Faith of a mustard seed

Barbara A. Woods Washington, M. Div.

Barbara A. Woods Washington, M. Div.

“She stood behind him at his feet, weeping, and began to bathe his feet with her tears and to dry them with her hair. Then she continued kissing his feet and anointing them with the ointment.” Luke 7:38

Noteworthy is this act of ‘kissing his feet’— a thought that would never cross the mind of modern man. The thought of which for the modern child would bring great disgust— I’ve already seen ‘the head bobbin’ and the ‘the hand motion’ to the saying “I ain’t kissing nobody’s— feet!”

The word rendered ‘kissing’ here in this text is ‘katephilei’ a rarely used form of philos — (philosophy; Philadelphia). No better time to enter a discussion on the use of ‘love’ in the New Testament. For the sake of a new level of understanding, we are reminded by Kittel that there is no use of ‘eros’ (erotic love) in NT. The separation of ‘eros’ from ‘philos’ (both of which the English language translates into a single word ‘love’) is, I believe, a critical point for dialogue in all Biblical Studies. It would improve human relationships greatly— for “What the world needs now is (STILL) Love”, but PHILOS— untangled from the multi trillion dollar ‘eros’ industry. While visiting a former parishioner hospitalized in Atlanta this past week-end, I learned of a family friend who had been molesting his granddaughter. When his acts were discovered he ended his life with a gunshot to his head.

Philos/love’, then, is ‘to regard and treat somebody as one of one’s own people’; ‘natural attraction to those who belong’; ‘love for close relatives’. It is used for the love a parents to the child; and shifts from ‘that which belongs to that which is chosen.’ ‘The love of friends’. As when you hear persons who have strong marriages say “we were friends before we were lovers.”

In it’s earliest usage ‘katephilei/kissing’ is found only in reference to close relatives. Children are kissed by parents— an act of love so very personal that it is thought that ‘this transfer of breath’, the soul, inward ‘living fellowship’ is being set up for eternity. (The umbilical cord could never be broken!) Then, later for rulers as the element of respect and honor are added to love in the kiss. From the face to the hand to the feet as it becomes an act of homage. Subjects ‘bowed down prostrate’ to show love for kings and later in the Church to greet Popes. In this prostrate position subjects began to ‘kiss the feet’ to honor rulers.

It has been said that “there is no greater love than a man would lay down his life for a friend.” That this woman, judged a sinner, (labeled and thought of as ‘worthless’), could enter this hostile environment, (where the ‘back biting’ was being poured out in her hearing), and complete her mission— IS A GREATer LOVE! Her act of faith is seen by the Master and merits her a place in Biblical History with a pronouncement of peace— beyond measure!

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