Bible Study: Acts 1-2

The question: in Acts 1-2, what are the apostles feeling and fearing now that Jesus is gone? How do they react?  This is a long one, so I’ve hidden some of it behind a “more” tag.

The initial reaction to Christ’s resurrection seems to be that the political victory they have desired has now come (1:6) but instead they are told that the political power was not yet coming (1:7) – instead, they would receive the Holy Spirit and become the witnesses of Christ to the world (1:8).   We can see that m any of Christ’s followers, while seeing him as a teacher, also saw him as their (potential) political and military leader as well, expecting him to restore Israel to its former power and glory, expelling Rome and its armies, and freeing the nation.

For many then, this must have come as a huge disappointment, perhaps disillusioning them to the other teachings of Christ. And so the initial fallout starts – first with the political zealots who saw Christ as a purely political leader. Those who remained at this point had to shift their focus away from all of that onto the spiritual implications of what they were told. They were to receive power, this Holy Spirit, and they would use this power to bear witness of his deeds and words to the world. Of note is that Christ immediately covers all ground here – he starts with Jerusalem and Judea, the provinces near where he was, where many of his followers had been or came from. He starts by saying in your own houses and neighborhoods, then goes to Samaria – geographically close, but culturally very different – and then adds “and to the end of the earth.”

He has just taken these people out of their comfort zones. He’s said that the power they now have will take them to places they’ve never been, to places they don’t want to go, but would still be there and working even in their own homes.  This would have different effects on different people, and thus I suspect that the apostles and his other followers all reacted differently to the news. Someone like Thomas was probably trying to process what it meant, what he would have to do, while Peter was thinking of where he would go. But what’s interesting here is that the first thing they do after hearing this news is not to talk about it, or immediately go act on it – instead, they return to the place where they have been staying, about a mile away, near Jerusalem, and the remaining apostles (along with about a hundred other Christ followers) meet in an upper room and elect a new apostle.

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The Three Loves

I was having a discussion with Robert about love, being “in love,” and what that all meant. I’ve long been of the opinion that love can be qualified using the three types of love that were present in the Greek language and are found in the Bible. The words are Agapeo, Phileo, and Eros.

Eros is an easily-understood one: it’s where we get our word “erotic.”It is the sort of physical/emotional/sexual love that one feels toward someone they desire. It does not mean lust, though it can lead to it. It is simply that attraction.

Phileo is a strongly emotional, heart-felt affectionate love. It’s the sort of love you might have for not just a spouse, but a sister, or a best friend.  It’s that attachment, that affection, that bond that people have.

Agapeo is a willful, spiritual, deliberate love. It lacks the passion of phileo, but instead has a deliberation that gives it a firmer ground. It is not better or worse because of this, it is simply different. (It is not, as commonly touted, necissarily a “True” or “God” love. There’s a good explanation of it at the Acts 17:11 blog.)

What interests me is where these loves come together.

In Scripture, there is a dialogue between Peter and Jesus, after his resurrection, where Peter is asked if he loves Jesus. It goes like this:

Jesus asked, “do you agapeo me?”
Peter replied, “I phileo you.”
Jesus asked, “do you agapeo me?”
Peter replied, “I phileo you.”
Jesus asked, “do you phileo me?”
Peter replied, “I phileo you.”

This was after Peter had lacked the will to stand up for Christ at the trial, but felt bitterly depressed after doing so. His confession to Christ was that while he loved him with all his heart, he lacked the will at that time to say he could agapeo. I think it was a spiritual victory, for Peter, in that he had finally identified that truth about himself. Later on it became clear that he had both phileo and agapeo for Christ. The passion and fire of phileo found a sturdy ground in agapeo,  and it was then that he became the bold apostle that he is remembered to be.

When phileo mixes with eros, we end up with a sort of love that is not in itself bad, but easily lends itself to disasterous situations. We’ve all seen those all-too-common passionate, but groundless relationships – they usually end up abusive or self-destructive, and are the cause of the high divorce rates we see. They have that fire and attraction to begin with, but without a firm grounding it peters out and dies.

The conclusion I came to with Robert is that only when all three come together can a relationship really be successful.  You must have all three parts there: the eros attraction to each other, the phileo affection and passion to drive it, and the agapeo determination and grounding to stick with it, “until death do you part.”

Any thoughts?

John 8:1-11

1 but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.
2 Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them.
3 The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst
4 they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery.
5 Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?”
6 This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground.
7 And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.”
8 And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground.
9 But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him.
10 Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”

Jesus here is teaching. He is in a position of authority when the Pharisees show up to pose their question. They refer to the command in Deuteronomy 22:24, referenced again in Ezekiel 16. Jesus does not respond to them directly, but instead bends down and writes on the ground. We don’t know what he wrote, or why. It appears from the next line that it did not answer their question, however, as they “continued to ask him.”

At this point he stands up (ceasing his writing) and gives his answer. He does not (directly) challenge the law cited, nor the guilt of the prisoner. He also ignores the obvious duplicity of the Pharisees. He says, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her,” and then bends down and continues writing. I think this is really interesting. First his passive-aggressive approach to the presentation; he does not say the law is correct or incorrect, does not challenge it, but instead challenges those who supposedly seek to uphold it. Presumably, he’s speaking only to the Pharisees when he says “among you,” as it later says they all left but there’s still someone around to record the event. His challenge, then, of saying that only the one without sin among the judges may condemn is very interesting. After they leave, he is left standing “alone” with the woman (presumably not entirely alone – rather still in his position of authority, with his followers watching) and he then tells the woman he does not condemn her, and tells her to sin no more. This is an acknowledgment of Christ’s sinless nature, as he did not walk away with the Pharisees, or move on, but instead took the responsibility of resolving the situation into his own hands after the other authorities had left, being unworthy.

This idea shapes a lot of my interactions with those outside the church, and I hope will further shape it in the future. I have always had the idea that if someone does not claim the doctrines and teachings of scripture, it is unreasonable to expect they will follow the teachings. It would be like a member of the basketball team being upset with a member of the chess club for not showing up to morning practices in the gym.

Note that this is not moral relativism I am suggesting here: the truths and morals laid out by Scripture are not compromised. I instead suggest that those who reject the Word will obviously reject its morals and teachings. It is not our place to judge them, for we are no more sinless than the Pharisees above. Rather, I have chosen to merely make the person aware of my beliefs and let it rest. Again, my job is not to judge. My job is to act as an emissary of the Gospel. An emissary, “someone sent on a mission to represent the interests of someone else.” I [should] represent Christ through my actions and lifestyle, constant preaching or judging is not only counterproductive but inappropriate. Even Christ, when he absolves the woman, simply says “sin no more.” We don’t know what happened to her. She may have gone right back to her sinful lifestyle. Christ has done his work. He has told the woman what she must do. It is up to her to follow. Similarly, my non-believing friends know that I am a Christ-follower. They, I hope, see some glimpse of his purpose in my life. I represent him to them. It is up to them to follow.

…I’m also really curious about what he wrote.

Thoughts on fellowship and friendship

First off, a new addition to the blogroll, David Skorupa. Been reading him for quite some time at his old home, but he has elected to move off to a new spot. He’s a minister and excellent writer and I’ve found him a great source of encouragement and insight since I’ve known him.

I went out to lunch with my father yesterday. It’s been a while since we’ve done that. Rather than the usual Blimpie or Subway stop, we opted for Fuddrucker’s. I haven’t been there in years, probably, and I have no idea why. Good grief, those are some tasty burgers. Just sayin’.

Anyway, one of the subjects that came up as we talked was the subject of friends, specifically, the sort of company we keep. I think everyone can agree that the company you keep has a deep and profound effect on you, even if it is subconscious in nature. If you surround yourself with political conservatives, you might find yourself more conservative. Surround yourself with readers, and you might find yourself reading more books. Everything from the music you listen to, to the food you eat, to the language you use, to the way you think is affected by the company you keep. What my father was asking about was whether or not I kept much Christian company these days.

I got to thinking about it, and realized that it has become a much more scarce thing than it was just a few years ago. As I looked back at my history, something stood out to me: it was mostly my Christian friendships that didn’t last. Reviewing my circle of friends today, I see mostly those who do not identify themselves as Christians. I thought about why this could be. First was the idea that I had switched schedules and moved across town – certainly enough to put a damper on things. But yet my close friends who were not Christians are still in constant contact, and we still hang out – while I only very rarely see any of my Christian friends from then at all.

I don’t know why that is. Is it me? Is it them? Have I changed in ways they find distasteful, or am I not worth the effort? Have we all just gone our separate ways, and no one and nothing is to blame? The analytical part of my brain can’t accept that sort of coincidental answer, but I really don’t know what to think. Perhaps I have changed, in ways I don’t see, as a result of this pseudo-segregation. I certainly can say it doesn’t make me feel any more confident in the general church than I have been, and if it is me then I really wish someone could clue me in.

On an unrelated note, I think I’ve found my candidate. While unorthodox, I love the no-nonsense approach taken to policy.