Love One Another
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” – John 13:34-35
It is amazing to me that Jesus could take all the commands of the Old Testament, including the Ten Commandments themselves and summarize them in just a single new command: Love one another! In fact, when Jesus was being quizzed by the religious leaders and teachers of the law, they asked him: “Which is the greatest commandment of all?” Jesus responded by saying: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:30-31). Loving God & loving others is what it’s all about, according to Jesus.
Christians are known for a lot of things these days. All you have to do is watch the news to learn how Christians are most often perceived or portrayed by the wider population. We are known for our positions on various social issues, for being conservative, for being religious, for being outspoken, by the denomination to which we belong, and often-times for what we are against. In fact, in some cases it would be easy to form the conclusion that Christians are angry people who are usually made about something, on a crusade of one kind or another, and tend to dislike or even hate people who disagree with us, or who hold other viewpoints and beliefs.
Surely, being a Christian in today’s world means conflict and resistance. Jesus told us: “In this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33). The ways of the world are most often not the ways of the Lord. We as Christians march to a different beat, we follow the beat of a different drummer. We are called to follow Jesus, even as we face opposition, persecution, and hatred from the world. Jesus said in John 15:18-19: “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.” Christians and the world are often in conflict.
Yet, even as we live in a world that is hostile to Jesus Christ, Jesus himself calls us to be a people of love, even in the face of persecution. Consider the words of Jesus himself while being crucified and dying on the cross: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” What a tremendous example of love in the face of hatred, opposition, and violence. What a picture of forgiveness and grace extended to those who deserved it least. In fact, the example of Jesus dying for us on the cross is the ultimate example of God’s love; is it not? Romans 5:8 tells us: “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
For the Christian, love is to be our “brand recognition.” Love is what is supposed to set us apart. “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another,” says Jesus in John 13:35. The vision of Jesus was that his new community of followers (i.e. the Church) would love each other and outsiders so much and so true, that they would be recognized as followers of Jesus. “That person loves deeply and truly; he must be a follower of Jesus!” This is what Jesus desired. The last thing Jesus wanted his disciples to be known for was what they were against, or worse yet, for their dislike, disdain, division, hate, grudges, cruelty, and un-forgiveness of others. In fact, those characteristics represent the exact opposite of love!
Following Jesus and living out the single command to “love one another” is not easy – especially in a world of hate, brutality, beheadings, persecution, and opposition to the gospel of Jesus Christ. It’s much easier for us to act like the world, to seek revenge, to diminish others’ dignity, to hold grudges, to live by the old law of “an eye for an eye.” Yet, God calls us to stand apart from the world, not to follow the ways and values of our world and fleshly desires. We should be known, not for hate or what we are against, but may we be known by what we are for. And, what we are for first and foremost is love. Loving God & loving others is what it’s all about. No command is greater.
I invite you to join me as we make 2018 a year of love at Grace Church. There’s a lot of things we can focus on this year, but none more important that this essential to following Jesus. According to 1 Corinthians 13 (the love chapter), if we don’t have love, we have nothing to offer. Like the old coca-cola commercial stated: “What the world needs now is love sweet love.” Let’s reclaim this value as a church. Let’s reclaim this value as individuals. And as we act in love for God and love for others, may the world know that we are truly Jesus’ disciples!
Loving in Jesus’ Name,
Pastor Dave Van Netten