40) Note the last sentence. Jesus is basically saying that all the books of the Law and all the books of the prophets could be summed up in the two commandments stressing the need for agape love. So Matthew, representing Jewish Christianity, sees no problem with Paul’s stress on interior change as the basis of the Law

  20. Is Paul on Board With This? Most of Paul’s writings were to communities that he established comprised largely of Gentile Christians. The purpose of those letters were to deal with specific issues and events in the various communities. Paul’s letter to the Romans, however, was written to a community that he did not establish and that comprised a mixture of Jews and Gentiles. His view of the Law is far more balanced in this letter • “So then the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous • and good” (7:12) - “Now if I do what I do not want, I concur that the law is good.” (7:16) - “For I take delight in the law of God, in my inner self” (7:22) Paul seemed to see value in the Jewish Law if understood in the light of Christianity. Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, including the beatitudes and the famous “you have heard it said….but I say” passages give a clear presentation of what Christianity believed to be a proper understanding of the Jewish Law

  21. Did Christianity Abandon Its Jewish Roots? Perhaps the clearest evidence that Christianity did not abandon its Jewish roots can be found in the following facts; • Letters from Peter, James and John (rightly or wrongly considered more favorable to Jewish thought) were given equal place to the letters of Paul in the Christian Scriptures - The entire collection of the books of the Hebrew scriptures at the time of Jesus (the Septuagint collection) were included in the Christian scriptures - The organization of Christian communities by the year 150 C.E. followed the model of the Jerusalem community led by James and not the model of the communities established by Paul - Christian worship reflected Jewish practices of the synagogue and the Temple (next slide)

  22. Christian Worship @ 150 C.E.! A Roman Christian named Justin was condemned to death by the Roman Emperor, Antoninus Pius. Before his death, Justin attempted to defend his Christian beliefs. As part of his defense, he wrote the following description of Christian Worship “And on the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits; then, when the reader has ceased, the one presiding verbally instructs, and exhorts to the imitation of these good things. “ As described above, Christians integrated a type of synagogue service into the first part of their worship and, as described below, a ritualized Seder meal where the sacrificed lamb is the one presiding at the meal “Then we all rise together and pray, and, as we before said, when our prayer is ended, bread and wine and water are brought,...For not as common bread nor common drink do we receive these; but since Jesus Christ our Savior was made incarnate by the word of God and had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so too, as we have been taught, the food which has been made into the Eucharist by the Eucharistic prayer set down by him, and by the change of which our blood and flesh is nurtured, is both the flesh and the blood of that incarnated Jesus.... the one presiding in like manner offers prayers and thanksgivings, according to his ability, and the people assent, saying Amen; and there is a distribution to each, and a participation of that over which thanks have been given, and to those who are absent a portion is sent by the deacons.”

  23. Not Everyone is On Board While there is little evidence that Paul and the Jerusalem community were, to any large extent, at odds with each other over time, extremists on both sides did stray from accepted Christian orthodoxy A group called Ebionite Christians maintained that a strict observance of the Jewish Law was a requirement for being a Christian. They considered the gospel of Matthew to be the only genuine gospel, They looked at Paul as an apostate. The Ebionite sect of Christianity morphed into a type of Gnosticism. For them, YHWH is the true God and the material universe is his body. Adam was the first to bring this revelation to mankind. Moses was the second and Jesus was the third and most perfect. Salvation comes from the knowledge (gnosis) of and adherence to these beliefs On the opposite side, a Christian group called Marcionites rejected the Law of Moses and everything else Jewish. This group saw Jesus as creating an entirely new thing. Marcionites accepted only the Gospel of Luke and the Epistles of Paul as genuine scripture. For Marcionites, YHWH is an evil demi-urge (lower form of deity) who wrongly created the material universe. The human soul can only achieve salvation by escaping the material world. Jesus was actually a spirit being who only seemed human. By his “death” and resurrection, he revealed these truths to humankind. Salvation comes from faith in Jesus and this revelation

  24. Agape Love Bridges the Old and the New • “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16) • Paul’s second letter to Timothy showed that Paul himself favored what Christians came to accept. The Hebrew Scriptures were part of the Christian experience. The gospels, after all, did explain how Jesus taught in the synagogues explaining how the Jewish Scriptures were pointing to him. Almost from the very beginning, Christians began to teach how people and events in the Hebrew Scriptures foreshadowed Jesus and his teachings • Moses and David foreshadowed Jesus • The Sinai experience foreshadowed the Sermon on the Mount • The Commandments foreshadowed the Beatitudes

  25. Evil and Sin OK! All of this is very nice. But this is supposed to be a course on Christian morality. When do we start talking about evil and sin? Stay tuned for the next lesson!