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Word That Turned the World Upside Down

Word That Turned the World Upside Down

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Published by lwalper
The world was once power­fully shaken by a little band of men from Palestine who carried news embodied in one rather obscure word. The mysterious explosive in this spiritual bomb was a radically different idea of love from that that had been dreamed of by the world’s philosophers or ethics teachers, a new invention that took friend and foe alike by surprise.
The world was once power­fully shaken by a little band of men from Palestine who carried news embodied in one rather obscure word. The mysterious explosive in this spiritual bomb was a radically different idea of love from that that had been dreamed of by the world’s philosophers or ethics teachers, a new invention that took friend and foe alike by surprise.

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Published by: lwalper on Jan 02, 2010
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05/08/2013

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 The Word That Turned the World
Upside Down
Robert J. Wieland
 
 T
he world was once powerully shaken by a little band o men romPalestine who carried news embodied in one rather obscure word. Teirterried enemies in Tessalonica (a city located in modern-day Greece)conessed the impact o its proclamation: “Tese men who have turned the world upside down have come here also” (Acts 17:6, RSV).* Te dynamite-laden messengers: Christ’s apostles, especially Paul and his colleague John. Te word that perormed this mighty eat was one little known inthe ancient Greco-Roman world—a Greek term,
agapé 
(a ga’pa). It meant“love”; but it came to carry a spiritual wallop that overwhelmed people’sminds, catalyzing humanity into two camps, one or and the other againstthe idea. Tose that were or it were transormed overnight into recklessly  joyous ollowers o Jesus, ready to lose property, go to prison, or even todie a tortured death or Him. Tose catalyzed against it as quickly becamecruel, bloodthirsty persecutors o those who saw light in the new concepto love. None who heard the news about
agapé 
could ever be neutral. Te mysterious explosive in this spiritual bomb was a radically dierent idea o love rom that that had been dreamed o by the world’sphilosophers or ethics teachers, a new invention that took riend and oealike by surprise. It wasn’t that the ancients had no idea o love; they talkedabout it plenty. In act, the Greeks had three or our words or love (ourmodern languages usually have only one). But the kind o love that cameto be expressed in the word
agapé 
mercilessly exposed all other ideas o loveas either nonlove or antilove.All o a sudden mankind came to realize that what theyd been callinglove was actually veneered selshness. Te human psyche was strippednaked by the new revelation. I you welcomed the spiritual revolution, yougot clothed with
agapé 
 yoursel; i it made you angry, having your robes o supposed piety ripped o turned you into a raving enemy o the new aith.And no one could turn the clock back, or
agapé 
 was an idea or which theullness o the time had come. When John took his pen to write his amous equation “God is love”(1 John 4:8), he had to choose between the several Greek words describinglove. Te common, everyday one—
eros
—packed a powerul punch on itsown. Something mysterious and powerul,
eros
 was the source o all lie. It“I may be able to speak the languages o men and even o angels, buti I have no
agapé ,
my speech is no more than a noisy gong or a clangingbell.“I may have the git o inspired preaching; I may have all knowledgeand understand all secrets; I may have all the aith needed to movemountains—but i I have no
agapé ,
I am nothing.“I may give away everything I have, and even give up my body tobe burned—but i I have no
agapé ,
this does me no good.” (Paul in 1Corinthians 13:1-3. In the original Greek, the word or love is
agapé .
Good News Bible.)“Dear Friends, …
agapé 
comes rom God. Whoever loves [with
agapé 
]
 
is a child o God and knows God. Whoever does not love [with
agapé 
]
 
does not know God, or God is
agapé .
And God showed His
agapé 
or usby sending His only Son into the world, so that we might have lie throughHim. Tis is what
agapé 
is: it is not that we loved God, but that He lovedus and sent His Son to be the means by which our sins are orgiven....“God is
agapé ,
and whoever lives in
agapé 
lives in union with God andGod lives in union with him.
 Agapé 
is made perect in us in order that wemay have courage in the Judgment Day. ... Tere is no ear in
agapé;
perect
agapé 
drives out all ear. So then,
agapé 
has not been made perect inanyone who is araid, because ear has to do with punishment.“We love [with
agapé 
]
 
because God rst loved us [with
agapé 
]
.
(John,in his First Letter, 4:7-19.)“I pray that you may have your roots and oundation in
agapé . …
 Yes, may you come to know His
agapé 
—although it can never be ully known—and so be completely lled with the very nature o God.” (Paul,Ephesians 3:17-19.)
 T
he
W
ord
T
haT
T
urned
T
he
W
orld
u
pside
d
oWn
f eg h
       x           x    
 
3
Te Word Tat urned the World Upside Down
4
Te Word Tat urned the World Upside Down
Every sublime moral and ethical goal o humanity is nothing without
agapé 
says Paul in his amous love chapter o 1 Corinthians 13 (RSV).One can “speak in the tongues o men and o angels,” “have propheticpowers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge,” have “aith, so asto remove mountains,” “give away all I have, and ... deliver my body to beburned,” and yet not have the all important ingredient:
agapé .
He ends up“nothing.” And
agapé 
has a phenomenal quality o enduring “all things,” or
agapé 
“never ends.”How did
agapé 
dier so much rom the common idea o love? How could the apostles’ idea possibly be such a threat to Plato’s noble concept? Te answer is ound in several clear-cut contrasts between the two ideas.A.
Ordinary human love is
 
dependent on the beauty or goodness of its object.
 We naturally choose or riends those who are nice to us, who please us. We all in love with our sexual opposite who is beautiul, happy, intelligent,and attractive, and turn away rom one who is ugly, mean, ignorant, oroensive.In contrast,
agapé 
is not awakened by beauty or goodness in its object.It stands alone, sovereign, independent. Te ancients had a story thatillustrated their most sublime idea o love. Admetus was a noble, handsome young man with all the personal qualities o excellence. He ell sick witha disease that the oracle o the gods pronounced would be atal unlesssomeone could be ound who would die in his place. His riends wentrom one to another, inquiring, “Would you be willing to die or Admetus?”All agreed that he was a wonderul young man, but “Sorry,” they said, “wecouldn’t die or him.” His parents were asked, and they said, “Oh, we loveour son, but sorry, we couldn’t die or him.” Finally his riends asked thebeautiul girl who loved him, Alcestis. “Yes,” she said, “because he is sucha good man and because the world needs him so, I am willing to die orhim!”Crowed the philosophers: “Tis is love—willing to die or a goodman!” Imagine their shock when the apostles came along and said that that wasn’t it at all.” One will hardly die or a righteous man—though perhapsor a good man one will dare even to die. But God shows his love
[agapé ] 
or us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died or us,” “while we wereenemies” (Romans 5:7, 8, 10 RSV).swept, like water rom a broken dam, over all obstacles o human will and wisdom, a tide o emotion common to all humanity. I a mother loved herchild, her love was
eros,
noble and pure. Likewise also the dependent loveo children or their parents and the common love o riends or each other.Further, the mutual love o man and woman was a proound mystery to bereckoned with.Is God
eros? 
asked the ancient pagans. Yes, answered their philosophers,including the great Plato, because
eros
is stronger than human will. Itproduces the miracle o babies. It makes amilies and riends. And it dwellsin everyone by nature. Tereore it must be the spark o divinity.For the ancients love was pretty much what it is or us today: the “sweetmystery o lie,” the elixir that makes an otherwise intolerable existencepossible to endure. Plato hoped to transorm the world by a kind o lovethat he considered “heavenly 
eros.” 
 Words derived rom
eros
today have anexclusively sexual meaning, but Plato tried to get the world to climb out o that trap by a spiritually upliting idea, something noble and inspiring. It was based on climbing up higher, getting out o the mire o mere physicalsensuality, being attracted to a greater good or the soul.But John could never bring himsel to write that God is
eros.
Heastounded the thinkers o his day by saying, God is
agapé .
And betweenthose two ideas o love there stretches a vast gul wider than the east isrom the west. Te apostle’s idea was revolutionary in at least three ways:1. I one loves with
agapé ,
he has “boldness in the day o judgment”(verse 17). Without it, one cringes in terror when conronted with ultimate judgment; with it, he walks earlessly into God’s presence past all His holy angels, utterly unashamed and condent.“Tere is no ear in love
[agapé ],
but perect love
[agapé ] 
casts out ear.For ear has to do with punishment, and he who ears is not perectedin love
[agapé ]” 
(verse 18, RSV). Fear with its concomitant anxiety is thesubstratum o human existence in all ages. Fear too deep to understand canmake us sick, gnawing at the vitals o the soul until one’s physical organs weaken in their resistance to disease. Years may go by beore we can see oreel the disease, but at last the weakest organ o the body breaks down, anddoctors must go to work to try to repair what
agapé 
 would have prevented.

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