Love One Another
Love One Another
Sometimes Jesus makes it really easy for us. Today is one of those days. Jesus tells his disciples to love one another. Let’s take a deeper look at what this means for us in our walk of faith.
Scripture: John 13: 31-35
The disciples are with Jesus. They are in the upper room of a home in Jerusalem. It is the festival of the Passover. Days before Jesus entered into Jerusalem, processing like a king of old through the back gate. A subdued affair, surrounded by peasants and common folk who hailed him a king. If we situate the passage properly tomorrow Jesus will be arrested, put on trial and executed.
Yes, the passage we have today from John’s gospel takes us back to the events of holy week. This passage might properly be read on Maundy Thursday. Who has gone out of the room? Judas has gone out. Judas has gone out to meet with the religious authorities who are seeking to have Jesus arrested. Judas has gone to plot with them and to betray his friend.
This is the setting for this wonderful passage on love. Read alone it is beautiful and a reminder of our calling as followers of Christ. Read within its full context it is heart rending to realize the atmosphere that Jesus speaks these words into.
What might we, who know Judas will betray Jesus, expect Jesus to say? He certainly doesn’t start gossiping about Judas, as is our modern preoccupation with talking about others. Jesus doesn’t admonish what Judas will do in front of the other disciples. Instead, knowing what Judas will do and knowing where Judas has gone, Jesus elects to have a conversation about love. Honestly, what else would we expect Jesus talk about?
Jesus tells the disciples; this is the new commandment that you love one another, just as I have loved you. It sounds radical, but when we think about it, isn’t this what God has wanted from us all along? There is a strong argument for this, except when we think of who Jesus is and what he represents not just in this passage but all of the gospel.
Think back to the beginning of John’s gospel and that wonderfully poetic opening:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God (v.1)
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. (v.14a)
Jesus is the Word, the Word is the law, the Word represents the commandments. What Jesus is saying here is that all those laws and rules you followed before. All the laws the Pharisees, chief priests, and elders are enforcing, they don’t matter. The only law, the only commandment that matters is this: “That you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you should also love one another.”
With that statement Jesus establishes a new relationship for his followers with God. Jesus will live out that statement through his death on the cross. That a peaceful death, even at the hands of tyranny, is more appropriate than being the tyrant. That the tyrant by imposing such a death is not capable of loving the way God loves. Friends, we are asked to love one another.
In her commentary Elisabeth Johnson writes, “Jesus could not be clearer: It is not by our theological correctness, not by our moral purity, not by our impressive knowledge that everyone will know that we are his disciples. It is quite simply by our loving acts—acts of service and sacrifice, acts that point to the love of God for the world made known in Jesus Christ.” (Elisabeth Johnson)
“Dale Bruner explains in his commentary, Jesus doesn’t expect his disciples to start or gain love; Jesus expects them to continue in a love they already have in him. Things stop being demands when they are simply part of who we are.” (Center for Excellence in Preaching – Illustration)
Is the job of loving one another really so difficult? To offer grace, mercy, and love? Yes, there are times, instances, and individuals who are hard to love. There are people who for our own safety and wellbeing we should avoid, but overall isn’t offering love the preferable option. When I say preferable, I don’t mean to offer a binary choice between love and hate. To quote Elie Wiesel “the opposite of love is indifference.” Is it not preferable to love rather than be indifferent? Is love not the better option than apathy?
And so, Jesus asks us to love, just as he loved us. By this we will be known as his disciples, if we have love for one another.
How might that look? There is a hymn in the Book of Praise called The Servant Song and it has the following lyrics:
We are pilgrims on the journey
We are travellers on the road
We are here to help each other
Walk the mile and bear the load
I will weep when you are weeping
When you laugh, I’ll laugh with you
I will share your joy and sorrow
Till we’ve seen this journey through
And that’s life, isn’t it? To share in one another’s joy and sorrow. To see it through together. And that is love as well. That is love as Jesus spoke of it. To travel the road of life together. To lift one another up, even the ones we don’t know and may never meet. To walk the mile, to bear the load.
And that’s the challenge as well. Because if it were easy, well the world would probably look a lot different. Let’s work together to show our community that the love come down from heaven is a love worth sharing. A love worth believing in, a love worth working towards. If we can do that, we can affect change, real change in people’s lives. That’s a love I’m interested in sharing. Let’s walk the mile together. 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.
St. Andrew’s supports the gathering of community agencies, providing space for the Affordable Housing Committee. Rev. Ellis’ voice is key in advocating for improvements in awareness, empathy and action on key determinants such as housing, income and food security.
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