Thursday, February 26, 2004

As usual, I cannot pass up a chance to blog about love and relationships. In particular, a response to Jonathan's initiating question,
"What does it mean to be in love?"
And a corollary question of how does love in a dating relationship differ from all of our other relationships, since we are called to love everyone?

As we generally know now, the Greeks had four different words for "Love":
1. storge (storge), which describes a natural affection especially of a parent to his/her child;
2. philia (philia), which describes the love of a strong friendship;
3. eros (eros), which describes loves between the sexes, and which does not necessarily include sexuality;
4. agape (agape), which describes the self-giving love that only comes from God.

Although by no means an authoritative resource, I thought I would look to C.S. Lewis' The Four Loves to better understand Eros, which seems more the topic at hand. [On an aside, I found some sound recordings of C.S. Lewis himself on the topic (just an introduction). I thought this was kind of neat especially after hearing about Tolkien forming his character, Tree Beard, after C.S. Lewis' slow and booming lecture style.]

Interestingly, the Greek New Testament neither finds any instances of Storge nor Eros. Nonetheless, Lewis has demonstrated much insight into the human condition to warrant some investigation into his work. Lewis' bases for his essay, then, are much from his background of the Classics, Aristotle in particular, (since obviously the Greeks first used these different Greek words for love.) Of course, Lewis tempers these principles with God's Agape, which was a rarely used word until Jesus' time. [I apologize for the one-sidedness of the following discussion as I paraphrase Lewis, and he writes from a male perspective:]

Eros is that state which we call "being in love", or the kind of love which lovers are "in". Often, Eros sets on simply by a delighted pre-occupation with the Beloved - a general, unspecified pre-occupation with her in her totality. Eros makes a man want not only a woman, but one particular woman. Eros is fundamentally a "need-love", but changes intensively to the point that it sees the object most intensely as a thing admirable in herself, important far beyond her relation to the lover's need; Eros changes this need into a pure "appreciative-love". The distinction between giving and receiving is obliterated.

The event of falling in love is of such a nature that we are right to reject as intolerable the idea that it should be transitory. And contrary to common belief, Eros does not aim for happiness. It is the mark of Eros that when he is in us we had rather share unhappiness with the Beloved than be happy on any other terms. To be in love is both to intend and to promise lifelong fidelity. Total commitment, reckless disregard of happiness, transcendence of self-regard -- Eros almost speaks like God, like Love Himself.

And Eros, honoured without reservation and obeyed unconditionally, becomes a demon, where we can turn "being in love" into a sort of religion. The real danger appears to be that lovers will not idolise each other but that they will idolise Eros himself. A couple whose marriage will be endangered if they have idolised Eros -- they expected that mere feeling would do for them, and permanently, all that was necessary. When this expectations is disappointed they throw the blame on Eros, or, more usually, on their partners.

In reality, however, Eros, having made his gigantic promise and shown you in glimpses what its performance would be like, has "done his stuff". But it was we who must keep them. We must labour to bring our daily life into even closer accordance with what the glimpses have revealed. This is something all good lovers know, to "take the rough along with the smooth", etc. But of course this is not possible without humility, charity, and divine grace. Thus Eros, like the other loves, but more strikingly because of his strength, sweetness, terror and high port, reveals his true status. He cannot of himself be what, nevertheless, he must be if he is to remain Eros. He needs help; therefore needs to be ruled. The god dies or becomes a demon unless he obeys God.

Until next time, this is Gladys Yam.

Saturday, February 21, 2004

Your kingdom come, your will be done...
Fourth of a series from Urbana 2003.

For me, breaking out of self-comfort is difficult. I guess with adequate financial resources, I've never had any *need* to stretch myself by lowering my comfort level. But since Urbana, I have been a lot more conscious of thriftiness... For example I really try to bring my lunch to work more...

But this leads me to struggle with materialism a lot more... what level of comfort is not acceptable then? Is anything more than bare minimum considered be frivolous? Is it bad to buy a leather jacket since it is just for aesthetics? Or a brand name jacket? Besides, isn't the ability to enjoy earthly comforts a gift and blessing from God?

On one hand, these could be thoughts to rationalize my frivolous lifestyle. On the other hand, these are practical questions to consider...

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Your kingdom come, your will be done...
Third of a series from Urbana 2003.

On the evening of the first full day (Dec. 28), we were already confronted with a first decision point: Renounce your idols.

What defines your reality? Your family at home? Friends and classmates with whom you spend most of your time? The pursuit of success? The pursuit of happiness? The pursuit of peace?

If we let anything other than God define our reality, we practise idolatry. Wow. Quite a powerful challenge... I mean, "idolatry" is usually associated with tribal peoples or naive historic peoples... not me... but there isn't any more denying it...

Geri Rodman (a Torontonian!) described three broad arenas of idolatry, all relating to the strengh of the self:
1. Self-glory or self-fulfillment: to be noticed, praised, special, unique, accepted...
2. Self-comfort: complacency and lukewarmedness of following Christ's commands and challenges...
3. Self-empowerment or self-reliance: creating ourselves to be elitist and prideful...

If we are followers of Christ, then we *must* lay down our idols, and turn to the kingdom of God, which goes back to my previous point of single-minded obedience. God does not want anything less. But it is all worth it with his promises: "Strive for his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well" [Luke 12:31]. He promises much more than we can ever imagine.

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Your kingdom come, your will be done...
Second of a series from Urbana 2003.

Single-minded obedience. I just *had* to borrow this chapter title from Bonhoeffer's Cost of Discipleship because it exactly embodies what we were challenged with right off the bat.

At the first evening message (Dec. 27), Rev. John Stott prepared the challenging message of nonconformity. Specifically, there were three challenges:

1. Challenge of Pluralism - do we have different ideals for different situations/circumstances?
2. Challenge of Materilaism - how preoccupied are we with material things? Do we really look to things above?
3. Challenge of Relativism - do we recognize God for the sovereign Lord, the absolute truth?

The above concepts are increasingly prevalent in society today. However, as Christians, we are called to swim against the stream and to be different from the prevailing culture. But not only are God's commands negative (i.e., "do not ..."), he has a positive message as well: We are to be like Christ, and God helps us along with the Holy Spirit [2 Cor. 3:18].

I think at that point, I only took the message in to my head... not yet to heart. God wants to meet us alone. He will not take anything less than our everything, and at that point, I still had a number of barriers and struggles that hindered my meeting with God. Fortunately, the first seminar that I went to on the first full day was the prayer ministry, "Barriers to Intimacy with God", which allowed me to free myself from anger and bitterness that were likely attacks from Satan. I truly think that attending that prayer ministry opened the door to experience God like I never have before, and definitely, that remained with me at least for the remainder of the conference...

Sunday, February 08, 2004

I seem to just get these links from people, but this is another funny
video clip..., although not as funny as the DDR-like one, but still pretty impressive. =p It's also a nice practice of French. Note that it's slightly long... and does not end until his "Merci!" Haha, enjoy. =)

Until next time, this is Gladys Yam.