Opinions

Agape (God’s love)*

739994_10200500514899480_1338136197_oTHE United States is an exception when it comes to religiosity. Normally, only citizens of poor countries consider religion important in their lives but this North American nation surprisingly bucks this trend. According to a 2009 Gallup survey, 65 percent of the people here considered religion important in their lives. Nevertheless, despite this surprising find, holy week here is observed with definitely much less fervor than it is in our country.

It is in the mainly Filipino and Hispanic communities here that Holy Week is observed with devotion perhaps this is due to the Spanish legacy in our respective nations psyche. Filipinos and Hispanics would flock to the different Christian churches beginning Holy Thursday up to Easter Sunday either to meditate or reenact the Passion of Christ albeit without the practice of self flagellation or crucifixion common in our Central Luzon provinces.

Those who are lucky enough to be free during Good Friday and Black Saturday used these days to bond with family members or perform the Seven Churches Visitation (Visita Iglesia). Easter Sunday, meanwhile, is definitely fun day for the family. Holy week, in my case, was mostly spent in introspection so kindly bear with me.

I felt that the Passion of Christ is a not so subtle reminder about the suffering of God’s people because of sin. The resurrection, on the other hand, is symbolic of our undying hope for the eventuality of liberation from sin.

But what is sin? The First Book of John defines it as a transgression of God’s law. What is God’s law? Well, unlike human laws, which are meant to control behavior and regulate society, God’s law is a blueprint on how to bring his kingdom here on Earth.

Yes, the kingdom is already in existence otherwise there is nothing to come and be done “here on Earth as it is in heaven.” The coming of the kingdom was the promise Jesus made when he taught us the Lord’s Prayer. He even taught us as recorded in the Book of Matthew how to bring it on Earth by just doing two things…loving God with all our heart, soul and mind; and our neighbor as we do ourselves.

The two new commandments condensed the Laws of Moses, specifically the Ten Commandments. They are centered on agape (pronounced as a-ga’-pe), which is a Greek word commonly used in the New Testament to define and describe God’s love. It is different from “phileo,” a Greek word for human emotion based love that we are more familiar with.

Since we are created in the image of God it is reasonable to presume that we are capable of giving and experiencing agape. St. Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians described agape as something patient, kind, truthful, unselfish, trusting, believing, hopeful, and enduring. It is not jealous, boastful, arrogant, rude, selfish, or angry.

The absence of agape in our hearts made us prone to violating God’s law. It slowly paved the way for the abuse of power, inequality, domination of all humanity and the environment. It led to the reign of ignorance over reason and the destruction of life.

Sins are what caused our political leaders to setup dynasties to satisfy their hunger for power. It is the reason why soldiers, policemen, paramilitary groups, rebels and the common criminals act with impunity against their fellows; the entrepreneurs, especially those from the top 40 families of our country, to be greedy; the real estate developers, wealthy miners and timber concessionaires to be land grabbers and barons of environmental destruction.

The transgression of God’s laws caused law practitioners to twist human law in favor of the rich and powerful. It made the legislators and those in the executive offices the violators of the laws of the land and the workplace manager the principal oppressors of the common worker. It led the religious to violate their vows and support an unjust status quo. The list is endless.

The sins of our leaders and our tolerance of their transgressions as a people of God (which itself is a transgression of God’s laws) led to our poverty, national shame and loss of identity. It led us to near perpetual darkness that made it almost impossible to bring God’s kingdom here on Earth. I tell you that day of deliverance as promised in the good book will not come until we get rid of sin through agape. Unless we change, it might as well be hell that would descend on Earth and not God’s kingdom.

It is not enough to piously pray and all the while do nothing to end the transgressions. We have to act as our faith requires us to do so. The Book of Matthew clearly advocated action to accomplish our Christian goals. “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”

I pray that the preceding holy week lead us to a new life full of agape that we may be instrumental in bringing God’s kingdom here on Earth and the resurrection and liberation that we are all waiting for.

 

*The opinion of this author is his alone. It is not necessarily the views of Beyond Deadlines.

Nelson Flores, J.D., MSCK
A former reporter of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Manila Standard Today, and a regular columnist of the Metro Manila based daily tabloid newspaper Hataw; Nelson Flores is also the former Senior Associate Editor of the Houston based Fil-Am Press and former anchor of dzXL and dzRJ's weekend talk show Usaping Bayan. Mr. Flores has a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and Law degrees from the University of Santo Tomas and Adamson University and a holder of a study certificate from the Diocesan House of Studies, Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI). He is a Freemason and member of Reagan Lodge 1037 in Houston Heights under the jurisdiction of the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Texas and a member of the Missionary Society of Christ the King (MSCK).

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