There’s nothing like a good takeaway curry on a Friday night for rounding off the week and giving a spicy start to the weekend. I also love reading and knitting and a good straight malt.
And I “love” God. For that reason I think the English word love is one of the weakest, niggardly, most pathetic words in the English language.
However, over in America there’s a Curry that doesn’t love Love and a Love that doesn’t love Curry! Which is awkward because both Curry and Love are Bishops in the Episcopal (i.e. Anglican) church.
Over here in Britain millions more people now know about the Right Reverend Michael B Curry, the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal church thanks to the impassioned sermon he preached at the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, all about love. Not at all the sort of sermon we’re used to in your usual society wedding but certainly memorable.
This same Bishop Curry is now at odds with one American bishop – ironically with the name of “love”! The problem is simple. Bishop William Love is the only bishop in the Episcopal Church who believes, deeply and sincerely, that marriage is between a man and a woman. (There may be other bishops who don’t much like SSM but Bishop Love is the only one who is prepared to stand up and be counted.)
Bishop Love cannot support something called resolution BO12, which basically says if you won’t allow same-sex marriages in your diocese nor allow other bishops to come in and oversee them for you then you have to go. So much for good disagreement and embracing diversity.
Type ‘love’ into the thesaurus and you get dozens of synonyms, from ‘affection’ and ‘adoration’ to ‘mad for’ and ‘soft spot’! ‘Lust’ is also included but it’s interesting that the word ‘charity’ doesn’t appear. Perhaps wisely. Charity doesn’t always show itself in the best light these days. There have been too many charity workers who have clearly mistaken lust for love.
The Greeks had six words for genuine love, but Christians are usually happy with three. When we use love, and we don’t just mean “I very much like . . .” we mean eros, romantic love; passionate, over the moon love.
Romantic love is wonderful. Even thinking about it sends shivers up my spine! But, it has its limitations.
Imagine five years down the romantic line and you and your wife have three children. The youngest has a stinking cold, which she has given to you, a stuffed up nose so she can’t breathe and it’s three in the morning. Number one son has an ear infection and is screaming with pain. Your wife has fallen and sprained her wrist. Half way through a full wash load yesterday evening the washing machine died.
I know, from long experience, that memories of candle light dinners, watching fireworks while drifting along on a boat on the Seine or tumbling abandoned in the hay, will be no help whatsoever in that scenario. If all you’ve got is Eros one or other of you will walk out at first light.
What you need – what we all need all through life – are masses of Agape and Philia.
Agape was a word we used to hear often in church years ago although Bishop Curry didn’t mention it and I never hear it in the church I now attend.
Agape is selfless, sacrificial, unconditional love. After five years of marriage and three children, don’t forget Eros, but Agape is the love that will get you all through. Marriages thrive on romantic moments but only Agape will get you through the inevitable grim bits.
Then there’s Philia. This describes brotherly love and true friendship and in family life you need a lot of this—shown by loving friends and neighbours who will rally around in a crisis.
However, the addition of Agape and Philia will more than see you through. Because by now your love will have deepened to such an extent that you have compassion and tolerance and generosity which has not only enriched your own lives but those of your friends and neighbours. You are no longer alone living in an exciting erotic bubble.
This is why I thought Bishop Curry’s wedding sermon was inadequate. This is why I don’t trust Jayne Osanne and her Just Love slogan. That’s why I think love is the most inadequate word unless it’s attached to Bishop William Love who is a brave man.