John 13: 31-35
Tuesday last week I had to drop my car of for a service, in Cooee. After dropping it off, Josiah and I then walked back along the bass Highway into Burnie to get some exercise. As we were walking along I happened to notice that along one of the walls on the other side of the road, someone had spray painted these words “All we need to do is Love” followed by the peace sign. Now why this stood out to me was that I had already started thinking about the words from Jesus that I was going to preach on this week from the Gospel of John, chapter 13. Which are: 34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another”
So are the people who wrote those words right? Is this the answer to all life’s problems? Is life all about love? Maybe they are because even Jesus tells us to love each other right.
Unfortunately it is not this simple is it. Choosing to love is so often an awfully hard thing to do. By making the statement “all we need to do is love” is recognising the fact that we do not love, otherwise they would not make this statement. But I wonder if they have ever asked the question: why? Why is it so hard to love others? Why does the world not love each other? To ask questions like these is hard because they confront us, they make us uncomfortable. Forgive me if I sound harsh here, but I have to honestly say that Christians can be the worse people in not asking the questions why? Choosing to Love one another is often quoted by those who like to make is sound easy, but who rarely practice what they preach.
Why are we not choosing to love others? Have we determined someone unworthy of our love? Are we afraid to love because we fear it won’t be reciprocated? Why should I love them, because they won’t love me back? Do we expect a return on our efforts? An adequate response to our investment? These questions may sound silly, but this is how love seems to work in our world. We live in a world that values agreements, securities, sureties, warranties, and contracts, and unfortunately many, these days see weddings in these ways. For Jesus to command us to love without a guarantee, seems almost impossible to obey in world that we live in.
What is striking is that Jesus gave his disciples this commandment directly after Satan had entered Judas and he had left in order to hand Jesus over (27-30). I believe that there is something significant going on here. Right in the midst of evil, Jesus give his disciples this command. This command it not only to them, but to you and I as his disciples. When evil seems to be having its way. When those we thought were close, we thought we could trust, hurt us and abandon us; when the actions and words of others clearly come from, anger hate and suspicion and prejudice. It is here that Jesus says these words to us: “…Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another”
The disciples were commanded to choose love in the aftermath of betrayal and in the midst of uncertainty. This is what “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” means. And this is the kind of love Jesus is asking you and me to choose – not a love, wanting guarantees, or getting things in return from others, or for assurances to meet our needs, but for the sake of a different way to live in the world. And why? So that the world can come a little closer to knowing God’s love.
One of the dangers that we have in a verse like this from today’s Gospel reading is that we hear the commandment given, and think that is all up to us. We need to change the world by loving as Jesus tells us to? We can so easily fall in to the trap of only hearing part of the command. Listen again: “…Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another”. Love as I have loved you. Choosing to love others starts with a recognition that you and I are just as sinful as others, and we have undeservedly received God’s grace to us through Jesus. It is easy to read over the: “As I have loved you…” bit and move on to the ‘what we have to do clause’. But the reality is that you and I cannot love others without God’s grace to us. We can’t do this without our Lord Jesus Christ coming to us strengthening us, encouraging us through is Word, giving us the Holy Spirit to help us, reassuring us of where we stand with him.
This is the main problem with the sign on the wall. By saying “All we need to do is love” implies that the power to change this world that we live in is in our hands. That if we just did the right thing and loved everyone then everything would be okay, and the world would not be in the mess that it is in today. Even those who say that if we just love like Jesus did then the world will be fixed of its problems, in fact there are Christians who are extremely critical that as a whole we are not more active in the social problems of the world as Christians. The underlying problem though is not one of motivation or will power, it is one of sin. You and I cannot fix the problems of this world, on our own. You and I do not have the power on our own to love as Jesus did and does. If this was the case, then quite simply there was no need for Jesus to die on that cross. We can’t do it on our own. But we can do it because Jesus loves us and comes to us.
The love that Jesus is commanding of you and me is not something that is abstract. If I were to ask you what love is, how many different ways would there be to describe it? Rather Jesus shows us and demonstrates to us what the love he is commanding us looks.
He demonstrates his love for the same disciples who will fail him miserably. Jesus washes and feeds Judas who will betray him, Peter who will deny him, and all the rest who will fail to stand by him in his hour of greatest distress. The love that Jesus demonstrates is certainly not based on the merit of the recipients, and Jesus commands his disciples to love others in the same way.
You and I as disciples of Jesus have continually fallen far short in our love for one another as well as in our love for those outside the community of faith. Arguments often descend into personal attacks; personal interests often trump the common good of the community; too often those in need of compassion find judgment instead.
But in this chapter of John, chapter 13, Jesus could not be clearer: How you and I demonstrate love 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. And these acts of love are motivated by the fact that you and I have received and continue to receive the God’s grace and mercy to us for our sins; that we continually have the Holy Spirit in us guiding us in these acts of love.
I encourage each of you that when you hear Jesus speak of loving others, that you don’t think about love through the worlds view, but that you remember how much Jesus has done for you and how much he loves you, and then ask him to help you to demonstrate this love he has given you through your actions to others.