Obey My Commandments
At the end of Chapter 13, just prior to today's Gospel lesson in Chapter 14 of John, we have Jesus telling his disciples "A new command I give you. Love one another. As I have loved you, you must love one another. By this all men will know you are my disciples. If you love one
another." It is the phrase, of course, from which we get the name of Maundy Thursday. It comes from the Latin, Mandatum Novum, meaning, a new commandment. On that same night is when Jesus instituted our sharing a meal together when we gather in His name. We Christians have done
marvelously well in heeding that command, as well as the command to baptize, but we certainly have been found wanting in terms of following THIS commandment to "love one another."
The Greek word agape (love) seems to have been virtually a Christian invention -- a new word for a new thing (apart from about twenty occurrences in the Greek version of the Old Testament, it is almost non-existent before the New Testament). Agape draws its meaning directly from the
revelation of God in Christ. It is not a form of natural affection, however, intense, but a supernatural fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22). It is a matter of will rather than feeling (for Christians must love even those they dislike -- Matt. 5:44-48). It is the basic element in
Read 1 Corinthians 13 and note what these verses have to say about the primacy (vv. 1-3) and permanence (vv. 8-13) of love; note too the profile of love (vv. 4-7) which they give. (James Packer, Your Father Loves You, Harold Shaw Publishers, 1986.)
To illustrate today's Gospel in which Jesus says, "If you love me, you will keep my commandments," I have chosen to focus on his commandment to us to 'love one another.' I have selected what various folks have said in different ways about this matter.
In his book Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis wrote, "Do not waste your time bothering whether you 'love' your neighbor, act as if you did. As soon as we do this, we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him. If you
injure someone you dislike, you will find yourself disliking him more. If you do him a good turn, you will find yourself disliking him less." (Our Daily Bread, February 14.)
I took my daughter, Helen (eight years old) and son, Brandon (five years old) to the Cloverleaf Mall in Hattiesburg to do a little shopping. As we drove up, we spotted a Peterbilt eighteen-wheeler parked with a big sign on it that said, "Petting Zoo." The kids jumped up in a rush
and asked, "Daddy, Daddy. Can we go? Please. Please. Can we go?"
"Sure," I said, flipping them both a quarter before walking into Sears. They bolted away, and I felt free to take my time looking for a scroll saw. A petting zoo consists of a portable fence erected in the mall with about six inches of sawdust and a hundred little furry baby animals
of all kinds. Kids pay their money and stay in the enclosure enraptured with the squirmy little critters while their moms and dads shop.
A few minutes later, I turned around and saw Helen walking along behind me. I was shocked to see she preferred the hardware department to the petting zoo. Plus, I thought the children had to wait till the parents came to pick them up. I bent down and asked what was wrong.
She looked up at me with those giant limpid brown eyes and said sadly, "Well, Daddy, it cost fifty cents. So, I gave Brandon my quarter." Then she said the most beautiful thing I ever heard. She repeated the family motto. The family motto is in "Love is Action!"
She had given Brandon her quarter, and no one loves cuddly furry creatures more than Helen. She had watched both me and my wife do and say "Love is Action!" for years around the house. She had heard and seen "Love is Action," and now she had incorporated it into her little
lifestyle. It had become part of her.
What do you think I did? Well, not what you might think. First, we went back to the Petting Zoo, since Brandon was by himself. We stood by the fence and watched Brandon go crazy petting and feeding the animals. Helen stood with her hands and chin resting on the fence and just
watched Brandon. I had fifty cents burning a hole in my pocket; I never offered it to Helen, and she never asked for it.
Because she knew the whole family motto. It's not "Love is Action." It's "Love is SACRIFICIAL Action!" Love always pays a price. Love always costs something. Love is expensive. When you love, benefits accrue to another's account. Love is for you, not for me. Love gives; it doesn't
grab. Helen gave her quarter to Brandon and wanted to follow through with her lesson. She knew she had to taste the sacrifice. She wanted to experience that total family motto. Love is sacrificial action. (Dave Simmons, Dad, The Family Coach, Victor Books, 1991, pp. 123-124.)
A young boy, Ted, was turned off by school. His teachers wrote about him: Very sloppy in appearance. Expressionless. Slow to learn. Even his present teacher, Miss Thompson, enjoyed bearing down her red pen -- as she placed Xs beside his many wrong answers.
If only she had studied his records more carefully, she would have read:
1st grade: Ted shows promise with his work and attitude, but (has) poor home situation. 2nd grade: Ted could do better. Mother seriously ill. Receives little help from home. 3rd grade: Ted is good boy but too serious. He is a slow learner. His mother died this year. 4th grade: Ted
is very slow, but well-behaved. His father shows no interest whatsoever.
Christmas arrived. The children piled elaborately wrapped gifts on their teacher's desk. Ted brought one too. It was wrapped in brown paper and held together with Scotch Tape. Miss Thompson opened each gift, as the children crowded around to watch. Out of Ted's package fell a gaudy
rhinestone bracelet, with half of the stones missing, and a bottle of cheap perfume. The children began to snicker. But she silenced them by splashing some of the perfume on her wrist, and letting them smell it. She put the bracelet on too.
At day's end, after the other children had left, Ted came by the teacher's desk and said, "Miss Thompson, you smell just like my mother. And the bracelet looks real pretty on you. I'm glad you like my presents." He left. Miss Thompson got down on her knees and asked God to forgive
her and to change her attitude.
The next day, the children were greeted by a reformed teacher -- one committed to loving each of them. Especially the slow ones. Especially Ted. Surprisingly -- or maybe, not surprisingly, Ted began to show great improvement. He actually caught up with most of the students and even
passed a few. Time came and went. Miss Thompson heard nothing from Ted for a long time. Then, one day, she received this note: Dear Miss Thompson: I wanted you to be the first to know. I will be graduating second in my class. Love, Ted
Four years later, another note arrived: Dear Miss Thompson: They just told me I will be graduating first in my class. I wanted you to be first to know. The university has not been easy, but I liked it. Love, Ted
And four years later: Dear Miss Thompson: As of today, I am Theodore Stallard, M.D. How about that? I wanted you to be the first to know. I am getting married next month, the 27th to be exact. I want you to come and sit where my mother would sit if she were alive. You are the only
family I have now; Dad died last year. Miss Thompson attended that wedding, and sat where Ted had asked her to sit, where his mother would have sat.
We need to have some real courage, and start giving to children and not pigeon-holing them, labeling them. The child may become a Ted Stallard. Even if that doesn't happen, we will have been faithful to Jesus who has always treated us -- as unworthy as we are -- like very special
people, and told us to love one another-and Love is action, not words. (Jon Johnston, Courage - You Can Stand Strong in the Face of Fear, 1990, SP Publications, pp. 111-113.)
No more convincing evidence of the absence of parental affection exists than that compiled by Rene Spitz. In a South American orphanage, Spitz observed and recorded what happened to 97 children who were deprived of emotional and physical contact with others. Because of a lack of
funds, there was not enough staff to adequately care for these children, ages 3 months to 3 years old. Nurses changed diapers and fed and bathed the children. But there was little time to hold, cuddle, and talk to them as a mother would. After three months many of them showed signs of
abnormality. Besides a loss of appetite and being unable to sleep well, many of the children lay with a vacant expression in their eyes. After 5 months, serious deterioration set in.
They lay whimpering, with troubled and twisted faces. Often, when a doctor or nurse would pick up an infant, it would scream in terror. Twenty seven, almost one third, of the children died the first year, but not from lack of food or health care. They died of a lack of touch and
emotional nurture. Because of this, seven more died the second year. Only twenty one of the 97 survived, most suffering serious psychological damage. (Charles Sell, Unfinished Business, Multnomah, 1989, p. 39.)
During World War II, Hitler commanded all religious groups to unite so that he could control them. Among the Brethren assemblies, half complied and half refused. Those who went along with the order had a much easier time. Those who did not faced harsh persecution. In almost every
family of those who resisted, someone died in a concentration camp. When the war was over, feelings of bitterness ran deep between the groups and there was much tension. Finally they decided that the situation had to be healed. Leaders from each group met at a quiet retreat. For
several days, each person spent time in prayer, examining his own heart in the light of Christ's commands. Then they came together.
Francis Schaeffer, who told of the incident, asked a friend who was there, "What did you do then?" "We were just one," he replied. As they confessed their hostility and bitterness to God and yielded to His control, the Holy Spirit created a spirit of unity among them. Love filled
their hearts and dissolved their hatred. When love prevails among believers, especially in times of strong disagreement, it presents to the world an indisputable mark of a true follower of Jesus Christ. . (Our Daily Bread, October 4, 1992.)
May we here at Trinity always present such a picture to the world.