My Musings

Compounding Love
(The Pursuit of the Church)

Compounding Love <br>(The Pursuit of the Church)

Friendship and family are profound forces for good. They make life well worth living. Combine both of these loves and you have the greatest force for good this side of heaven—Jesus’ church!

And you thought I was going to say, a good marriage.

I could have. The apostle Paul saw the church and marriage on the same page at Ephesians 5:22-33, as vitally connected in character and principle. Sadly, both of these spiritually-rooted institutions are under vicious attack in our current culture.

These days, we are not accustomed to hearing the church spoken of in such noble terms (the greatest force on earth.) Of course, evil things have been done by scoundrels in the “name” of Jesus and His church. They want His good family name to hide behind. The problem is, it’s hard for some to see all the good in the church because their focus is on the flaws. It is often a blinding focus.

Jesus’ church has had an astoundingly good impact on human history since He rose from the dead. Medical science, educational progress, the decline of slavery, the rise in hospital care, improved race-relations, orphan care, family strength, economic health, work ethic, language development, respect for human life, parenting priorities, and many more vital movements for the good owe far more to Jesus’ church than most people can fathom. Plus, she has pointed countless souls to Jesus through whom they found forgiveness and, ultimately, eternal life.

But instead of defending the reputation of Jesus’ church, let me simply clarify her call to pursue a greater love for love God, each other, and the world (hey Ashley, I used the Oxford comma!) We can take on the critics later. Indeed, it is the church’s pursuit of love that makes her such a strong force for good in the world. She has not arrived but she is on the way. In fact, “the Way” is how Christianity was described in its earliest days in the bible (Acts 9:2). And here is the way that those who belong to the Way are supposed to love:

    “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love.” ~ The apostle Paul (Romans 12:10).

The Greek verb Paul used in the passage above is the only place this compound verb appears in the entire New Testament. It has no perfect counterpart in English. The translation, “be devoted,” will do, but it does not carry Paul’s full meaning. The word is “philastorgos,” a combination of two Greek words for love.

C.S. Lewis wrote a book titled, “The Four Loves” in which he cited the following four Greek words for love:

  • ‘Eros’ – Romantic love.
  • ‘Storge’ – Family love and affection.
  • ‘Phileo’ – Friendship love and affection.
  • ‘Agape’ – Decision love; unselfish and intentional.

“Philastorgos” (Romans 10:12) combines both “stroge” and “phileo” (family and friendship love) all in one word. Paul used it to promote “philadelphia,” another Greek word compound word that means brotherly love. “Philastorgos” is a doubly powerful word for love, involving tender affection as well as loyal commitment, much like a parent for a child. So, “philastorgos” is more than a family devotion because it also conveys a strong friendship bond. Wow!

Paul’s crisp call to love in Romans 12:10 contains two Greek compound words that compound his call for the church to love one another. Like ‘philastorgos’, ‘philadelphia’ combines a friendship word with a family term. In fact, both compound words in Romans 10:12 combine friend and family related meanings. Wow again.

Jesus’ church is a family filled with precious friends who love each other with great devotion and affection–to the death. This love comes from God and it results in greater love for the world. Compounded multi-faceted love is why Jesus’ church is such a profound force for good. While not all her critics are wrong, too many church-bashers are selectively blind. But they are not the ones commanded by God to devote themselves (philastorgos) to brotherly love (philadelphia). Jesus’ church is. So, do it.

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About the Author:

Joel graduated from Pepperdine University with a B.A., completing two majors: Art and Religion. He went on to earn the Master of Divinity degree from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California. The views expressed on this blog are personal and belong to Joel Solliday unless otherwise stated. They are not, intended to characterize the views of the Lewiston Church of Christ or other organizations to which I may refer.