The English Language has many strengths compared to other languages doesn’t it. For example:
-it has a greater number of words compared to others….in the English Lexicon there are 171,476 words in current use, and 47,156 obsolete words!
-it is spoken by more people around the world than any other….there are 1.5 Billion in total with 0.7 billion having it as their 1st language, and 0.8 billion as their 2nd language!;
-and, it is one of the easier languages to learn……which explains why it has become the most universal language around the world!
So, does English have any weaknesses? Well I am sure there are a number, but one major issue I can think of, crucial as a vicar, is that it struggles to capture one of the most important things that I need to convey to others, the most important thing in life that makes us human…love. The trouble with English, is that whilst we have many different words for rain (not surprising!) we only have one for Love…love:
-I ‘love’ crisps, as many as I can get away with without Rebecca noticing!
-I ‘love’ playing golf, as much as my bad back allows
-I ‘love’ my friends, my family and my wife, as long as I am not loving myself to much
-I ‘love’ God and he loves me
…..but, I hope you will agree that they are not the same kind of loves are they?!
So, what is Love in its full breadth and depth? What different kinds of love are there? I am not a language expert, but the languages I do know are much better at conveying what love truly and fully is. For example, Hebrew, has three major words for love, and Greek four:
Raya – ‘I want to be with you’ Friendship Love
Ahava – ‘I’ll go to the ends of the earth for you’ Commitment Love
Dode – ‘You are so beautiful’ Intimacy Love
Philia – ‘affectionate, platonic, warm’ Friendship Love
Storge – ‘brotherly/sisterly, parent child, child/parent’ Family Love
Eros – ‘erotic, sexual, intimate’ Husband and Wife Love
Agape – ‘unconditional, self-giving, self-sacrificial’ God Love
Why mention all this about love? Well November, is that month in the year when we have opportunity don’t we to think and feel again what the fullest extent of love is all about…a love that is not just Eros, or Philia or Storge, but Agape. Agape love is the greatest of loves and the greatest depth that love can go – to lay down one’s own loves to the benefit of another, even if that someone is not our friend. As the bible puts it:
“Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” John 15v13
“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5v8
When we remember the love of others in war who have laid down their lives so we might live and have peace today, it reminds us of that the greatest love ever demonstrated in history was the love of God in his Son who laid down his own life to save ours so we might live. And how can we know this kind of love? I hope that reflecting on the following words might help us to know this kind of love that we all so easily forget, but is so crucial:
“Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46v10
“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” Psalm 46v1
“My soul finds rest in God alone, my salvation comes from him.” Psalm 62v1
“I lift up my eyes to the hills – where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.” Psalm 121v1-2
“Jesus said: ‘I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” John 11v25
With my prayers for November that we might all remember again and know what the heart of love truly is
Revd James Hunt – Rector St Peter’s Bishop’s Waltham and Blessed Mary Upham
9th October 2019