Christianity, Love, and Hair Shirts

This is ‘newish’ thinking, and as yet only partly formed, so it may be a bit disjointed and rough around the edges.

The West in general has a problem with love; not least because, in most people’s minds it is associated, at best, with romance, and at worst (maybe) with sheer animal lust. The church has an even bigger problem (or maybe even a whole suit of problems) with love. I want to ramble around the word a bit. 

Let’s leave aside the whole romance and lust thing, at least for the moment - what is probably best described, in Greek, as ἔρως (eros) - and think about love in other forms, but particularly the unconditional, sacrificial, form of love called in Greek ἀγάπη (agapé), mainly associated with God and epitomised by Jesus’ death on the cross. Virtually everywhere English New Testaments use the word love, they are translating ἀγάπη.

But I don’t want to do a whole lot of theology, or etymology, or indeed any other ‘ology’. This is, I hope, going to be about experience, and practice.

Martha & Mary

First of all, please bear with me - we’re going to need to dig into some Greek - but don’t be worried, because this isn’t particularly difficult. The story of Martha and Mary is found in Luke 10.

38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 

39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 

40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

41“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 

42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

Where does this take place? Bethany, where Martha and Mary lived, is a village on the southeast slope of the Mount of Olives, a couple of miles from Jerusalem. Tradition has Lazarus living there with them too.

Copyright © Phil Hendry, 2022