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Opinion

The distinctive mark of a true Christian  

HINTS AND TRACES - Fr. Roy Cimagala - The Freeman

Christ said it very clearly. “This is how all will know that you are my disciples if you have love for one another,” he said. (Jn 13,35) And in another instance, he described how this love for one another should be. “This is my commandment, that you love one another, even as I have loved you.” (Jn 15,12)

Let’s make no mistake about how this love should be. It definitely has a universal scope, such that even our enemies would be objects of our love. It’s a love that is inclusive despite our unavoidable differences and conflicts. It’s a love that, as St. Paul would describe it, “is patient and kind, does not envy or boast, not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.” (1 Cor 13,2-8)

And the secret is to learn to see Christ in everyone, including those with whom we may have serious differences or are in conflict, no matter how deformed the image of Christ they bear. We have to go beyond seeing others in a purely human way without, of course, neglecting the human and natural in us.

In short, we have to see others in a spiritual way, within the framework of faith, hope and charity. Otherwise we cannot avoid getting entangled in our limited and conflict-prone earthly condition. And no amount of human justice and humanitarianism can fully resolve this predicament.

Thus, we need to develop and hone our skills of looking at others beyond the merely physical, social, economic, cultural, or political way. While these aspects are always to be considered, we should not be trapped by them.

There are many reasons for this. First would be that we are all brothers and sisters, created by God in his image and likeness, and made children of his through his grace.

In spite of our differences --race, culture, beliefs, etcetera-- we are meant to care and love one another. Thus, our Lord told us to “love your neighbor as I have loved you.” (Jn 13,34)

And how did Christ love us? By becoming man and assuming all our sinfulness, dying to it to give us a new life in him. His love was for everyone, and especially for those who were weak and handicapped not so much in the physical sense as in the moral sense.

It’s a love that is inclusive in spite of our unavoidable differences and conflicts in the areas of lifestyles, cultures, ideologies, opinions, preferences, and even in beliefs, spiritualities, and morals.

This is the inclusivity of charity that goes together with the exclusivity of truth. Working this combination out will always be, of course, a work in progress, with prudence and fortitude playing an important role in the process. Let’s just take it easy and be cool and calm as we also seriously undertake the lifelong task of combining this inclusivity of charity with the exclusivity of truth.

We need to remember that we always have to contend with our natural human limitations, not to mention the more subtle effects and consequences of sin, ours and those of others. We should not be too surprised and worried about this given condition in our life. We just have to do something about it.

CHRIST

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