The Greek Geek

Μένω: Abide

By S. Edgar

Today's tricky Greek word is meno. It's often translated in the New Testament as "abide", which makes it doubly confusing since "abide" isn't a word that's often used any more. Here are a few examples:

At the garden of Gethsemane Jesus addresses His disciples as He prepares to pray before being lead to be crucified:
Then He said to them, "My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, to death. [Meno] and watch."
Mark 14:34
In 1 John we are told:
Therefore let that [meno] in you which you heard from the beginning. If what you heard from the beginning [meno] in you, you also will [meno] in the Son and in the Father.
1 John 2:24
Meno has a number of different meanings. Each can give greater understanding.

It means physically to just stay where you are. It means also to continue to live, not die, to keep on keeping on. It can also mean to not change, to stay strong in one's resolve, remain in common purpose with others. It means to stay present, not just physically but mentally and spiritually. It means to survive unchanged.

Most of these are also different nuances of the English word "live". I can say, "I live", and it is understood that I'm not dead. I can say, "I live online" and it's understood that it is online where my imagination and attention are directed, where I feel most at home and where I prefer to be. I can say, "I choose to live in the moment," give my attention to what I'm doing right now, to the people and tasks who are physically with me at this time instead of checking my email on my phone or letting my mind drift to the thousands of things that I need to get done, I really need to do laundry, I have to pick up the living room, will the baby wake up before I finish typing this post? What's for dinner? Oops. Not living in the moment, sorry.

There's a subtle flavor that using "abide" gives us. Abide means not to just continue to exist but to continue to exist under adversity and unchanged. It gives the impression of being unable to change one's circumstances but clinging to hope, clinging to life, continuing on as things are, not knowing when or if they will ever change, but not letting the exterior circumstances change or touch you. A shipwrecked sailor, buffeted by constant storms, head down, huddled on a small spit of rock, uncertain of rescue, physically endangered but with an internal peace - he is abiding. Meno reflects this meaning.

Jesus asks His friends to be present with Him in the garden. To endure the coming storm, to not let their minds be distracted, but to wait with Him. They did not manage to do so and they left Him alone. They did not abide.

John tells us that if we let the Gospel that we have heard to live in us, if we give it our attention, if we allow it to have our energy, then we will live in Christ. We will endure, we will wait unchanged, we will be one with Him, showing His love to our brothers and sisters.

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Published 8-20-13