Welcome to 2024. All glory to the Lord God Almighty who has kept us alive that His breath in our lungs may burst out continually with the declaration of praises to Him as we journey through the year.
We are inspired to continue our reflection on compassion this year because the Lord was not done with us in 2023 on the theme. Hence, Part B of the contemplation – Commissioned.
The biblical account of the encounter of “an expert in the law” with Jesus as documented in Lk. 10:25-37 is very intriguing. The lawyer was in the crowd around and at some point, stood up (as if in a law court) to test Jesus on His view about the requirements for inheriting eternal life. The lawyer’s question is profound and incisive. There is no gainsaying that many people in our day are still asking the same question, albeit in different ways.
Two distinct but inseparable motifs, which paint a picture of Christian mission came to light on that occasion – Command and Commission. Jesus prodded the lawyer about what the law says, and his response was precise: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and, love your neighbor as yourself,” termed by Steven Hawthorne as “the Great Commandment.”
The Great Commandment can be depicted by the imagery of the Cross. Its vertical component represents love for God, and the horizontal, love for humanity. The latter is not independent of the former. The vertical component stands and carries the horizontal, otherwise it ends up floating in the air. This means love for humanity cannot sustain itself but hangs on love for God, to realize its divine objective of meeting human needs.
What does this look like in practical terms? The world around us is hurting. We also hurt in one way or the other. However, our experience of the soothing balm that results from our being with Jesus energizes us to reach out to the myriad of neighbours that cross our path. The world can experience His comfort through us with the same comfort that we have been comforted. Those we cannot reach physically can be touched by proxy through our involvement in His mission with our continuing prayer and/or giving to impact our world.
When Jesus told the lawyer, “Go and do likewise” (Lk. 10:37b), He was charging us to first love the Lord our God with the totality of our being (heart, soul, strength, and mind) as the pre-condition for our commissioning. According to Steven Hawthorne, “The greatest way of loving our Lord is to see that He is worshiped, followed, and loved in every people.” (Perspectives on the World Christian Movement by Ralph D. Winter, Steven C. Hawthorne) To see this happen, we must reach out to the world, setting aside our biases of race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, and other prejudices. It is His unalloyed love for humanity, expressed sincerely through us as demonstrated in the parable of the Good Samaritan that attracts the world to also worship the One who sits on the throne and the Lamb.
You are commissioned to demonstrate the love of Jesus Christ to the world around you.
Isaiah Okanlawon, D.Min
Int’l President, PHGM/PHGMi