In our men’s Bible Study this morning we were discussing 2 Peter 1:5-7 and the characteristics that support our faith. Peter strings together a long list:
For this very reason, you must make every effort to support your faith with goodness, and goodness with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with endurance, and endurance with godliness, and godliness with mutual affection, and mutual affection with love.
The list moves from faith to love. The Greek language of the New Testament had several different words for love: phileo, eros, storge, agape. In this list the last two characteristics both center on love: phileo and agape.
Phileo was a more common word for mutual affection.(Philadelphia, city of brotherly love, is named for this virtue). I imagine two friends working side-by-side to accomplish a task. An example might be offensive linemen on a football team, striving together in protect their quarterback. A strong team has a sense of phileo.
Agape was not a word used as much in Greek, prior to the New Testament. When 1 John 4:7 states “God is love,” the Greek word used is agape. C. S. Lewis in his book, The Four Loves, describes agape as Gift-love and is the unique domain of God. For God so loved that he gave, (John 3:16). The other loves (phileo, eros, storge) are Need-loves which are expressions of our human need for affection, friendship and intimacy. Lewis puts priority on agape, but sees the value in all the other loves as well.
After Bible Study I had a brief discussion with one of the men in the church lobby. He shared how he missed being at church last Sunday. I responded, “I bet you missed both what happened in there (pointing to the worship space) as well as what happen here (indicating the church lobby).” He nodded his head.
I have discovered (somewhat begrudgingly) that what draws many people into the congregation is not simply “great worship,” but also “great fellowship.” The opportunity to visit, talk, converse with friends and family after worship is as significant to them as what happens in the worship service itself. The mutual affection (phileo) is a critical part of Christian faith today. In other words, Lobby Love (phileo) can support Worship Love (agape).
This does not mean that Lobby Love can stand on its own. People would not come for the coffee fellowship alone. Church coffee is not as good as Starbucks. Good worship is a key component to good fellowship. It reminds us once again that we are God’s children, cherished by God and that reminder flows into the lobby after worship. We may not speak directly about the Bible text we read that morning, but our kindness towards one another can be a reflection of the loving kindness experienced in worship.
How vital is mutual affection to your faith and love?
Lord Jesus, guide me into deeper fellowship with my brothers and sisters
When I worship somewhere else, as a bit of a ‘stranger’, the entire experience can feel like ‘less’ because I miss the lobby love. Mutual affection is greatly appreciated when you experience its absence. For me, the lobby is a literal transition into worship and back into the world–a wonderful place to practice whatever I think I’m going to carry into the week.