"Contempt" -- The Real Definition of Agape?

I am on a whole bunch of "reformed theology" and "emergent church" email groups, and read through the threads quickly each morning to see if anything useful or new comes my way. The posts are mostly written by pastors and full-time Christian workers of one sort or another, and so it is a convenient way of making sure I expose myself to more of "Christendom" than I get from my own congregation or from reading Christianity Today and Time and watching CNN.

My conclusion over 3 years is this: "Christian" has a whole bunch of meanings, even among those who would buy into my own definition of discipleship and share a place in the orthodox / evangelical world. People care passionately about what they believe to be true, and feel anger at those who claim to be Christians but believe things that seem to others to be outside the camp of sound belief or practice. And most of us are much more invested in "being right" than in obeying Jesus' words in all Jesus' words in John 13-16, summed up in these two verses: "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another." (John 13:34-35)

Recently a couple of blogs have been publishing satirical "posters" criticizing each other. They are funny, and if you want to see them all, go to these two blogs: Pyromaniacs and Verum Serum. (I will post a few of the better ones below, but full credit for them needs to go to the authors of the blogs I reference above.) But I wish I had time to create one of my own today! (Maybe someone out there has time to do the creative work for me?) It would have a picture of two angry men spewing words at each other, and the caption in bold "Contempt" and under it in smaller print "the real definition of "agape" in John 13:35" and then in smaller print the text of John 13:35.

(Thanks to John Sexton of Verum Serum for doing this for me in "penance" as a response to this post! Here it is:

Verum Serum)

Anyway, here are a few of the posters I do like, with credit underneath each to its source:

Verum Serum

Verum Serum

Verum Serum

Verum Serum



I like the creativity in all the posters above. I like hearing a passionate discussion of issues of theology and practice when the passion is focused on the issues and on all of us moving toward a better understanding of what is TRUE and of what obedience means. I wish we could all move away from showing contempt that is directed toward our brothers and sisters in Christ -- even when we feel they are way off in either their teaching or practice.

After all, if I am going to err in whom I consider to be a believer and in whom I consider to be "outside the camp", Jesus' words about the weeds growing among the crops until the harvest seem to apply.

And if I am going to err in showing agape love to too many people or too few, I say we let the agape we are to show our brothers and sisters pour out on some who may not be our brothers and sisters at the final judgment.

But if I am going to speak what I believe to be true, may I speak it. And may I let you contradict me openly when you believe I am in error. That is agape too, isn't it?

But perhaps we can remember that "contempt" is not in Paul's list of "the fruit of the Spirit" any more than it is in John 13-16 or in Matthew 5-7.

What do you think?


At Tuesday, September 11, 2007 at 4:57:00 PM PDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Honestly, I created the posters in response to the ones over at Pyromaniacs. They have something like 50 now and have been at it for some time. I made all 11 of mine in a couple hours.

I wasn't so much trying to win a debate over reformed vs. emergent as make a point about the Pyromaniacs' approach. In short, I thought if they were on the receiving end they wouldn't find it so amusing. No telling if that message got through but it was my point.

Anyway, I think your post is basically on target. So consider this my penance.

John Sexton
Verum Serum

PS - I'm here in HB. Hi!

At Tuesday, September 11, 2007 at 5:06:00 PM PDT, Blogger EmKay Anderson said...

I love your posters, John, and I especially love this new one! Thanks!

My words were not so much about your blog or even Pyromaniacs as they were about the general spirit I detect on all our blogs and on the email lists. My husband reminds me that men were raised to "talk trash" in sporting venues, and that it carries over to everything . . . but I'm not sure that doesn't just illustrate the point of this post.

I do enjoy your blog! Hope we run into each other somewhere in the SoCal walk after Him!


(And note that I took the liberty of editing my post to include your wonderful "Contempt" poster! Thanks again!)

At Wednesday, December 17, 2008 at 5:06:00 PM PST, Blogger Christopher T. McCarthy said...


I'm enjoying your blog! You may wish to check out my blog which offers insight into things related to counseling from a Biblical perspective. I just wrote something about contempt and that's how I found your sight. Blessings to you in the name of the Lord!
Chris McCarthy


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