Lectionary Year B
May 25, 2003
Step IV: Cross-Section
A. Primitive Christianity
(JFC) Love (agaph) comprises much of the New Testament Church, from, "Behold,
how they love one another" to "God is love" to I Corinthians 13, etc. The earliest parts of the Christian community was brought together by God's love revealed in Jesus Christ and it grew as people began to give and share love as God had done in Jesus Christ, as well. John has prior to this week's Gospel lection mentioned "loving one another" in 13:34f. John's record of Jesus' Farewell discourse in chapters 13-17 frequently cites agaph. Love was a big part of the Christian communities' recognizable characteristics. They are told in Ephesians 5:2 to "Walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave Himself for us." The Apostle Paul claims, in Romans 5:6, surely reflecting our text's 13th verse, that Jesus gave His life for the sinful. Being friends in a persecuted culture, as the early church was, had and held a highly rare and securing value in those early days, more than we can imagine and probably even more than we take for granted today. Verse 16's image of "being chosen" is addressed also in Romans 8:33, Colossians 3:12 and I Peter 2:4.
B. Old Testament and Judaism
(JFC) From Deuteronomy 6:5, we begin to find love (bha) frequently in the Old
Testament. God loves people, Deuteronomy 7: 8 and 13, Jeremiah 31:3, and Hosea 3:1, 9:15, 11:1 and 14:5; love "covers all sinfulness" Proverbs 10:12; people love God, Exodus 20:6, Psalms 18:1, 116:1 and 145:20; and people love others Leviticus 19:18, just to refer to a few. bha is "affection both pure and impure and divine and human", as BDB says. Genesis 18's story of Abraham and Sarah at the Oaks of Mamre finds God deciding (verses 17ff) to saturate the constituency (as John 15:15c suggests is God's usual strategy) with the message of what is about to happen as a result of God's choosing Abraham to lead in the doing of righteousness and justice. Isaiah 50:4 poeticizes similar characteristics of a God whose job description includes being a revealer par excellence.
From the earliest centuries of this era, the Apocalypse of Sedrach, mostly emphasizing God's love and compassion seems to quote John 15:13 when it states, at 1:24f, "Blessed is the man who possesses true faith and unfeigned love; for the Master said, nothing is greater than love for which a man lays down (his) life for his friends." The 8th Ode of Solomon (first to early second century CE) ends proclaiming, "Seek and increase, abide in the love of the Lord; And you who are loved in the Beloved; and you who are kept in him who lives; and you who are saved in him who was saved. And you shall be found uncorrupted in all ages, on account of the name of your Father. Hallelujah."
C. Hellenistic World
(JFC) Greek thinkers of the first centuries in the Common Era surely would have
appreciated discussions on the topic of love. They would, of course readily recognized the differences among the various words for love, agaph, qilia and erwj, etc., and therefore, stay on task more responsibly than we in more Freudian times with other distractions like commercialism corrupting the wonderful experiences of agaph, surely. The call to remain within the context of such love could have appealed to them, as well. Joys, too, must have had them enjoying considering the significances of this passage. The mentions of commandments from on high spoke their language, as did the subject of friendship. Bearing fruit was a metaphor with which they would have certainly been familiar, also. Loving one another most likely expanded the primary concept of this pericope into wanting to include all the people of the world.
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