Agape – Love As A Way Of Life

As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing, but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. You did not choose me, but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.

Scripture Reading
John 15:9-17 (NRSVUE)

Magandang hapon sa inyong lahat. It is a privilege to be given again this opportunity to stand in front of these beautiful and handsome people ng MCC and to share my interpretation of the Word. I hope that this preaching will leave us more loving and caring than before. Let’s pray.

Ano nga ba ang pag-ibig? For most of our lives na exposed sa media, we’ve been constantly taught na ang love ay all about feelings. Something na dapat ma-feel mo at ma-enjoy, something that feels good. Dapat exciting, may sparks, or parang isang roller coaster ride.

Napakaevident nito sa mga kantang lagi nating naririnig, lalayo pa ba ako? Ito isang example, I will be reading an excerpt from a musical composition: 

Ano ba itong nadarama, oh shux
Ito ba’y pag-ibig na
Totoo ba ang pinadama,
Cause boy, it feels so good

Sabi nga ng ating minamahal na girl group, BINI. 

On the other hand, I’m not saying na mali ang pursuit ng happiness or that feeling good is an unworthy pursuit, yan nga ang rason why we are working and why we also attend Church and even serve here. 

What I just want us to be aware of is that things that give us good feelings such as love entails hard work and even sacrifice sometimes, something na na-mimiss out natin in the age of IG or FB na curated ang mga nakikita natin sa ating mga feed. 

Of course, sa mga in a relationship diyan, sweet sweetan ang ipo-post natin sa feed or story natin instead of those “stop the car” moments ng ating mga love life, relate ba? Or baka kami lang ni ZJ un, eme lang.

When we say love requires hard work, sacrifice, and choice, that is actually the definition of the original Greek word used in the passage which is Agape. We only see the translation “love” but there are actually several types of love used in the New Testament which is only rendered as love sa ating mga English Bibles.

Ano nga ba ang Agape? Agape is a type of love that isn’t born just out of emotions, feelings, familiarity, or attraction, it comes from the will, a choice made by a person. Agape requires faithfulness, commitment, and sacrifice without expecting anything in return.

It is not waiting for feelings or catching feelings tulad ng mga naririnig natin sa mga kanta, it’s a deliberate choice. It is a lifestyle that we consciously and intentionally cultivate. The feelings will come after the action or our decision to love, not the other way around, the feeling is the reward of our choice to love, byproduct lang sya ng ating desisyon. And it’s in this regard that I will focus this preaching on, how do we cultivate Agape?  There’s only 3 points that I want to leave you today.

First is to love yourself.

Sabi nga sa nabasa ko sa FB post, “You cannot pour from an empty cup.”

Napansin ko lang, yung mga taong sacrificial are usually people who are in-tuned, confident, and fulfilled sa mga sarili nila. Maybe, there’s something in knowing yourself no? Kasi the more that you know and love yourself, the more that you will be in tune with your strength and limitations which makes you confident and in turn makes you a more sacrificial and loving person. Kasi ok ka na sa sarili mo that you can’t help to now spend your resources and soul sa ibang tao. Kaya nga sa Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, self-actualization ang huli dahil you need to meet your basic needs first before you meet the needs of others. 

Self-awareness is also a form of love, because the more that we know ourselves well, the more that we know how we can love others based on our strengths and we’ll also know our limits.

In this way, we avoid hurting the people we love due to us not being aware that some of our actions are hurtful whether maganda ang intentions natin. 

So enjoy life, work on yourself, pursue happiness there’s nothing wrong with that (of course, do it responsibly) but also don’t forget that we are not in this world only for ourselves, and remember that happiness shared is happiness squared2, para sa mga magagaling sa math diyan, at syempre hindi ako yun.  

Love your community.

The command to love one another was given by Jesus to his disciples. It is the mark that we keep his commands. Love is the measure of our Christianity, not our doctrines or achievements.  

MCC Bishop Darlene says that the Church is like a gym, but for the spirit. Like any skill, loving takes constant and gradual practice. The more we practice love, the more our capacity to love will grow. Parang sa gym, I started lifting light weights, but as I train more, mas bumibigat na yung nakakaya kong buhatin without me realizing. Paano tayo magpapractice magmahal kung walang magiging recipient ng pag-ibig natin? As Christians, our gym is the Church. 

Ngayong nasa seminary ako, exposed ako sa buhay ng maraming Church workers,

there are moments na napapatanong ako na paano nila nagagawa iyun? How were they able to serve in the Church selflessly? They serve even with minimal compensation, they continue kahit may mas magagandang opportunities naman for them out there. But when I look at their lives, I ask ganoon na ba sila katagal nagseserve? Years and years. Maybe their commitment to serve allows their love-muscles to grow, and the more na expose sila sa gawain, the more na nakikita nila ang needs ng iba, ang bigat ng kanilang responsibilidad, and its capacity to bring transformation sa buhay ng mga taong pinaglilingkuran nila, kaya they become more determined to “lay down their lives for their friends” sabi nga sa passage natin. 

Pastor Joseph mentioned that Agape isn’t necessarily devoid of feelings. The closest feeling to describe it was the same feeling that we experienced during Pink Rallies, (ask audience) it is close to national pride, the feeling of being part of something bigger, or that feeling na worth it yung decision even if it entails sacrifice. For me, siguro the closest is here sa MCC, I can’t explain it but there are Sunday services na parang I felt at peace and proud seeing our Church working towards collective action to embody our progressive ideals which makes our pagod worth it. Kayo do you have the same experience ba? 

My hope is that Agape will serve as reminder sa mga moments na tinatamad or even na-dedemotivate tayo magserve dahil hindi natin feel ang mga bunga ng ating gawain. Or hindi natin nakikita that our work is transforming lives, one queer children at a time. 

Kaya, love your community, hindi kailangang bonggang bongga ang acts, like what I mentioned kanina, when we go to the gym as beginner, hindi naman mabibigat ang binubuhat natin agad. The same if we want to be involved sa ating communities, hindi naman tayo magseserve as pastor agad diba? As simple as pagpupulot ng kalat sa chapel ay isang act of love. So take the first step, and serve, wherever community you are called. Kahit sa mga NGOs yan, volunteer groups, even sa homeowners’s association nyo or PTA ng mga pamangkit niyo. Take the first step and serve.

Love the world

For God so loved the world.

Some Churches teach us to not love the world. Focus lang tayo sa heaven, kasi temporary lang naman ang mundo. 

With our action right now mukhang totoo nga na magiging temporary lang talaga ang mundo because of the degradation that we humans are causing. 

Napakaganda ng mundo, napakaganda ng mga taong nakatira dito. No wonder na mahal siya ng Diyos, for God so loved the world, cause it is God who created it. What we should hate is not the world but the human systems that destroy God’s creation including human dignity. 

We’re at the moment in history na napaka crucial na mas mahalin pa natin ang mundong tinitirhan natin. Feel niyo naman yan recently diba tuwing tanghali? Kaya nga ung iba sainyo nag Church lang para sa aircon, joke! Iisa lang ang mundo na pwede nating tirhan, well, as of now, baka nga may iba pang habitable planets out there na conducive for human life. Pero sa ngayon we only have one earth, and in this globalized and interconnected world, we should all the more be conscious of our actions, lahat ng actions natin gaano man kaliit ay may epekto that goes across continents. While Climate Change does not discriminate, mas walang laban pa rin ang mga mahihirap to at least lessen the effects of Climate Change in their lives.

Our carbon emissions here in San Juan affects not only our country but even other countries whose emissions are very miniscule or who doesn’t even produce emissions at all. Imagine, our actions are basically displacing a group of innocent people out of their homelands.

Jesus asks us to “not lay up for ourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal” Matthew 16:19-21. Jesus wants us to help the poor rather than focus on accumulating wealth, and in our capitalistic society right now, I think it’s more urgent for us to heed this command, because in the destruction of the environment caused by our overconsumption or accumulation of wealth, mahihirap parin ang pinaka apektado.

I won’t guilt trip us as individuals on this because we also acknowledge na mas malaki ang responsibilidad ng mga korporasyon at mga bilyonaryo on this matter tulad nung isang artist na nag release ng album recently, won’t discuss here na the details of her private jet usage.

While we can only do so much in our battle against climate change, wala tayong laban sa mga malalaking players na sumisira sa ating mundo. The best we can do as individuals is at least to be aware and conscious, it’s better na may awareness tayo than none at all. Maybe, questioning our consumption habits is a good start. Ask yourself bago ka bumili “kailangan ko ba talaga ito para sumaya?” 

Before I close, again let me clarify that I am not anti-feelings. Feelings and emotions are important, they are a gift from God, and from an evolutionary standpoint, feelings are there to prevent us from danger and is necessary for the preservation of our species. What I’m presenting this afternoon is an alternative to the commodification of “good feelings” that our capitalist society is selling us.

Agape as a way of life produces love and joy that stems from our decision to love, something that we cannot buy but only experienced through our action and our collective action as a community.

Agape is considered the highest form of love in the Christian tradition, and I think this is for good reason, because it is conscious and sacrificial, which summarizes the life of Jesus. 

I’ll end it with this cheesy question, if papipiliin ka “yung taong in-love na in-love sayo? Or yung taong araw araw ay pipiliin ka?

Maybe most of us will choose the latter, which is an example of Agape, because we all know that feelings will eventually fade, and the greatest expression of love that we can receive is a love made out of someone’s choice to choose us even when they have the reasons not to.

Kaya, in the same manner, ating patuloy na piliing umibig – pag-ibig sa sarili, pag-ibig sa community, at pag-ibig sa ating mundong uhaw sa pag-ibig. That’s Agape for you. Salamat.

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