A Love Ethic for OKWU Professors
Sammy Davis Jr. For those of you who may be among our younger faculty, Sammy Davis was a very popular African American actor, singer, dancer, stand-up comedian, and part of the famous Rat Pack in the 1950s-1970s. Those were not only important years for Hollywood but also for the American civil rights movement. Davis was a Christian … until 1960 when he converted to Judaism. “As I see it the difference is that the Christian religion preaches Love thy neighbor and the Jewish religion preaches justice, and I think justice is the big thing we need” (TIME). Davis felt like Christians did not practice the “love” they preached but Jews did practice the justice they preached. Sammy Davis Jr. had certainly felt the sting of the civil rights movement by Christians who preached love.
So, that brings us to February, the month of Love and Saint Valentines Day. If the myths are to be believed, this must be a Christian holiday; after all, there are numerous churches built in honor of numerous martyrs all named St Valentine. If you go to Rome, you can actually see his skull, properly adorned with flowers, in the Basilica of Santa Mariain Cosmedin. But, if you travel to England you can actually see his preserved head in the abbey of New Minster in Winchester. I guess you could say he must have been double-minded. When it comes right down to it, I suspect it’s more of a Hallmark holiday than a Christian one.
But love, on the other hand, is Christian. In fact, Christianity is the only world religion built on love, Agape Love. The key that unlocks for us the mystery of the personality of God is found in John 4:8, “God is love.” The grammar there is indisputable; it’s not that God is loving, neither is it that love is God. GOD IS LOVE. That verse is the axiom that the entire Bible finds its fulfillment and interpretation in and by.
In Scripture, the filling of the Spirit is demonstrated in Christians by the Fruit of the Spirit. There’s no fruit if there’s no root. Paul puts it this way, “22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-23, NIV).
WARNING: For those who get a headache when thinking about Greek to English grammar, I suggest you get a bottle of Excedrin, or better yet, just skip the next brief paragraph.
The “fruit” of the Spirit is a single thing: LOVE. A person who is unloving is not being led or filled by the Spirit. That one fruit (love) is described by 8 words, “joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control.” Years ago, I struggled with this passage for a long-time. It got so complex that I wanted to pull my hair out (which partly explains my current condition). There are not 9 fruits of the Spirit. In the Greek, unlike the English, the word fruit can be easily distinguished between the plural and singular. The Greek uses the singular word for fruit, and this is confirmed by the Greek verb here which goes with the singular subject. The excruciating problem is not whether the fruit is singular or plural… it is singular. The question is, is it a singular “collective” noun. To make matters worse, British English and American English differ here.
Now back to the subject of Love, Valentine’s Day, and OKWU Faculty. The Beatles had it right, “All You Need Is Love.” And the definition for Love in the Bible is not up for grabs. Fortunately, the Greek word for love is much more specific than the English word. I love my wife and I love buttermilk. You can’t do that in the Greek language. In scripture, love is thoroughly defined in many places, including Galatians 5, I Corinthians 13, and numerous other passages. When I used to do counseling, I based all of my counseling out of 1 Corinthians 13. In my mind, all psychotherapy (by the way, the word, “therapy” comes from the Greek word for “healing,” therapeia) finds its “best” in 1 Corinthians 13.
The thought occurs to me that the very definition of a what a good instructor (or you can fill in the blank here with “husband,” “wife,” “employee” or whatever) finds its ultimate meaning in those 8 words: joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. There’s more to being filled with the Spirit than just speaking in tongues. Love is the final test.
You’ve heard of spiritual gifts tests? What about a psychometric that deals with the fruit of the Spirit which is love. In fact, that’s really a cool thought. I almost said groovy but I realize that would give away my age. How about a personality test to show how LOVING a person is?
In Scripture, Love is the Ultimate Ethic. Agape love is strong enough to carry the weight of any moral dilemma. Augustine in his Enchiridion of Faith, Hope, and Love, demonstrates that love provides both the final definition of the nature of God and the foundation for all Christian ethics. Love is not just one virtue among many, or one principle among many it is THE BENCHMARK for all Christians. Love is the hinge principle upon which all other virtues hang. As instructors in a university that carries the banner of Christ, it is our “mark of the High Calling.”
The famed poet Percy Shelley put it like this “The great secret of morals is Love” (p. 32). And even better than that, the Apostle Paul said, “For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Galatians 5:14, NIV).
We’re blessed to teach at a university that is motivated by this ethics of Love.
Bell, T (2008). The love ethic: Rediscovering our moral compass. Orlando, FL, Advantage
Elson, J. T. (1960, February 1). Jewish Negro. Time.
McGill, F.N. (1963). Masterpieces of christian literature. New York. Salem Press.
Shelley, P.B. (2010). In defense of poetry and other essays. Whitefish, MT: Kessinger Publishing, LLC,.