Who doesn’t want to be called a special name by one’s beau? I have not encountered a couple who doesn’t have nicknames for each other. Here are some of the terms of endearment (TOE) I’ve heard used:
- Honey – oh such a sweet, syrupy nickname for a loved one.
- Baby – everyone wants to be babied. Calling one’s SO “baby” connotes TLC.
- Sweetheart – the most classic term of endearment. I remember finding a “chattering” heart my Dad once gave to my Mom, the box had “For my sweetheart” lettered in front of it.
- Darling – another classic term. One that I can’t imagine myself being called (my hair’s now standing on end)! But, still commonly used.
- Dear – “Coffee na lang dear,” remember that TV commercial?
- Love – I’ve caught some friends calling their beaus “love”. It is not commonly used in public though and normally used in private.
- Mom/Dad/Mama/Papa – this term is normally used either by married couples or couples that have been together for a long time already.
- Mahal/Pangga – the ultimate kilig TOE. I think I’m going to hyperventilate if someone uses this on me. It is my personal opinion that this is THE Ultimate TOE because it is very Pinoy and I believe when someone tells you “Mahal kita” it really comes from the heart. Why? Because you are Filipino! If you are, you’d understand what I’m trying to say.
Filipinos have different terms of endearment. With the growth of Christian churches in the Philippines, new terms of endearment have been extended to the community like “Tatay” or “Father,” “Nanay” or “Mother,” and other English terms have been adopted by the Filipino language like “Bro” and “Brad” or “Brother,” and “Sis” or “Sister.”
One of the most striking and remarkable features of Paul’s letter to Philemon is the use of what we might call “terms of endearment.” While it might be easy to gloss over these terms with a quick reading of the letter, their use genuinely reflect how Paul thinks and feels about these people to whom he is writing. When we begin to really notice these terms of endearment in Philemon, we also begin to realize the prominence of similar language in all of Paul’s epistles. It is no “fluke” or “put-on” for the Apostle Paul. What we see in his choice of words in addressing these friends is a reflection of what is truly in his heart. Consider briefly just the terms of endearment used in this letter to Philemon:
Partner, Brother, Beloved friend, Fellow laborer, Beloved, Fellow soldier, My own heart (in reference to Onesimus), Beloved brother.
However, Paul has little distance in relationship with his friends in the churches. The terms of endearment tell us at least a couple of things about his relationship with them. It speaks of an ongoing relationship with these people. The use of terms of affection in addressing someone normally suggests that it is someone we have known and with whom we have built some degree of relationship. Many of us never use such affectionate words like those that Paul uses toward people. We especially would never use them with people we have just met or do not know very well. This is a hallmark of Paul’s ministry. He is no “hit and run” apostle. For Paul, it is not merely about delivering a message. It is about living out that message in real life and discipling others who can live out and proclaim that message. Paul knew what He was learning from His Lord, Jesus Christ: That discipleship and lasting faith take place only in the context of ongoing relationship.This is why Paul writes such things as 1 Thessalonians 2:8: “So affectionately longing for you, we were well pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God, but also our own lives because you had become dear to us.” Paul’s warm references to these brothers and sisters indicate a commitment to long term relationship with them. Paul writes in other epistles about running a race. He certainly views the race as something that they are running together.
Where did Paul learn such a culture? This culture of affection was something Paul was learning because it is what he was born into in Jesus Christ — or what was born into him! It is the culture of the Trinity itself — the atmosphere that exists between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. If language is the clear indication of this, then we clearly see it in the way in which Jesus and the Father speak to and of one another. Consider the following verses of scripture:
• “And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, ‘This is My BELOVED Son, in whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17)
• “Behold, My Servant whom I have chosen, My BELOVED in whom my soul is well pleased!” (Matthew 12:18)
• “While He was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them; and suddenly a voice came out of the cloud, saying, ‘This is my BELOVED Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!’” (Matthew 17:5)
• “And He said, ‘ABBA [term of great affection], Father, all things are possible for You.” (Mark 14:36)
What we see in these verses is a language of affection that expresses an incomprehensible love between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The three members of the Trinity have a deep and tender care for one another, and it cannot help but come out in the language that they utilize in speaking. This love and care is not something that they “do,” but what they “are.” The language merely gives us a glimpse into the very atmosphere and culture that exists in and around God.
When we consider all the terms of endearment that Paul uses in just this letter to Philemon, there is something striking about it. It is not only how Paul feels about the people in Colossae and how the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit feel about one another. We find, as we read the New Testament, that this is how God feels about us! To God, we are:
• Beloved sons and daughters of God
• Brothers and sisters of Jesus, the Firstborn, and joint heirs with Him
• Friends of God
• Fellow laborers and soldiers in His kingdom
• His own heart
It is amazing and moving to consider that this is how God sees and feels about us when we are born again and adopted into His family.