PEOPLE VS. EVENT: AGAPE VS. PHILOS

There are some things that just make sense, or should it be and that some things finally make sense when we are willing to think instead of emote. We as Christians are required to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39). We are required to “love our enemies” (Matthew 5:44).

In a world that has turned upside-down regarding Christian morality, unless one has a clear understanding of the word “love” as found in Christian scriptures, it may be hard to make an application of “love your neighbor” or “love your enemy”. How do you do this?

The answer is found in understanding the meaning and distinction between two Greek words found in Christian scriptures – agapao (verb), agape (noun) and phileo (verb), philos (noun). The former agapao/agape is a word that carries no emotion with it and means “to have respect for the freedom of another person to pursue his or her own goal as long as the pursuit of that goal does not interfere with another person’s freedom to pursue their own goal”. The latter words phileo/philos mean “to have rapport with, to be compatible with, to be friends with.” An interesting thing about the meaning of these two sets of words is that we as Christians are required to love (agapao) everyone, but are not required to love (phileo) anyone. A major difference in these two sets of words is that with agapao/agape, the merit is in the person doing the loving. With phileo/philos the merit is in always in the object of love.

For whatever reason, perhaps political correctness, fear of reprisal, or pulpit failure to make the meanings clear, Christians are confused, and in fact in some instances dumb-founded that Christians are required to do something that they have found impossible to apply. Why are they confused and perhaps dumb-founded? The answer is simple. There is a misperception of the word “love” in the phrases “love your neighbor” and “love your enemies”. The word love in both instances is agapao, but the general perception is that it has the meaning of the word phileo. When the word love is used in Christian circles, and the discussion is “your neighbor” or “your enemies,” the general perception is that the conversation is about rapport and compatibility (phileo love) when in fact the right perception should have been respect for the freedom of a person to pursue their own goal as long as the pursuit of that goal does not interfere with another person’s freedom to pursue their own goal”.

A correct understanding of these words has a very definite and immediate application in circumstances being encountered by some Christian business person’s today regarding same-sex marriage.

The question arises regarding whether a Christian restaurant owner has the right to deny service to a same-sex couple and whether a Christian baker has the right to deny baking a wedding cake for a same-sex couple. The answer is found in the subtle distinction between refusing to serve “people” versus refusing to participate in an “event.”

Here’s where a breakthrough must come in Christian thinking. Serving “people” in one’s restaurant does not violate the Christian moral code when serving a same-sex couple any more than serving a meal to any other form of sinner; however, when a Christian business owner is asked to participate in an “event,” such as a same-sex marriage, the issue is completely different – people versus event.

Yes, serving a same-sex couple in your restaurant may offend your sensibility, but this is where agape love is applied in defense of your moral code. Serve the couple as you would anyone else. However, if asked to participate in a same-sex wedding, the Christian has the right to refuse if participation violates his or her Christian moral code.

While not supporting his candidacy, it’s interesting to note that one of the Presidential candidates accurately made this distinction in an interview after announcing his 2016 Presidential candidacy.

The issue is clear — “people” versus “event” and agapao love vs. phileo love. Do you make this distinction?

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