In today’s Scripture we back up a little in time to when Jesus was with his disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane after the Last Supper and Judas has just slinked off to bring the authorities to seize Him. Jesus had been teaching his disciples how to continue without Him once He left the earth.
Jesus was talking to the disciples, foretelling his death and ascension. He had spent the last three years preaching and teaching and training His disciples to carry on His work. And then, on His last time together with them, He gave them (and us) a new commandment in John 13:34:
that you’re to love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.
This is one of the better-known scriptures and also one of the most challenging.
Jesus said ‘love one another’. . .
not those that you love
or that love you
or are family
or are friends
or are your neighbors
This love Jesus talks about isn’t romantic love, nor is it simply being nice, nor is it only loving those who love you back. Remember, when Jesus washed his disciples’ feet, Judas was there and had his feet washed too. The man who would turn Him over to the authorities to be tried, found guilty and crucified. He washed HIS feet.
It is easy for us to love those who are close to us, but Jesus did more than love His friends –
- He loved HIS ENEMIES!!
He even forgave those who crucified Him!
And his death showed just how much God loved the world by dying for those who did not love him. This kind of love is hard because it is self-sacrificing. It means putting the good of the other first, even when it hurts.
How do we love as Jesus loved?
The love of Jesus is too strange, so absent in today’s world, something that people are not accustomed to.
But that is the love that Jesus meant. . . love that leads to forgiveness.
Do we show that love wherever we are today?
Do we even show it to our family when there are fights?
Do we show it in our workplace?
Do we show it to the stranger?
Loving one another was not Jesus’ suggestion! It was his command!
So we need to let love be the center of our life.
But what is that love?
Love has good manners. Love does not take advantage of people. It’s not irritable. Love does not keep account of hurts. When we are hurt, we don’t keep that hurt in our memory. We don’t dwell on it and let it fester.
In our lifetime we’ll have lots of opportunity to suffer hurts. And people, including Christians, do all kinds of strange and terrible things to each other. People will lie to you. Somebody that you trusted will gossip about you. The gossip might not be true, but it spreads like wild fire, and you can’t stop it. A mother-in-law might interfere in your marriage. A roommate or a spouse might say something in anger that cuts so deep it seems the wound will never heal. All of us have many opportunities every day to either to let that hurt turn into hatred or extend love to the person who hurt us.
You will have many chances in your life to deal with people who hurt you. You might be thinking of someone like that right now. The Apostle Paul says that when someone hurts you, if you’re really expressing God’s love, you won’t keep remembering the hurt. So the question is:
How do you get that love into your life?
What can you do to remove the hatred and replace it with love?
Step 1 – Release past hurts.
One thing you can do to practice the kind of love where you will not remember, you will not keep in your heart and mind the hurts done to you. We go over things to remember them. If you don’t go over them, you forget them. You can decide you are not going to bring up old hurts.
Step 2 – Let God handle vengeance.
A second thing you can do is to turn over to God anything that hurts you. If there is vengeance to be done, it’s God’s business. Let him handle it. In Romans 12 Paul wrote,
Pay back to no man evil for evil. Take thought for what is right and seemly in every one’s mind. (Romans 12:17)
Live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, let God do it. Remember, God said:
It is mine to avenge. I will repay. (Romans 12:19)
If hurts need to be atoned, let God do it. Turn it over to him.
Step 3 – Remember how God forgave you.
A final thing you can do to gain this kind of forgiving love for others is to remember how God loved us, warts and all. God assures us in Hebrews 8:12:
I will forgive your wickedness, and I will remember your sins no more.
Some of us have a hard time accepting that God forgives us; we may feel that God’s against us – that God’s going to dredge up all the stuff from our past.
But He is NOT.
When God says we are forgiven, we are forgiven.
And if we’re forgiven, it’s easier to be forgiving and to love others. In our love for others we will reflect the love of God. Jesus told us:
everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another (John 13:35)
It is not easy – no one ever said it would be. But, remember, ‘love one another’ was NOT a suggestion from Jesus, but a COMMANDMENT.
If He could forgive and love those who persecuted and crucified Him, we can surely love and forgive those who have done much less to each of us.
A long time ago, as he hung on the cross, Jesus, the Lamb of God, prayed for the very people who were killing him. With almost His last breath, He said:
Father, forgive them for they don’t know what they’re doing. (Luke 23:34)
If He can do that, then we must
Love one another (John 13:34)
Delivered at In The Garden, Trinity Episcopal Church on Capitol Square, Columbus, OH 28 April 2013