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Jesus washed their feet and He ate with them. And then…that moment when Judas got up from the table and left…did he wrestle with his choice? Did he hesitate before his next step of betrayal?
Perhaps Jesus looked around the room at His devoted followers who remained when He lovingly addressed them as “my children.” The love for your children is protective, nurturing, and intense and it can’t be explained. Children are often so needy and demanding. And then, trying to reason with them can be impossible. But you would jump in front of a speeding vehicle to save their lives. Why? They are yours and you love them. I think that’s what Jesus felt when He looked at His disciples gathered together for one last meal.
Time was running out and Jesus still had so much to teach them about how to navigate through life without His presence. He said, “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
Jesus had already explained that the greatest commandments are to love God and to love our neighbor. If every person obeyed these two commands, there would be no need for any other law.
But in this intimate setting of beloved friends, Jesus gave a new command. “Love one another.” This was specific to His community of believers. And this remains His law for the Church. Love one another!
I totally believe it is possible. Why? Because Jesus doesn’t expect the impossible from us. He is fully aware of how much we struggle with our own selfishness but He is also fully aware of the power of the Holy Spirit living within every believer.
That doesn’t mean we don’t have responsibility. First, the root of this command is obedience to Jesus. And obedience requires a willing heart. Do we want to obey Him or not?
Loving anyone requires sacrifice and wanting their best interests above your own. That would be evidenced by the cross. Love isn’t selfish. Love doesn’t promote oneself. It promotes others.
How does that translate into real life within the church? Loving others looks a lot like respectfully listening to those who have different opinions—including theological and political differences. Love within in the church looks like sharing resources—time, money, talents. It looks like patience and kindness. It looks like not being easily angered. It looks like protecting one another. It looks like speaking truth as an encouragement to rise up and be all we were created to be. And it looks like forgiving one another when we mess up.
When my daughter entered adolescence with a bit of feistiness and attitude, we had a serious discussion about expectations. I told her that our home had to be a safe place where everyone in our family knew, without doubt, we are loved and will be protected. The world throws insults and lies at us and everyone needs a safe place to retreat, hear truth, heal, be encouraged and be strengthened.
That’s what Jesus was talking about. He wanted for His family of believers to be that kind of safe, loving, nurturing space.
But there was more…Jesus explained that the result of obeying His command is that others would recognize His disciples by their love for one another. So…how are we doing, Church? (Rhetorically asked!) Are we loving one another in the same way we are loved by Jesus? Oh wait…the Church is me. That’s where it starts.
Questions to ponder?
How am I doing? Am I being obedient to Jesus’ ”new” command?
Where do I foster safe, loving opportunities for fellow believers to be encouraged and strengthened?