The greatest of all expectations for the people of God is made clear in both the old and new testaments of the Bible. We are to love God with all our hearts, minds, souls and strength and we are to love others as we love ourselves. All four of the gospel writers iterate this responsibility — Matthew in Chapter 22, Mark in Chapter 12, Luke in Chapter 10 and John in Chapters 13 and 15. Each of these scriptures uses the Greek word “agape” in the original text and it is agape that is translated into our English word “love.”
We should note agape carries a much deeper meaning than we normally associate with love. Agape is sacrificial. It is a love filled with divine benevolence for others and wishes for others what one might want for one’s self. It is a Godly love that condescends and takes on the burdens of others, suffers ridicule and scorn for the sake of others and ultimately sacrifices even life itself for others. John’s gospel makes it clear: “As I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” And “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
In the last few days, I have encountered many people openly defying the advice of medical and governmental leaders to “maintain social distancing, wear masks when you are out and minimize your time in public places.” I’ve heard the arguments: “We have a right to worship;” “This is a free country;” and “Nobody’s going to tell me where I can go or when I can go.”
I’ve heard all these — with some strong descriptors — and have honest understanding and empathy with these feelings. However, I think the question is different for the people of God. I believe the question is: “Do I love (agape) enough and care enough for my family, my friends, my community and my neighbors to sacrifice some of my liberties for the sake of others.”
May God lead each of us to be faithful in our response.