2013-09-01 message

Post date: Sep 17, 2013 7:30:25 PM

The next element of St. Paul’s description of love can be a bit tricky. It has been translated as “love does not behave rudely” or “does not dishonor others.” The Greek expression is “οὐκ ἀσχημονεῖ.” The verb ἀσχημονέω is translated as to “behave unseemly, disgrace oneself.” The King James translation does indeed translate this as “love doeth not behave itself unseemly.” Few, if any, of the modern translations retain this nuance, and I am afraid that we lose something important in translation here.

The idea of dishonor implies a significant offense. The first definition of the word ‘rude’ is “discourteous or impolite, especially in a deliberate way.” Likewise, the first definition of the word ‘unseemly’ is “not in keeping with established standards of taste or proper form.” Because of this difference in nuance, it seems to me that the standard of love is lowered when we simply try not to dishonor or not be rude. The goal of Christian love is to live within the established standards of Orthodox Christian behavior. It is, if I may put it this way, the difference between being our brother’s keeper (as Cain was not in Genesis 4), and acting without any specific consideration for those around us.

I should specify that I am speaking here of Orthodox Christian behavior because of several examples from outside of Orthodoxy where behavior that should not be considered Christian is endorsed either officially by churches, or by high-ranking clergy. One recent example is the Archbishop of York, the second-highest cleric in the Church of England, effectively endorsing the out-of-wedlock cohabitation of Prince William and future bride Kate by saying that nowadays people “want to test the milk before they buy the cow.”

To end, let us consider an example of the difference between being rude and being unseemly. I have had several unrelated opportunities recently to read about or discuss the topic of clothing and its effects on others. It seems to me that today very little in the form of clothing is considered rude. However, we pray God to “lead us not into temptation.” It is therefore seemly for a Christian to consider whether the manner of his or her clothing would lead others into temptation, keeping in mind that thoughts do not need to become action in order to be sin.

May we always consider our actions and choose that which is according to true Christian love.

With love in Christ,

+Fr. Peter