LOVE, THE SOUL OF CHRISTIANITY
We are not Christians by name.- Father Gabriel Amolegbe
The life Christ lived during His earthly ministry still seems foolish to many Christians and non-Christians. Many people, during His earthly ministry, from the teachers of the Law (Pharisees and Scribes) down to the ‘ordinary’ people, could not comprehend or relate with His ideology of relationships, man with man and man with God. His teachings and lifestyle were sometimes in line with what they already knew and some other times completely opposed to what they had inherited from their patriarchs. Today, many who hold the bible or have read it back and forth, as well as those who merely enter the church daily or claim Christianity as their religion, also struggle to comprehend or completely accept Christ’s message, lifestyle or expectation of them.
Christ’s message was hinged on love for all – friends, relatives and neighbours, and enemies. He preached about it boldly in public and in private and then practised it scandalously before their very eyes. He taught them the possibility of this ideal, and godly but strange way of life. He associated with sinners, ate with the rejected in society and prayed for mercy upon those who scourged and crucified Him.
Christ’s love was for all – the sinners, the righteous, the living and the unborn. This is the life of the Christian: love for all. Love is the soul of Christianity. Love is the foundation and totality of Christianity. This truth was rejected by many in the past and the present, even by many acclaimed Christians. Why? It is difficult for humans to love especially their enemies, competitors, oppressors and the likes. Just like some during Christs ministry, we conclude that this is a difficult teaching (see John 6:60); it is unacceptable to love those who wronged us!
In one of his homilies, Father Gabriel Amolegbe said, We are not Christians by name.” We are Christians by our way of life. Our actions must have the salt of love. Every action performed without love is vain.
Apostle Paul made this clear in his first letter to the Corinthians: If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing (1Corinthians 13:1-3 NRSV).
This is an unconventional and disturbing message or revelation for many of us. Still, love is the soul of Christianity and our way of life. It is the nature of everyone at birth because we are created in the image and likeness of God who is love (see 1 John 4:8). It is the responsibility bestowed on everyone: love one another as I have loved you (see John 13:34). Our final judgment will be based on love (see Matthew 25:31-46).
When we have this understanding that our nature, responsibility and judgment revolve around love, then we will begin to practise it. Life is a journey, a race to claim an eternal prize. The length of this journey is not the same for everyone. Each one has an allotted distance to run and then claim his/her prize. The race is not really about who gets there first, or how many people you oppressed, suppressed, ignored, walked by, rode on, trampled on and overtook to get there. No! The race is about how many people you helped on your way to the finishing line. The race is a heavenly race, not an earthly one. So put the earthly standard behind you and work by the heavenly standard – love for all.
Therefore, as we study and hear the Word of God, let us put it into practice, because the “Word is Jesus Christ Himself and we encounter the Word in those who reflect Him, who show the face of God and who reflect His mildness, His humility of heart, His simplicity, His affection and His sincerity” said Pope Benedict the XVI.
These virtues reflect love which is domiciled in the hearts of men and women, old and young. You will agree with Pope Francis that, “The ability of warming hearts doesn’t come from books, it comes from the heart!” Therefore, let the love of God built in your heart overflow to your relatives, friends, and neighbours, including those you tag enemies. How? Share your food, time, clothing and joy with them; comfort the mournful, forgive those who wrong you and pray for their conversion; accommodate one another and practise justice.
Do you believe in Christs new commandment – love for all? Do you practice it with reservations or wholeheartedly?
Christ Jesus, Your love for mankind knows no bounds. It flows to all the good and the bad to cleanse and to reunite us into a family where love will direct our actions and reactions towards one another. Lord, grant us the grace to love one another including those who hurt us deeply. Amen.
Jesus Christ Speaks
I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13:34-35 NRSV).