Part of why I’ve been away from blogging for awhile is that I just started a Bible study at my church using Living beyond Yourself: Exploring the fruit of the Spirit by Beth Moore. There can be as much as 8 hours of homework a week. But, not only do I enjoy fellowshipping with the other women at my church doing this study, I am also being stretched and seeing some surprising insights. A couple weeks ago we were covering love and looked at ἔρως (eros, romantic love), φίλος (philos, love in friendship) and ἀγάπη (agape, divine love.)In eclectic readings that included lots of authors influenced by classical ideas I’d encountered these different greek concepts of love before. Φίλος has alway been especially compelling to me. I’d read descriptions shared interests that created bonds between people. Friends that kept in touch with each other over decades, always invested in each other's challenges and concerns. Freinds that naturally maintained contact through marriages, moves and career changes.
And these descriptions were compelling because I didn’t have that. Oh there were girls and later women whom I liked and admired who seemed friendly and welcoming towards me. We would meet through mutual involvement in various activities. I could get to hang out with them and discuss the topic that we shared. As I grew more skilled with social interaction we could have wide ranging general interest conversations and exchanges of personal hurts and triumphs. We would do favors for each others and be ready to do more. But though I would have liked a long term bond I never knew quite how to secure it. As soon as the mutual activity would end I would feel the relationship slipping away without that structure to keep us in contact. I wanted to remain friends but had a terrible time with the logistics of staying in touch. I would make intellectual models based on the relationships around me. But they felt so artificial and unnatural to me that I would end up executing them clumsily if at all.
This has been a hurt in my heart. I could see this wonderful human experience being offered to me but I could never reach out and grab it. Αγάπη I could have as a free gift that I didn’t have to work for, that God offers to all. But my own ineptitude kept at least the highest versions of φίλος beyond my reach and that made it very desirable to me.
In addtion to covering positive examples of φίλος “Living Beyond Yourself” used Luke 23:12 as an example of φίλος. Pilate and Herod bond over their mutual frustration and disdain for the whole Jesus situation. This, and a couple of other examples give of how φίλος can be used in a negitive light, helped me to see that I had been exalting freindship in a way that overvalued it. That I’d been idealizing it in a way that made it a rival to divine love in my mind. This bible study has made me more content with being who I am and allowed me to focus more great gifts God has given me.