Easter 6B -Let’s talk about love!


John 15:9-17

There are lots of events in the Thy Kingdom Come calendar

Lots of opportunities to pray and we read ‘The father will do whatever you ask in his name’

But what do you ask for?

What will you be praying for?


Well we might pray for a fulfilment of what Jesus has asked us to do in the passage we have just heard

‘This is my command – that you love one another as I have loved you’


What does he mean by love?

There are famously[1] four different Greek words for love.

The one John uses in this passage and most often used in the New Testament is Agape

  • Agape: the love of reciprocal relationships
    • based on the ancient rules of hospitality
    • I will entertain you on the basis that in the future I may need someone to entertain me
    • In the Old Testament we heard this exchange of covenants often repeated as ‘You will be my people and I will be your God’
    • in the New Testament the exchange is taken to another level – am unconditional level
      • God so loved the world, that he gave his only son
      • Greater love hath no one than this that he lay down his life for his friends

Agape is the normal word used for love in the New Testament – but we can see that the commandment to love takes in the other words and their meanings too

  • Philia: The love that comes from a positive disposition towards someone – the love that drives friendship
    • Hence ‘I do not call you slaves any longer – because slaves do not know the master – I call you friends’ – philoi
    • We know God through the life and teaching of Jesus Christ so our love can be Philia


  • Storge – the love between a parent and child – the natural, sacrificial, unconditional love which comes from a bond of ultimate intimacy even when not of one’s choosing
    • This was the love between Jesus and God as father and son, between Jesus and Mary.
    • It is the love that we share as Children of God
    • God loves us – is connected with us – because he made us


  • Eros – the physical passion which drives us from deep within

There has been lots in the news this week about sex addiction and there is a lot in the Christian tradition which sees physical love as lesser than the other loves – even that these physical acts are inherently bad

Indeed, love is more than sex, and not all sex is born of love

Any addiction is what happens when someone’s personal needs or desires become focused on a particular behaviour which satisfies them – but then it is not reciprocal, afiliative or creative

Eros is the creative love between people who are passionate about something

  • Love that is the life force within us – the desire to create together – the love that comes from being an incarnate, physical being – giving birth to a child or indeed to a project like our Church Extension plan
  • It is the creative drive which God shares with us
    • ‘Let us make human kind in our image’ (Genesis 1)
    • ‘And so God formed man from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life’ – pretty physical! (Genesis 2)
    • It is the same physical emotion which Jesus felt when he witnessed suffering – ot the blind, the lame, the poor, the bereaved – when his guts were twisted within him and he was moved to heal them.
    • Of course, it is also the divine fire of Pentecost

It can be seen that Love is relationship in all these ways

  • Reciprocal and sacrificial – Agape
  • Intimate – Storge
  • Love for who we are – Philia
  • Love that drives us to create or heal – Eros

The image of the Vine from last week makes the point that all of these loves are about connection – and are strengthened through connection to God through Jesus.

Do you have a problem with Jesus?

It seems odd to say that to Christians, but a lot of contemporary church leaders talk continually about ‘Jesus’ –  ‘meeting Jesus’, ‘knowing Jesus’, letting Jesus into your heart’.  We will hear a lot about that in the TKC Season.  Sometimes that leaves me feeling a little cold.

I have no doubt that some people have a personal relationship with Jesus such that they speak about Him as a personal friend or neighbour.  But if, like me, you struggle a little with that, then this is what I do.

I think: what is Jesus?  Jesus is the physical embodiment of the love of God for humanity.  Jesus is God and God is love

  • Reciprocal and sacrificial
  • Genuine and knowable
  • Intimate and incarnate
  • Creative and healing

And so when I hear someone talk about Jesus in this way:

  • Do you know Jesus
  • Have you met Jesus?
  • Have you let Jesus into your heart

Then I think – oh, you mean, ‘Do I know the love of God as revealed in Jesus Christ?’.

So I able to answer, yes I do know the love of God as revealed in Jesus Christ.  Yes I have met that in life!

Yes.  I have acknowledged that deep within me and it drives me, it motivates and sustains me

So – yes – I do know Jesus and so yes, I am a Christian (thank heavens for that!)

So what should we be praying for?  Thy Kingdom Come?

We should indeed be praying for people to meet Jesus and build up the kingdom in the way that I have described – through a relationship with the source of all love

More than this, I believe that we should all be praying for all our relationships

  • That they be:
    • Reciprocal and sacrificial – agape
    • Genuine and knowing- philia
    • Intimate and incarnate – storge
    • Creative and healing – eros

So that they bear fruit

There are lots of events in the Thy Kingdom Come calendar in the Parish:

  • Ascension Day service at the Lookout on Box Hill on Thursday
  • Beating the Bounds on 12th May
  • Prayer Event / Beacon Lighting on 19th
  • Pentecost event in Guildford on Sunday 20th
  • Daily Prayers – morning and evening each day of the Novena – the 9 days between Ascension and Pentecost

All of these are opportunities to deepen our relationships with God and one another

  • Beating the Bounds – we literally embrace the parish by walking around it – meeting people we don’t see in Church
  • The Ascension Day service – with our friends from the Benefice and our neighbours in the church of England from Dorking and Leatherhead
  • The Pentecost event in Guildford – our diocese – our bishops – our Cathedral
  • Our benefice Prayer Event / Beacon Lighting at St Mary’s – linking up with Christians throughout the UK and the world – also linking up with those first Christians in Jerusalem and the fire of Pentecost


  • Most importantly: in Daily Prayers:
    • Our time with God – together or alone
    • An opportunity to take the time to think about our relationships – especially the difficult ones – and how we can improve them

‘One commandment I give to you – as I have loved you, love one another.’

‘I chose you and appointed you that you bear Fruit’

Let us pray to the one who is the True Vine to help our relationships bear fruit.


[1] See “The Four Loves” by CS Lewis

Sermon given by Rev Christopher Hancock at St Mary’s Headley, 6th May, 2018.

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4 Responses to Easter 6B -Let’s talk about love!

  1. andrew.maccormack@yahoo.co.uk says:

    Chris Greetings from Lisbon Wonderful exposition on the four forms.

    Sent from my iPhone. Excuse the spelling and grammar.


  2. Glenys says:

    This is one of the best sermons I have ever read Chris, congratulations! I not only agree with all you say but it is embedded inside me. This is why when I am with people of different faiths, or in their holy places, Christ is always within me loving others. He came with me through India, and taught me love tolerance and understanding. He anchors me, and I am nothing without Him.
    You are doing a great job!!

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