- 1 John 2:3-11
- Luke 2:22-35
He that saith he is in the light and hateth his brother is in darkness even until now. He that loveth his brother abideth in the light: and there is no scandal in him. But he that hateth his brother is in darkness and walketh in darkness and knoweth not whither he goeth: because the darkness hath blinded his eyes.
1 John 2:9-11
This passage begs so many questions: what is love? What is stumbling? Who is my brother? Jesus pretty much clears up the “who is my neighbor” with his famous parable on the Good Samaritan, but who is my brother? Curiously, St John uses the same word for “hate” that St Luke uses when he says we must hate our families compared to Jesus – the word there gets translated “love less”. Here, there is nothing to compare one to the other so it gets translated hate. It means love less here too, to be honest.
Jesus says to do it, John says not to. Using the same word. How’s that work?
Blood and water. You know the line, “Blood is thicker than water”, but did you know that it is intended as a slam at the Christian Faith? The water there is the water of baptism. And it means that family ties are stronger than Church ties.
Jesus was talking about blood. John is talking about water.
Now, a secularist will tell us Christians that we are supposed to love everyone. And they would be right, really. But they will then define the quality of that love meaning they will presume to tell us what is and what isn’t love. We are, for example, supposed to love women enough to let them freely decide to murder babies in their womb. We are to love people enough to allow them to deform or deny their bodies’ natural functions. Anything less than letting people do whatever they want whenever they want is not love by this action. But we’re not supposed to love the unborn babies. We’re not supposed to love the wrong sort of people. And we’re certainly not to be concerned about them in a way that would make the right sort of people feel only equally loved as the wrong sort.
A secularist, in fact, would tell us that all religions are about love – and then they would go one to define the love in the same, secular way – and would accuse traditionalists in any religion of not being loving.
The word St John uses for love is Agape – that divine love that is so hard for us Humans to get because it, well, loves the sinner but hates the sin. But more than that, agape wants us to move beyond sin. Agape wants to make us, in fact, divine: and to do that means to move us beyond being simply human, trapped in our disordered desires and our lusts, in our hungers and our distorted natures.
And John tells us to Agape our brother – not to eros our brother, not to philia our brother. Not to sex him or friend zone him. But rather to Divinize him, to draw him heavenward, to love him into the person God wants him to be, that means to love him out of sin and disorder. Agape means to give everyone the only choice there is: Divinity or Death.
You’ve heard the line, perhaps, “it’s not love to let someone go on sinning”? Well, it can be felt as love to do so – but it’s not Agape, which is, really, a divine Tough Love. Elsewhere John says that God is Agape. To be in Agape with our brother, to be in God with our Brother is not to bless him in sin, not to let her do whatever she wants, but to pull our sister and brother to heaven so hard that, in the end, they might turn away. They are free to go – we are not free not to bring them.
For that would be loving less. To let someone be whatever they want – which to let them die – is not to love them. That’s exactly what John says not to do: he who says he is of God and yet loves-less his brother: loves-less than Agape, whosoever only philias his brother, or only eroses his brother. Whosoever only storge (marriage love) his sister – whosoever loves like this but never Agapes his brother has failed to walk within God’s light. Agape is eternal, strong, and unyielding: but unconditional does not mean without requirements. Agape will only walk forward with you into God’s light. It will come back to get you, yes… but only to pull you forward more.
I love the story of St Thomas Becket (whose feast is today). He was a friend of King Henry II. When the King needed a new Archbishop, he thought to appoint his friend because, well, then everyone would be all buddy-buddy. But once ordained, his friend studied and saw a Truth he never before had known. He became a Christian. And a Christian Archbishop was rather more than the King bargained for – a Christian Archbishop has to love the king, his friend, out of his sins. And that the King would not tolerate and so he had Becket killed.
That’s the secret of this passage I think. The world wants us to eros or philia everyone. Ideally both: Friends with Benefits as the saying goes. But St John – and Jesus the God-Man, want us to Agape, full one, everyone. Because if I Agape you, if all the Christians Agape you, really, honestly – you’ll be one of us sooner rather than later.
For this the world will kill us rather than be loved to fulfill its own divinity.