Christian Meets Agape

Her name is Agape (pronounced ahGAHpay). Christian visited her in her lovely condominium complex at House Beautiful. A rare and beautiful woman, she lives up to her name, and is not to be confused with the voluptuous Eros. The latter does not belong in her book and is nowhere to be found there. According to Plato’s book Symposium, Eros is the offspring of Generation, and is goddess of Catamites and Sodomites, slaves and heads of State. But these two, Agape and Eros, are unrelated and total strangers to one another. Before she was born, Agape’s Father, in settling upon a suitable name for his child, looked through the book given by the Lord of the House and found that that name is purely of that book and that house, and although at one time appeared in the form Charity, as it its origin is found nowhere outside of that book or that house. It is a lovely name, “Born within the bosom of revealed religion . . . but there is no trace of it in any heathen writer whatever.” The work makes its first appearance in a divine Song of Love written by Agape’s ancestral father, Shelomoh, and translated by Alexandrians who had exactly the right idea of the love in this Song.
She asks him, “Have you a family? Are you a married man?” Christian is a pilgrim. He’s no dreamy idealist, nor self-inflated individualist, no religious gad-about, nor fugitive from house and home. His pilgrimage, so far from home, he makes, all the while at home. His journey is accomplished while hammering at his forge throughout the heat of the day, or while sitting under his own vine and fig tree of a summer’s evening. His path is in the line of the covenant, in the line of generations, within the family unit, and in harmony with family responsibilities. The first question made Christian feel himself an instance of a real miracle. For coming from the City of Destruction, he came from a birth and nativity, a family tree he no longer cares to remember. His father had been an Amorite, and his mother a Hittite. Also in that city he had been “educated” at the University of Eschropolis. Here Professor Prurient occupies the chair of Saint-Simonism. He introduced the Campus Clevers to a Campus Queen whom, He said, they should be delighted to know, was a Miss Social Science. Without her ideas, neither faculty, classes, sororities, no fraternities could boast their intellectual Brahmins and ivory-towered elite. From her, Campus Clevers soon came to learn that the world’s problems have their cure in Socialism, and that Socialism’s acute and chronic problem is the Adamic World. People are the problem. The trouble with people is the family. Get rid of the family, and people will evolve to Seraphic Level. The family is the source of all the ills of the race. In fact, the family is an enemy to the survival of the race. Associate Professor O. B. Scene, always in the company of the new Campus Oddity, parroted her line on and off campus. He succeeded, with not much effort, in convincing many of the Clevers that She was a product and invention of the university. But Christian knew her when she was a junior high school drop-out running around with a pack of Phrenologists and Spiritists. But she has been sneaked back into the university so incessantly, despite many ejections through the rear door and out the window, that now she was accepted as a permanent university mascot. With these thoughts running through his mind, Christian was joyfully reminded that he was now an adopted member of a great family, Prince Emanuel’s, and had a family of his own. He was further reminded that a true pilgrim is concerned for the souls of others, especially for those of his own family.
“Yes, I have a wife and four children,” he replied. “Then why did you not bring them along with you?” was Agape’s next pressing question. “For you must know,” she continued, “that it is a very poor testimony when one’s own flesh and blood are not exhorted to know the truth, follow the Lord, and warned against eternal hell. To excuse this neglect on the basis of God’s determining all things in His eternal decrees is absurd. No one uses such argument in earthly affairs. A man is diligent enough in earthly matters without thinking of whether he is ordained to success or failure. The real reason carnal men reject the gospel is because they can’t stand being strangers and pilgrims in this world.” To this Christian enthusiastically agreed, yet it made him weep, for he had to confess to going on pilgrimage.” But you should have endeavored to have shown them the danger of staying behind,” Agape insisted. “So I did, but I seemed to them as one what mocked.”
Christian was more like David than Lot. But his wife was more like Lot’s wife, to begin with, than the Lydia she turned out to be. “But did you tell them of your sorrow and fear of destruction? For I suppose that destruction was visible enough to you!” “Yes, over, and over, and over. They might also see my fears in my countenance, in my tears, and also in my trembling under the apprehension of the judgment that did hang over our heads.” Then Christian related how he had warmed them that the only cure for their sin-loving city was destruction by heaven-sent fires of judgment. His wife thought him, on this point, silly in the extreme. She often said, There are such great advantages living in the city. The place is so up-to-date, the people so modern, so full of life, so cultured. And we live so close to the center of the world’s cultural institutions, the beautiful University of Eschropolis. Really, dear, I can’t see why you, an alumnus, keep referring to the place as Orgiastica. The professors are so popular, so liberal. And our children need to grow up in an atmosphere (“miasma,” said Christian under his breath) of refinement, with social opportunities and advantages for broadening the mind; where they can mix with people, lose their backwoods, old fashioned, strait-laced ways, move to Superbia, and settle down after finding socially acceptable mates. Old style living was fine for the Dark Ages, when our forefathers were serfs and had to dress like gypsies. But why must we? We belong to a younger generation. We must live where we can study the latest fashions, move with the latest trends. Then, too, what’s wrong with our young people and their friends having a nice party and a dance once in a while? They can better enjoy such things openly here than to go running off on the sly to Aphroditopolis. So his wife used to argue, to turn him to her way of thinking. It’s like being dead, being sheltered from life, she’d say. To which her husband would quietly reply, “The love of the world is death.”
“So,” Christian went on, “my family went not on pilgrimage with me because my wife was afraid of losing this world, and my children were given to the foolish delights of youth.” Marriage and blood-ties are no guarantee of grace. It is possible to be wife of a saint, yet a daughter of Belial. Or to be a child of a prophet, yet come under the curse of the prophet’s God. What brought this household so close to ruin was not the Campus Queen Miss Social Science was “its narrow privacy and tawdry secrets, its little inward look upon itself, intensifying emotional stress between husband and wife, so making the world unfit for young people to live in,” no, but it was the wife and mother who was at fault. Her heart was glued to this world. All her desires and delights were in it. It’s a good thing her comfort was not in it (she could find comfort nowhere on earth), or her all and herself would have been consumed in the judgment which fell upon the City of Destruction.
Great care I’ve taken, Christian continued, to point my children to godly examples. Job’s ten children in their houses feasted together, each one in turn entertaining the others. This revealed a spirit of unity, and that they preferred one another’s company. Their festivities were in their own houses, with their own families, never in places of suspicious reputation. Such places, especially today, threaten the safety of body and mind, as well as soul. I can, no more than Job did, forbid my children these earthly enjoyment. For we may feast to the glory of God. In the days of Lot “they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they built.” These things in themselves are not wrong. Why, then, did the Lord rain fire and brimstone from heaven upon them and destroy them all? Because they did these things without Him; they ignored God, and absolutely refused the warnings of judgment. Yet Job’s children were not like those in the days of Lot. Job’s children were godly, as his “it may be my sons have sinned” imply. They were obedient children, respectful of their father’s concern for their spiritual welfare. They never accused him of being too strict with them, or of interfering with their lives. They never murmured against their parent’s conducting of family worship. They willingly concurred with the sacrifices of prayer, confession, repentance, praise and thanksgiving offered by their father. Yet they all died in one day, the worst of Job’s afflictions. Job was glad, then, that he had made those prayers and offered those sacrifices for his children. Believing that they did not go for nothing.
A man called the Last of the Puritans said, “Lot,” with his wide, “ought to have been more firm, more steadfast, more thorough. He had no business to have gone to Sodom. If he had said to his wife, ‘No, my wife, we belong to a chosen people. God called us out of Haran, and away from the gods of our fathers, that we might live a separate life, and here I am going to stop, and you must stop with me,’ she would have had to obey, or even if she had not done so, Lot was not to do evil to please his wife. She could not have learned the ways of Sodom – she might have given her heart still to the world, but she could not have been so clearly mixed up with it, and her daughters could not have been so ill-moralled as they were, if he had resolved to live apart from the town’s people. I believe that fathers and husbands ought to take the lead in the management of their families, and parents are bound to arrange their households after a godly fashion. . . . If Christian men leave their families to go anyhow they choose, they will soon find the Lord has a controversy with them; and if the children, and if the wife should after all perish, it will be a horrible thought for the head of the household, even if he be a saved man, that it was his ill example which caused their ruin. . . . Poor dear old Eli, he did not like to get into trouble with his sons by finding fault with them. But what did his softness cost him? The Lord smote his family because he had not ordered his household aright.”

Originally Published in:
Vol. 31 No. 3 May 1971