Love One Another
I was struck by something today in the book of John. John was a guy who followed Jesus around and wrote down a lot of what he said. He caught this interaction the day before Jesus died, when he was giving a few final instructions to his followers:
Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek me, and just as I said to the Jews, so now I also say to you, ‘Where I am going you cannot come.’ A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, where are you going?”
Jesus answered him, “Where I am going you cannot follow me now, but you will follow afterward.” Peter said to him, “Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.”
A couple of things stood out to me, and when I say “stood out to me,” what I really mean is, “grabbed me by the collar, slapped me in the face and yelled.” So pay attention and try to follow me here. This is important.
So, you have Jesus heading off to the cross. He really doesn’t have long and he knows it. And one of the last things he says to his disciples is “Love each other.” Now, I am very much about looking for the immediate application of the text. I don’t think Jesus was looking into the future and hoping Iraqi and American Christians would love each other. (I do, however, think we could get there from here – but that’s not the point). No, he was looking at people who knew each other. Who had seen one another sin. Who had followed him around in a group of pretty good friends. And he looked at them and said “love one another.”
This was not abstract love between Christians who in all likelihood would never meet. That is a lot safer I know, but that’s not what Jesus was saying. He was asking for dirty, honest, truth telling, self sacrificing love. He was asking people who already knew each other – having spent years working together – to LOVE EACH OTHER. He was asking for a serious commitment to give up what they wanted for the sake of each other. Even their very lives.
And then Peter. Oh Peter, bless his heart, always one of my favorite disciples because – for the love of God – he is just like me. In his eagerness to prove his love (for Jesus) he pledges to give his life (for him).
Miss the point much Pete? I mean, there is the whole discussion about how he turned around and lied about knowing Jesus. But let’s back up.
Jesus: “Die for each other”
Peter: “I would die for you” (but he really doesn’t)
Here’s what I took away from that. Jesus wants me to love him by loving people that are actually in my life. By being willing to lay down on the tracks for them. To look around my church or my neighborhood and find the hard to love and give my time, energy, and resources to love them well. Some of these people are really difficult to love.
But, then again, I suppose Judas was hard to love too.
Let me ask you: What is the dirty, messy, self-sacrificial love you are engaging right now? I’m not talking about inviting people just like you over for dinner. I am asking: who are you really trying to love when it’s hard? Who in your church really aggravates you? Who do you look at and think “oh I couldn’t do that.” Who do you think, “That’s just a hopeless case!”
Loving people well. It’s an area I could grow in.
How ’bout you?