What We Catholics Believe – The Catechism Explained In A Unique Way
The love of Christ is a central element of Christian belief and theology. It refers to the love of Jesus Christ for humanity, the love of Christians for Christ, and the love of Christians for others. These aspects are distinct in Christian teachings—the love for Christ is a reflection of his love for his followers.
The theme of love is the key element of Johannine writings. This is evidenced in one of the most widely quoted scriptures in the Bible: (John 3:16) ”For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have eternal life.” In the Gospel of John, the pericope of the Good Shepherd (John 10:1-21) symbolizes the sacrifice of Jesus based on his love for people. In that gospel, love for Christ results in the following of his commandments, the Farewell Discourse (14:23) stating: “If a man loves me, he will keep my word”. In the First Epistle of John (4:19), the reflexive nature of this love is highlighted: “We love, because he first loved us”, expressing the love of Christ as a mirroring of Christ’s own love. Towards the end of the Last Supper, Jesus gives his disciples a new commandment: “Love one another, as I have loved you … By this shall all men know that you are my disciples.”
The love of Christ is also a motif in the Letters of Paul. The basic theme of the Epistle to the Ephesians is that of God the Father initiating the work of salvation through Christ, who willingly sacrifices himself based on his love and obedience to the Father. Ephesians 5:25 states “Christ also loved the church, and gave himself up for it”. Ephesians 3:17-19 relates the love of Christ to the knowledge of Christ and considers loving Christ to be a necessity for knowing him.
Many prominent Christian figures have expounded on the love of Christ. Saint Augustine wrote that “the common love of truth unites people, the common love of Christ unites all Christians”. Saint Benedict instructed his monks to “prefer nothing to the love of Christ”. Saint Thomas Aquinas stated that although both Christ and God the Father had the power to restrain those who killed Christ on Calvary, neither did, due to the perfection of the love of Christ. Aquinas also opined that, given that “perfect love” casts out fear, Christ had no fear when he was crucified, for his love was all-perfect. Saint Teresa of Avila considered perfect love to be an imitation of the love of Christ.
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