Today I would like to share parts of a sermon, I recently heard, written by the Rev. Debra Asis, St. Barnabas on The Desert Episcopal Church. Debra has generously given me permission to share her thoughts.
In her sermon, she began with Paul’s letter to the Romans. Paul wrote “Love is the fulfilling of the law.” Of course this begs the question – what is love? She went on saying “I can remember my first love. His name was Michel. We went to kindergarten together. We put our rugs next to each other for nap time. We played, we kissed once. I can still see his face as clear as a bell. Then there was my first grown up love. You know that love, complete with heart palpitations and sleepless nights. Enchanted, intoxicated, pierced with the cupid’s deadly arrow. Crazy, romantic love.
The Greeks called this kind of love eros. It is about longing and sexual desire. It’s about finding an object that we believe will satisfy our longing – something or someone to fill the empty place inside us. Eros is a self-serving kind of love.
Is this the kind of love Paul was talking about? I don’t think so.
What about this kind of love? I love my daughter, I love old friends, I love the people with whom I work, I love my church. The Greeks called this kind of love philia. It is where Philadelphia gets its name – the city of brotherly love. Philia is a mutual kind of love. It’s the kind of love that also extends to our pets or places. I love my home, I love my country. Philia is a fraternal, brotherly or a personal kind of love.
Is this the love that Paul was talking about? I don’t think so.
Eros and philia are loves that make us feel good or valued or give us a sense of identity. To a greater or lesser degree they are directed toward satisfying our emotional state. Eros and philia are self-satisfying loves.
The kind of love that Paul is talking about is agape love and agape love has everything to do with the person who is the object of our love. Rather than seeing the other person as an object that will satisfy us, we see the other person as an opportunity to give ourself. Agape love is self-giving, rather than self-satisfying. This is agape love; love that values the other. It is a way of life. I believe it is the way life is supposed to be right here on earth in God’s Kingdom.”