John 13:31-35 - May 6, 2007
In today's Gospel lesson Jesus says, "I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know
that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."
Love one another? Yeah, right. Give me a break! That's the title of my sermon for today. I thought about how many times preachers have preached on this scripture lesson. Endlessly
over the years since we've had these scriptures to refer to. And yet, what difference has it made in this world? Most people think of the world as a negative place. Not a place of love.
Yet, there is more love in the world than hate. But, just like in our own attitude and belief and outlook that focuses on the negativity of the world, so does the media. Could we expect
less? After all, they give us what we want. If we didn't want it, we wouldn't listen to it or read it. If we didn't want it, we would work toward changing how the news is presented. They
give us what we want.
Does anyone take the 'command' of Christ to love one another seriously? It was a command you know, not a suggestion. Most folks just hold it up as an ideal, something to work towards,
but not something that can ever be achieved.
That is so wrong. That is so negative. If you believe that it can't be achieved, you are not much of a believer. Do you think Jesus would give us a command that he thought we couldn't
obey? Isn't that like setting us up to fail? Isn't that like undermining our confidence? Isn't that like, well, stupid, that he would go through all the trouble to take on a human form,
to be willing to face the consequences of getting mixed up in our messy lives, to then give us teachings and commands that we can't achieve? What purpose is there in that?
He isn't asking us to be like him in every way-but he IS asking us to love one another. "Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another." He totally expects us to do it.
He doesn't expect excuses. And, above all, he didn't just give it to us as an exercise, and he CERTAINLY didn't give it to us as just a rule to follow. He gave it to us to HELP us. He
knows what love can do! He wants us to experience that. He wants us to know the joy of loving, not the sorrow of hate or revenge or holding grudges.
Love one another. We can do this. Yes, we can. Each of us is capable of obeying this command. The secret is in Jesus' words, "Just as I have loved you..." If you had to explain the
love that Jesus has for us, how would you explain it to someone? Most people will start with 'he loved us so much that he gave his life for us.' Okay. But what kind of love is that? It
certainly wasn't 'romantic' love. It wasn't just the love of family or friend. The Greek word for it is 'agape. It was coined as a word for 'love' by New Testament biblical writers to
avoid mixing it up with "Eros" or romantic or sensual love. And it was more than just the love one has for family or friends.
What kind of love did Jesus have for us? His love for us was caring about our eternal soul. He cared, not only that we would experience life more abundantly (Jesus himself says it's
one of the reasons for which he came), but he cared that we would also have life eternal. He loved us in that way. And he fully expects us (a command, remember) to love one another in
the same way.
When you care about the eternal soul of another person, it changes your perspective. You can't focus on any hate or revenge or grudge you might have. You take your attention away from
that and focus on the loving action of caring about, praying for that person's eternal soul. Refusing to do it, saying you CAN'T do it, is absurd and Jesus knows it. You may fool
yourself, but you're not fooling Jesus. He knows if we are trying or not. He knows if we are focusing on hate or revenge rather than love.
He especially knows because it affects our relationship with Jesus when we focus on negative aspects rather than positive. We are closed off in our prayers (it's not God who is
rejecting our prayers, it's our thoughts that are blocking our prayers); and we are closed off from receiving the fullness of God's love. It's not God, it's US. That's why Jesus is
trying to tell us that loving one another is not only what he expects, it's also good for us. He came so we would experience life here and now more abundantly. We can't do that if we
don't love one another. If we don't pray for the eternal soul of another person that we don't like for whatever reason, we are closing OURSELVES off from the fullness of God's love.
As I said, it was a command, not a suggestion. He expects us to be his disciples. He knows that others will judge whether we are his disciples by our love for one another. He isn't
talking about loving your family, or your friends, or your church family. He knows you do that. But he knows that the world needs love, and the negative thoughts of hate or revenge or
grudges that we hold on to prevent his love from flowing through us to others. We are Jesus' instruments of love and peace and joy. We said, "Yes! We want to be your disciples!" That
means we must spread the love of Christ to others.
There was a song from the 70's, recorded originally by Dianna Ross or Dionne Warwick, "What the World Needs Now, is Love Sweet Love, not just for some, but for everyone." How Gospel
is THAT? And it was a popular song. Bet many of you remember it, but I'll bet most of you didn't think of it as being Gospel!
Remember. Jesus didn't give us a command to do something that he didn't expect us to be able to do. Again. How stupid would that be? What a waste of breath and time and energy. No, he
came to teach us how to live in the here and now, and how to prepare our souls for eternal life. Jesus said, "Believe in me and you will be saved." Believing in Jesus does NOT simply
mean believing that he is the son of God; that he is a Savior. When we say we 'believe' in someone it's because we know that person to be someone who speaks the truth. What makes us
believe that Jesus is the son of God; that he is our Savior? Is it just because he said it? How did we give him such authority that we believed what he said?
It's because he was an example of what he taught. We believe in Jesus because of what he did, what he said, how he lived. It's a package deal. If we say we believe in Jesus, then we
are saying that he spoke the truth-that what he said, what he taught was the truth. Therefore, if he gives us a command, giving it to us because he knows it will be beneficial for us,
for others, for the world, he expects us to do it. He came to help us. If what he taught us, in order to help us, was something that we could not achieve, then what good is it?
Please, for Jesus' sake, let us love one another-care about the eternal soul of others-especially those whom we do not like, whom we see as evil, or negative. WE are Christ's
disciples. WE can change the world through love. It's so simple, but we think it's difficult. We make it INTO something difficult. We do that because we WANT to hang on to our hate or
thoughts of revenge, or our grudges. We feel justified in our non-loving attitude toward someone because we have somehow been wronged by another person. Or that person or those persons
have harmed or hurt others or humanity. Our hate, or negative thinking, will only generate more of the same. Evil thoughts beget evil actions. It's our LOVE for others that will change
You don't have to like someone to pray for their eternal soul. We should want EVERY person to be saved. We should want EVERY person to turn their life around so that they are in a
right relationship with God and can receive God's forgiveness and love and eternal life.
It's not up to us to judge whether a person should be saved or not. It IS up to us to love them by caring about their eternal soul; to love them by praying for them that they would
open their heart to the fullness of Jesus' love for them, for their soul, so they can be forgiven and saved.
Even hated world leaders who are responsible for the deaths or oppression of hundreds of thousands of people; we are to love them by praying for their eternal souls-that they would
open their hearts to love and not keep it closed by hate.
Loving is necessary for our own life, our own peace of mind, our own right relationship with Christ. We just need to do it. When you pray for someone's eternal soul, you are not
focused on hate or revenge. That's good for your own health and well-being-your own mind and body and psyche. And it's good for the world. You aren't adding to any negativity and hate
and evil in the world. You are building upon and growing love.
Because Christ commanded us to love one another, he has given us the power, in his name and by the power of the Holy Spirit, to change the world. The growth of love in the world
changes one person at a time until there is a critical mass consciousness that will then bring about love in leaps and bounds. We don't know when that will happen. But it could be YOU
that tips the scales, you that is the grain of sand that changes the negativity of the world into love. It could be tomorrow. Why wait? Knowing that nothing less than the loving attitude
and outlook of the entire world is at stake, why would you wait? Love one another.
Really. Start today.