Love as we have been Loved
Love as we have been Loved
There are multiple examples of what God’s love looks like in Scripture. Jesus also asks us to go out into the world and to love others. He takes it a step futher by providing an example of what this might look like. In the story of the Good Samaritan it is to ‘love your neighbour as yourself’ and in our reading from John this morning it is to ‘love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.’
Let’s explore what that might look like and how we might start going about it.
Love as we have been Loved
I’m not sure if you have been paying attention week to week or not, but over the past month or so there have been an inordinate amount of passages in the lectionary that deal with the theme of love. God’s love for us, as we witness it in the form of Jesus Christ, is a central theme of the New Testament. The life of Jesus demonstrates a great deal of love for us. We read it in story after story and of course it is on full display when Jesus dies on the cross.
In the Old Testament we likewise see the different ways that God loves us and that we are encouraged to love God. God provides a way out of slavery of the ancient Israelites, establishes multiple covenants with humanity from Noah, Abraham, Moses and onward. The Psalms in part speak of how God loves us and how we love God. Song of Solomon is a delightful discourse on love which is grounded in God. The Prophets remind us of God’s love, that it flows like rivers. For God’s righteousness is tied to God’s love for creation.
You don’t have to look very far in scripture to find a passage about love. One of my favourite stories in scripture is that of the Good Samaritan. Love your neighbour as yourself. Simple on the surface, but scratch a little deeper and we find that this passage challenges us in unexpected ways.
Today in John’s gospel we have another passage which should equally challenge us.
“I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.” John 13: 34
Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.
Similar to that passage we find in the Good Samaritan, but noticeably different. No longer is it love your neighbour as you love yourself. Now, Jesus asks us to love one another as Jesus has loved us. If you thought loving your neighbour and one another was difficult before, Jesus just raised the bar.
Love one another. But it’s hard, but our love as Christians isn’t different from others, rather it is inspired by what we know about Jesus. To care for others the way Jesus did. As Christians we take our identity in the cross, a symbol of Christ’s sacrifice. The empty cross recognizing Christ’s death and subsequent resurrection. A reminder that the powers and cycles of death and violence should not win the day. Rather, we are called to walk a different path. One of peace and of life.
Yet throughout Christian history the cross has been used to conquer. From Constantine all the way up to the present day. I wonder what Christian history, world history might look like if we had lived out the commandment to love one another, just as Christ has loved us?
Jesus follows his command that we love one another with the following: By your love everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. Want to share the good news with people? Want to let people know that the religion you follow, that you believe in has value for the world?
Then love people.
The emphasis in the passage from John is our love for each other. Yes, Jesus loves us. Yes, God loves the world. However, the focus is that we are to love one another. I don’t know why, but we seem to get that wrong so often.
Instead of loving we hurt and damage one another. We disagree over matters trivial and severe, but through it all we have lost the sense that it is another human being on the other side of the argument. Instead of loving them, but perhaps disagreeing we choose to turn our back on the other.
Loving is hard. It’s these attitudes and the hardening of our hearts that have caused much of the suffering and problems in the world. We simply refuse to get along as people and as nations. We are so worried about protecting ourselves that we make decisions that end up hurting ourselves, we just don’t see it immediately.
One of the other passages we read this morning was Revelation 21. It’s a beautiful passage about the new heaven and a new earth. God will be there with us, every tear will be wiped from our eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain for the old order of things has passed away. Beautiful.
Professor Ronald Allen asks, “… where and how empires today are creating conditions such as tears, death, mourning, crying and pain that deny God’s purposes for life. Where and how is God at work through social process to replace circumstances that create tears, death, mourning, crying, and pain with circumstances that replace those things with mutually supportive, covenantal community?
“To John’s beleaguered community struggling to be faithful under Roman oppression, this hope may have seemed almost unbelievable. By quoting God in Revelation 21:5-6, John underlines the authority by which the community can believe this vision is trustworthy and true.
“When God says, “It is done,” God does not mean that the transformation is complete in the present. Rather, the community can count on it because God guarantees it. In that sense, it is as good as done.
I know a lot of people who struggle similarly today. Indeed, 2,000 years have passed, and the number of people suffering has increased in almost immeasurable numbers” (reference).
Many people ask us, as followers of Christ, how is it possible for us to believe in God who works for the goodness of all life in the face of tears and crying, so much pain, mourning and death. Or we can ask that question that arises when we study the Book of Job, if God is good why is there evil and suffering in the world? I’m not going to attempt an answer on that question today, it can wait for another day.
Instead, we recognize and acknowledge that love is hard. Always has been, always will be. To read it as we find it in John’s gospel makes it sound easy. We know differently. It’s why we have so many tears, crying, so much pain, mourning and death.
If we read this passage in isolation then it is easy, it is a platitude. We need to read this passage in the fullness of life, the fullness of scripture. We recognize that Jesus also loved and knew tears, crying, pain, mourning and death.
The death of his friend Lazarus. The betrayal of Judas. The denial of Peter. Jesus knew about love and all the pain that comes along with it.
Jesus knew this pain and more. He heard the crowd call for his death and as he hung on the cross he spoke the words, “Forgive them Father for they know not what they do.”
To love as Jesus loved, means to forgive. The sacrificial act of Jesus on the cross is an act of forgiveness born out of love. If we can’t forgive, we can never hope to love as Jesus loved us. Amen.
St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church
St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Cobourg is part of the Presbyterian Church in Canada. The congregation was established in 1833 and continues to serve the community.