Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Called to love like Jesus loved ... Really?

Reading - from John Chapter 13
When Judas had left them, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and God will glorify him at once. My children, I will be with you only a little while longer. I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.

”As soon as Judas walked out that door that night, Jesus knew his days were limited. Even though he had spent three years with these men and women now he knew for sure every moment, every word counted.  These were his last before his execution and he wanted to leave them with the most important message in his heart. After dinner he looked at them all with great love and said: “Let me give you a new command:  Love one another. In the same way I loved you … love one another.”

You have to wonder what jumped into their minds when he said this: 
In the same way I loved … you must love.

Over the three years they were together, they saw him love in a way they’d never seen before.  They must have thought about all those times they were shocked by his love.  Like the day he embraced and cured the most outcast person of their culture – a man with leprosy. If we are going to heed his call to love in the same way he loved, we have to ask ourselves:  Who are the lepers in our lives?  There are people today who have been driven out from their own families, ostracized by their own kin. There are those who for one reason or another are shunned at work ignored and treated poorly. In our schools bullying, mistreating those who are weaker or more vulnerable, is widespread.

Jesus calls us to reach out and love those who are the outcasts – 
in our world.

They might have thought of the day that he fed 5000 people.  Out of love he gave every one food that day, and made sure there were leftovers!   Who is starved for love in our lives?  There are spouses here today you haven’t heard the words – I love you – in a very long time. There are children who may have never heard their dad say – I love you – or not often enough. There are aging mothers and fathers who never hear from us and see us rarely. 

Jesus calls us to reach out and love those starving for love all around us.

The apostles also knew that Jesus’ love wasn't always easy. A rich young man came to him one day who claimed to have kept all the commandments and asked Jesus what else he needed to do.  The passage tells us that Jesus loved that young man, and said: “Sell your possessions give the money to the poor and follow me.”; because in his love for that young man, he knew those possessions were what he need to let go of. If we are going to love as Jesus loved, we need to have the courage to tell those we love the truth.  We need to speak the truth about Jesus’ love to those who have allowed something to come between them and God.

Who in our lives needs to hear this message? 
Do we love them enough to tell them the truth?

The apostles certainly thought of all the sinners they had seen Jesus love: the hated tax-collector Zaccheus; the woman caught in the act of adultery.  If we are going to LOVE like Jesus, we must let go of judging others.  Who in our lives do we need to stop judging and start loving? Maybe it’s just me, maybe none of you are like this, but rarely does a day go by before I catch myself judging someone.  We judge our spouse, our siblings, children, colleagues, friends and acquaintances.  We feel at liberty to label them as self-centered, inconsiderate, lazy, aggressive, overambitious, irresponsible … on and on. These labels are barriers to love.  Mother Teresa said,     “If you judge people, you have no time to love them.”

Who in our lives do we need to stop judging and start loving?

That night just a few moments before Jesus gave his disciples this challenge – this new command – he got down on his knees, took their filthy feet into his hands and cleaned them; humbling himself beyond all reason. Is that how we treat the people in our lives? Do we let go of our pride and humbly serve them? Don’t forget Jesus washed Judas’ feet before he left that night, knowing he was going to betray him. 

When Jesus said, “In the same way…I loved you … love one another” … 
he meant all of these things.

But his greatest act of love was yet to come. As he hung on the cross the next day, he stretched out his arms and said:  “I love you this much.” That day he willingly gave his life for all of us – every one of us.  No matter who we are – or – what we've done. He even loved his enemies, who he forgave and blessed that day as they executed him.

Can we do that? Love that much? 

Certainly the events we just witnessed at the Boston Marathon have challenged us to love and not hate.  What do you do with the pain in our hearts from the events like this bombing?  How to process these unholy sights in the streets of Boston?  Sights that are common in Syria and Afghanistan, Jerusalem and Gaza and all the other places on earth where violence is visited upon the innocent.

Jesus says we are called to love … in the same way … he loved.

We mus try to love those who no one seems  to care about … to love those … who are starving for our affection.
We must try to tell the truth – even when others may not want to hear it - about those things that are barriers to faith and God.

We must try to love others ... rather than judge them.
We do this by humbling ourselves as Jesus did and serve the people in our lives.
We must try to love even those who would do us harm.
If Jesus could forgive and love those who killed him, we can forgive – out of love – those in our lives we need to forgive. That night at the end of his three year mission, he shared with them – and with us – the most important thing he ever came to say:

Love one another … in the same way … I have loved you!

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