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Christianity: Discipleship of Love & Sacrifice

Author: H.E. Bishop Bawai Soro

"This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."

John 13:35
H.E. Bishop Mar Bawai Soro

Ask Christians and non-Christians alike what they think it means to be Christian, and you would get many answers. To believe in Jesus Christ; to be baptized; to go to church; to read the Bible; to give to the poor; to be nice to others – these might be among their answers. All these concepts are related to what Jesus has said and done, but his followers should really be known mainly for one thing: to love one another. "This I command you: love one another". (John 15:17)

Jesus used the word love constantly in his teaching and ministry. Of the hundreds of commandments and laws observed by first century Jews, Jesus preached his great commandment of love as the summary of the whole Law and the Prophets: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. … [and] you shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no greater commandment than these." (Mark 12:29-31) But, such a love requires sacrifice, because this love has its roots in God, who "did not spare his own Son but handed him over for us" so that nothing can separate us from Christ's love. (cf. Roman 8:32, 39)

Jesus taught his disciples not just to love those who love them but to love their enemies and to "pray for those who persecute [them]." (Matthew 5:44) This radical doctrine included "do to others as you would have them do to you" (Luke 6:31), what we know commonly as the Golden Rule. "Even sinners love those who love them," Jesus said as he called his disciples to a more perfect love. (cf. Luke 6:32) He taught them to love as he loves, as his Father loves, and to be merciful as God is merciful. "Forgive and you will be forgiven." (Luke 6:37). In this sense, the mystery of salvation, of redemption, of mercy and forgiveness, of sacrifice, of repentance and of reconciliation is ultimately the mystery of love.

Everything about the Christian life has to do with the love of Jesus and the commandment of love that he taught his Church. "As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and remain in his love. … This is my commandment: love one another as I love you." (John 15:9-12) The kind of love Jesus describes includes obedience to God and sacrifice for one another. Jesus obeyed his Father's commandments, and he expects us to obey his commandments. Just as by their disobedience Adam and Eve failed to love God above all things, so by the obedience Jesus teaches we show our genuine love for God and one another.

Jesus also saw love as the heart of his mission of salvation, culminating in his sacrifice on the Cross and his resurrection. "No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends." (John 15:13) He knew that he would go to the Cross to take away the sins of the world, and he did so out of love. "You are my friends if you do what I command you." (John 15:14) Thus the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross, done out of love for the human family, calls his true disciples to that same radical love and sacrifice.

When we genuinely love someone, we feel alive only when we are around that person. It is exactly so with Jesus. As we confront our daily challenges, intimacy with Jesus becomes our best course of action. When we are close to him, it is easier to believe what we cannot prove and to accept what we cannot understand.If in the darkest moment we believe in Jesus' discipleship of love and sacrifice even the unbearable becomes bearable, and even in the darkness we can discern at least a glimmer of light. For the good of one's self, family, community and ultimately the whole world we must strive to overcome evil with love and sacrifice, since everything in life has its meaning from the love of Jesus that resides in the Christian heart and flows from it to others.

Publisher: The Chaldean Catholic Diocese of St. Peter the Apostle Website

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