Monday, August 12, 2013

We're Known by our Love. Period. John 13:34-35

Jesus says something a bit hard to hear in John 13:34-35: "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.” (ESV)

It's hard to hear because we know we don't love well, so we immediately shrink back and wonder if there isn't some OTHER way to demonstrate that we're His!

And what are we taught in church? Bible study, good theology, morality, condemnation of wrong-doers, prayer, and how to 'be good'. Some of that is great stuff, of course, but if we major in those things and do not love, as Paul writes in 1 Cor. 13:1....we have missed the mark. Badly. We've merely taken the gospel of grace and turned it into another religion. Another system of knowing and doing the right things so that God will bless us and love us. That is not the gospel. Indeed, the true gospel is that even when we do NOT know the right things and indeed do all the wrong things, God still loves us. Crazy, but true. (There's a book title!) And when you think about it, how do you teach someone to love, anyway? How do I teach you to fall in love? It's the most important thing any of us have to learn, but it can't be taught easily.'s the problem: This is the mark that Jesus uses. Arghhh. Now what?

Interestingly, reading the Bible as I enjoy reading what's NOT there, we discover something. Sometimes we get in such a hurry, and grow so familiar with passages that we just rush by and don't stop to soak. By reading what's NOT in a passage, we can often get a lot of light on what we do see there. So what's NOT in this passage?

By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you know your Bibles.
By this....if you have good theology.
By this....if you are moral.
By this....if you condemn the immoral.
By this....if you elect conservatives.
By this....if you study my Word.
By this....if you pray without ceasing.
By this....if you serve until you're exhausted.
By this....if you don't swear, smoke, drink, or dance except at weddings.
By this....if you tell everyone you meet about me.

It is only: ....if you have love for one another. Jesus' words. Off His lips. Could have said a lot of other things, but picked this.

So what do we do? We need to sit at Jesus' feet and ask Him to teach us to love...both Him and others. And to receive love, both His and others'! We need to major in compassion, listening to others' stories so that we can understand why they're the way they are, and allow our own hearts to be broken over all the brokenness in everyone else.  I've found that that's the easiest way to love: by listening as others tell the stories of their journeys. Once you know someone's story, you really cannot help but love them.

And when we love, when we allow our hearts to be moved by others, we have the heart of Jesus. How smart we are, or how moral, or how loud...these things do not matter.