Ask A Pastor
By Rev. Howard J Self
Pastor – Zion UCC, Hoyleton
“What is a Christian’s response to all the instances of violence and terrorism in the United States and the world?”
A day that does not include one or more reports of acts of violence is a rarity of late. We are accosting and killing and maiming one another across the continent and around the world in, what seem to be, unheard-of, record numbers. Many municipalities are reporting dramatic increases in violent crimes, many of which involve the brutal mistreatment of people or the loss of life. Many of these violent crimes include the use of firearms, some of which have been legally obtained and others by some other means. There are many reasons given for the myriad acts of violence. I suggest that the absence of love in our encounters with one another is the primary reason. Instead of showing love in our interpersonal relationships – love as Jesus taught and embodied –we routinely seek to assign blame; we demonize the other who looks, lives, thinks, acts, or believes differently than we. We act violently in total disregard for Jesus’ words: “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another (John 13:34).
The word which Jesus used which, in our English language, translates as “love” is a derivative of the Greek Word “Agape.” Agape is the highest and purest form of love. Agape is the word that names and identifies the affection, care, concern, dedication, and devotion which God had and has for all that God has created. It is a way of living which always has the “other” in mind. It seeks the benefit and wellbeing of the other at all times and in all situations. It does not keep track of wrongs done or misbehaviors done. Rather, it always seeks ways in which to heal and make right, relationships which have been injured by such behaviors.
Throughout his life and ministry, Jesus always exemplified Agape. In all his interactions with the people whom he encountered in his earthly journey, Jesus embodied Agape. One day, when he was questioned by one of the Scribes who asked him to identify the greatest commandment, Jesus replied “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and the most important commandment. The second most important commandment is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as you love yourself.’” (Matthew 22:37b-39) Jesus said that “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35)
Jesus taught Agape; Commanded Agape; and embodied Agape. We, who identify ourselves as his disciples have a clear mandate to live in Agape – love. We are charged with living in love just as our Lord lived. I am convinced that therein lies the answer to the question which is the genesis for this writing, May everyone know that we are Jesus’ disciples by our love for one another.