There are several ways one could describe what it means to be a Christian, but the central idea is being a follower of, believing in, and loving Jesus.
But, taking the description a step further, what does following/believing/loving Jesus actually mean?
This question is explored throughout the Gospels and the letters of the apostles found in the New Testament, with a reoccurring theme of “obedience and action.” Here are several examples:
Jesus says, “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.” – John 15:13-15
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever.” – John 14:15
In the first letter of John, “Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action. And by this we will know that we are from the truth and will reassure our hearts before him whenever our hearts condemn us; for God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.” – 1 John 3:18-20
“Now by this we may be sure that we know him, if we obey his commandments. Whoever says, ‘I have come to know him,’ but does not obey his commandments, is a liar, and in such a person the truth does not exist; but whoever obeys his word, truly in this person the love of God has reached perfection. By this we may be sure that we are in him: whoever says, ‘I abide in him,’ ought to walk just as he walked.” – 1 John 2:3-6
From these verses and this concept of action/obedience being equated to love, following, and friendship, the question may come up as to what these three things actually look like in action. One place we can look for examples is anime, especially in the shonen genre. Through the characters portrayed in these anime, we can better understand why action (and obedience) is needed for true love and friendship to flourish.
One great example of true friendship is from Avatar: The Last Airbender. In just the first couple of episodes, the bond between Aang, Katara, and Sokka is formed through their actions toward each other. When Katara and Sokka bring Aang to their small Water Tribe after waking him from his century-long sleep, they most likely know to some degree that this is a risk, since the Fire Nation will stop at nothing to eliminate any threats to their rule (and since Aang is the long-lost Avatar said to restore balance to the world, he’s a very big threat). But it seems that Sokka and Katara’s desire for Aang to feel a sense of belonging in this new world, and moral opposition to abandoning him to fend for himself, outweighs the risk. When the prince of the Fire Nation, Zuko, eventually finds Aang within the Water Tribe, he runs his ship through their walls and demands that they bring Aang out. Aang could have most likely held himself in a fight with Zuko, but seeing the threat to the Water Tribe, he gives himself up to the Fire Nation. When the Fire Nation leaves with Aang, Katara and Sokka decide to risk their lives and freedom by following the ship and attempting to free Aang in return.
After a successful rescue, the trio’s newly formed friendship has fully solidified. There’s no need for cliche declarations, such as “Let’s be friends!” They already are friends at this point, because they have all risked their lives for each other. They put each other before themselves, and shown their commitment to their relationship. Throughout the series, as Aang, Sokka, and Katara make more friends and allies, their relationships are strengthened through having each others’ backs and going through all the ups and downs together.
Another anime that expresses strong relationships, specifically the term “brotherhood,” is Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood. While this term doesn’t necessarily mean brothers in the blood-related, familial sense, Fullmental Alchemist: Brotherhood focuses on how two literal brothers show their love for each other.
One big scene that demonstrates this is the story of how their bodies came to be the way they are (Alfonse’s soul trapped in a metallic suit, and Edward’s body missing limbs). When an alchemy procedure goes very wrong (their attempt to bring their mother back from the dead), it costs Edward his leg and Alfonse his entire body. In rage and desperation at losing the only family he had left, Edward immediately performs another alchemy spell to bring back his brother, in which he binds Alfonse’s soul to a metallic suite nearby. Fully knowing the cost of this act (his arm), Ed willingly goes through with it to save his brother. From then on, both brothers carry the scars and pain of that terrible night, which at the same time symbolizes the strength of their relationship and their determination to go through life together, no matter the cost. On the flip-side, throughout the whole series, Alfonse continuously addresses Edward as “brother.” During all of their interactions and fights with enemies, Alfonse is always striving to protect Edward and act as his shield. Throughout the series, their actions toward each other portray what “brotherhood” really means to them.
One more great demonstration of friendship is from Hunter x Hunter. After Gon and Killua go through the rigorous and deadly Hunter program, Killua is pressured to go back to his family of world-class assassins and continue with the family trade. Killua previously expressing to Gon that he doesn’t want to be a cold-blooded killer anymore doesn’t sit well with Gon, and he decides to take action for this good friend he made through the Hunter program.
Gon, with a couple of other friends he had met through the Hunter program, figures out that they must go to Killua’s family fortress of assassins to confront Killua’s family about this issue. Keep in mind that this is supposedly the most deadly clan of assassins in the land. Gon and his friends willingly put themselves in extreme danger by venturing through the path that leads up to the fortress, which contains multiple obstacles to prevent anyone from coming in.
Finding out about the activity happening around the fortress, Killua eventually speaks with his father, Silva, about his friends, and Silva decides to release Killua to them. Killua meets up with Gon and the others at the Butlers Quarters, and they are united again. Killua and Gon’s friendship becomes more solidified with this act, which was all to help Killua break free of his past and turn toward a brighter future. Throughout the series, the audience sees how Gon and Killua’s friendship continuously strengthens as they face the struggles and victories of life together.
As shown in anime series such as these, action seems to be the backbone, proof, and determinant of strong relationships. Action-backed love is a concept not only encouraged but also needed for a true relationship with God. The statement of “belief/faith alone” can be valid, but the Bible shows that there is more to this statement than one might initially think. The book of James seems to clarify this by saying:
“What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,’ and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead. But someone will say, ‘You have faith and I have works.’ Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder. Do you want to be shown, you senseless person, that faith apart from works is barren?” – James 2:14-20.
The statement that even the demons believe in Jesus is an interesting one. A question we should ask ourselves is: “If the demons have full belief that Jesus is who He says He is, then what’s the difference between that belief and the Christian belief?” The difference is loving God and desiring to have a relationship with Him, which is evidenced through action and obedience of Jesus’ teachings/commandments.
“‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” – Matthew 22:34-40
“And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.” – 1 Corinthians 13:2
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