Jon Batiste, C.S. Lewis, and Love


american-singer-jon-batiste-with-his-keyboard-1530092302Jon Batiste is a musician from Kenner, Lousiana. (You drive by it on the way from Louis Armstrong Airport, if you are headed into New Orleans.) He grew up in a musical family, and also seems to be a deeply spiritual person. It comes through in his music, and even in the name of his band, which is Stay Human- he named it that to remind himself and his bandmates that human interaction during a live musical performance can uplift humanity in the midst of the “plug in/tune out” nature of modern society. He believes in using music to connect people, bring them together. He often organizes free street performances that he calls “love riots”.

He’s become quite famous, largely because of his role as the music director on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. A few years ago, my son and I got to meet him, and his whole band, after a concert. He was quite kind to my son, who at the time was learning to play the melodica, which Jon Batiste also plays. I think it comes through in the video, that Jon Batiste loves what he does, and that he’s pouring love out. His song “Let God Lead” is a great rendering of 1st Corinthians 13.

We begin to succeed
when the cares of our lives
begin and end
with the hurt of others

We begin to breathe
when the wounds of others
become relieved
with the love of others

 He who looks around and finds who’s in need
has made the best investment as a human being

 He who looks around to find who’s in need
has made the best investment in his legacy

 I say that love will never force,
love will never quit,
love ain’t never lose
love ain’t never miss

 Of all things lasting there remains only three
what money can’t buy only these will succeed
faith hope and love,

but the greatest of these
is love

 so here is a formula for a real hard situation,
just let God and let love
lead the way

Let love lead
Let God lead

Can love strut (no way)
can love destroy (no way
can love belittle (no way no)
can love pose
can love be proud
can love rejoice with a mother’s pride
love stands up when other’s won’t
love prevails without want
love puts up with anything
God is love and love is God

Let God Lead video

Love is a word we hear a lot, maybe a little more than usual around Valentine’s Day. I think it’s an important word, that deserves some caring attention.

Christians get a lot of ideas about how to love, from the New Testament. The New Testament we read is a translation, based on earlier texts, the oldest of which were written in an ancient form of Greek called Koine’.

The first translations were from Koine’ into Latin, which became the official language of the Roman Catholic church. Much later on, the Bible began to be translated into languages spoke by ordinary people.

The first English translations appeared early in the 17th century. Translation is far from an exact science. Anyone who speaks more than one language can tell you that it can be challenging to find a word in one language, that is close enough, to the word or idea you were thinking, in another language.

The translators struggled, and did the best they could, and sometimes took shortcuts, and over-simplified things, in their efforts to create a clear, readable English version.

The original versions of the New Testament used at least 4 different words, that were all translated to the English word “Love”.

C.S. Lewis, was a British writer well known for the Chronicles of Narnia. He was a respected academic and lecturer at Oxford and Cambridge, and good friends with JRR Tolkien, who wrote The Lord of the Rings.

the four loves bookIn the late 1950’s Lewis wrote a series of lectures for the BBC called The Four Loves. They were popular in Great Britain, but thought of as too risque’ for the United States, because in them he dared to discuss human sexuality.

The four words that were all translated into English as the word “love”, are: Storge, Phileo, Eros, and Agape.

Storge, or Affection, is the most simple of the loves. We can have affection for a thing, or enjoy a particular flavor of ice cream, or get engrossed in a tv show, or take up collecting a certain thing. This kind of love might be the starting place for the other kids of love. At its best, this kind of love awakens us to what we like, what we appreciate in the world, and in people. Taken to an extreme- the love of things for their own sake can be an unhealthy replacement for the deeper kinds of love, and result in hoarding, or obsessive collecting.

Phileo, or friendship is what it sounds like, the love of affiliation. Friendship may arise if we spend time with someone with whom we share similar interests or concerns, passions, or commitments. Friendship can grow into genuine appreciation for, and concern about another person, but it has its roots in what we have in common.

Eros is the kind of love some Americans did not want C.S. Lewis to talk about on the radio. It is love with the added energy of sexual attraction. The positive expression of this is the desire to bring joy and happiness to another person. Erotic attraction can be the gateway that leads to a real partnership between people. The immature expression of this kind of love can result in objectification, in which possessing the person feels like the goal. This unhealthy kind of erotic attraction often has little to do with the actual person, but only an illusion of them, or what fantasy they seem to fulfill.

Agape is considered by Lewis, and many others, to be the highest, most unselfish of the loves. In the King James Version of the passage from 1st Corinthians 13, where we read “Faith, Hope, and Love, and the greatest of these is love”, the text uses the word Charity. Faith, Hope and Charity. Charity in the old-fashioned sense is about giving without expecting reward- not even a tax receipt.

C.S. Lewis thought that of the 4 loves, Agape was the one that went most against human nature. Where Affection, Friendship and Erotic Love all contain a component of there being something in it for me, Agape love is totally about giving. It gives all, and expects nothing, asks for nothing in return.

This is the kind of love considered to be the most like the way God loves us- without condition, and with total generosity. This is a love that risks everything, and does not count the costs. It is also, paradoxically, what makes us the best we can be. It is not about how we feel, but about the kind of person we choose to be. C.S. Lewis said it like this:

The rule for all of us is perfectly simple.  Do not waste time bothering whether you “love” your neighbor; act as if you did.  As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets.  When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love them.  If you injure someone you dislike, you will find yourself disliking them more.  If you do them a good turn, you will find yourself disliking them less.

Jon Batiste sang it this way:

He who looks around and finds who’s in need
has made the best investment as a human being

 He who looks around to find who’s in need
has made the best investment in his legacy.