A New Commandment: A Reflection in the Context of COVID-19
Jesus emptied himself and became nothing for the salvation of the world. We can enjoy this supreme bliss as human beings.The need of the hour is to develop agape love in the context of Covid-19.
“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you". John 15:12 (ESV)
Towards the end of his earthly ministry, Jesus gave a new commandment and asked his disciples to love one another. As you know in many religions, the believers are expected to love one another. Then what is new in this commandment?
The clue to the answer of this question is given in the next verse in the text. Jesus said the greatest love is to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. What is this love that Jesus is talking about?
In his society there were at least four words for different aspects of love. The word philia was used to denote love between friends. For instance, the word philosophy is a combination of two Greek words. Philia is love and Sophia is wisdom – therefore, Philosophy means love for wisdom. This philia love is the affection between friends. Often feelings and emotions are involved in this kind of love. This is the bond of keeping the relationship of friendship.
Then the love between men and women is called eros. From this word, we get the English word erotic. This is the sexual love that attracts men and women to each other. This love keeps men and women together.
Then there is another which is not very much used in the New Testament. This is storge – which means family love. This love is between parents and children and among children themselves.
Jesus is mainly talking about another kind of love called Agape. In a way, this agape love embraces the other three forms of Love. Agape love is the self-giving love - love that does not expect anything in return.
In the other three forms of love, we expect something in return. This love is among friends, among men and women and in a family - we love each other and we expect others to show us love in return.
But the agape love does not expect this. Also agape love is always active. For instance, when God so loved the world He gave us His Son to redeem the world.
Agape love is never passive but always active. This love is not selfish and self-centered. It does not expect glory. That’s why Jesus said when you give from one hand, don’t let your other hand know what you have done.
We cannot have God’s love if we don’t show that love in action. This is the prerequisite. This is essential. It is written in the first epistle of John that if we say we love God and hate our brothers, we are liars.
We cannot possess or cling on to this love because that is selfish. We need to develop this love. This love always allows for the growth of others by emptying ourselves.
Now you may be thinking that it is impossible to find this kind of love in the world. No, this is possible. Think of a person like Mother Teresa of Kolkata, India. She did everything possible to look after the poor and destitute people without expecting anything in return. She even made arrangements to continue this ministry even after her death.
The supreme example of this love is described in the second chapter of the letter to the Philippians. It says although Jesus had the nature of God he emptied himself and became nothing for the salvation of the world.
This is the supreme bliss that we can enjoy as human beings... to develop agape love.
This is the need of the hour in the context of Covid-19.
This is the new commandment that Jesus gives us – Love one another as he has loved us.
Rt. Rev'd Keerthisiri Fernando is the Bishop of Kurunegala in the Diocese of Kurunegala, Church of Ceylon, Sri Lanka
Photo by Emmanuel Phaeton on Unsplash