A Vision of Agape

By Rev Fiona Bennett (From Seeds Issue 97 – September 2020)

From the Gospel of Mark, chapter 12:

One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”’

What does it mean for us to passionately commit to the wellbeing of our neighbour? What does it mean for us to passionately commit to our own

It might interest you to know that the Greek word for ‘love’ used in this passage is ‘agape’, which is the same word used for love in John 3:16 – ‘When God so loved (agaped) the world’ – and 1 Corinthian, 13 – ‘The greatest of these is love (agape)’. In his book, The Four Loves, C.S. Lewis defines agape as: a selfless love that is passionately committed to the wellbeing of others.

So, in this time of pandemic, what does it mean for us to passionately commit our whole selves to the wellbeing of God and how does this connect with our passionate commitment to the wellbeing of the earth?

Wellbeing is perhaps helpful to think about in the Hebrew term ‘Shalom’, which we translate as peace, but implies ‘wholeness’ in the sense of integrity, peace, completeness. To passionately commit to seeking this shalom wholeness for God, the earth, our neighbours and ourselves, are the greatest commandments.

This commitment is not to either God / earth / neighbour / self – all are interconnected as Martin Luther King described:

“caught in the inescapable web of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny”.

As we live through this time of pandemic, when life can seem so out of kilter, it can be helpful to remind ourselves of what is core, what is ‘most important’, as the teacher asked Jesus. It is to love, agape style, God, the
earth, others and self.

So, today, amidst crisis and celebrations nearby and far away, how will I passionately commit to the wellbeing / wholeness / peace of God, the earth, other and myself?

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