In the Scripture lesson this week from John’s gospel Jesus gives us an important and profound lesson on how to live as Christian disciples. Jesus is simply teaching us that love is at the center of a Christian life. Christ exemplifies this way of living with love as the reason for all he does. It can be seen in how he cares for people on the margins, seeks justice for people whose voice is oppressed, and in offering grace and mercy to all without price.
Not only does Christ embody a life of love for others so that we may have an example to follow, but we are also given a direct statement to love. But calling this a statement is perhaps not accurate because as Scripture tells us, Christ commands us to love. This is not just a suggestion or just an encouraging word. According to Christ, love must be the foundation for all relationships and interactions with other people. This is not just something I have discovered in my own study and interpretation of Scripture. Jesus makes this a clear commandment. Scripture documents this commandment from Christ where it is written, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:12). There are many things in the Bible that can be confusing or require many levels of interpretation to find a clear meaning. Yet this commandment from Christ is about as clear as anything that can be found in the Bible.
One amazing thing about this commandment to love is that it is an easy thing to do! It costs us nothing, it takes very little effort, and when we offer love we often receive it in return. In fact it often seems like it is harder to not love someone than it is to love. We have to come up with a reason to not love, which often ends up being a shallow fabrication. This then results in a time consuming and exhausting need to maintain a posture of dislike. However, if we have faith in God as our Creator and Sustainer and when we remember that all are created in the image of God, love is a catalyst for building relationships. Likewise, being a Christian disciple means we follow the example of Christ. Very clearly Christ loved in a way that was all encompassing, graceful, and forgiving. This gift of love from Christ is given without merit so that our “joy may be complete” (John 15:11).
I do not think I have to name examples of where love is lacking in the world. Without much effort, examples of relationships and decisions made without love are not hard to recall. All too often, selfish gain motivates our decisions and interactions with other people. Love is held back unless it is necessary for us to accomplish the next objective. While this is the common mode of operation for modern society, it is contrary to the life of discipleship Jesus exemplifies and calls us to. I sometimes wonder, and some of you may as well, what God is up to in the world today. How is God active and present? What new thing is God doing? Where is there evidence of God’s presence and action in the world? In order to find an answer to these questions I think that we just need to look for where there is. Where relationships and communities are bound together in love, so too there will be God. Where decisions are made based on love for family, neighbors, and even strangers, God is guiding those decisions. When the desire to love overcomes the desire to judge and subjugate, God is at work.
Christ has taught and commanded us to love and Hayes Barton UMC is a congregation that has listened. I love seeing a group of people live out their calling to be Christian disciples in such a loving way. The love for each other in this community of faith is evident in the strength of this community. Love is also present in the witness to Christ as our Lord and Savior we provide to the world and in the many ways we serve others because we love them, sometimes even before we know them. Because of this, God is at work and doing a new thing through each one of you. Thanks be to God for God’s love and your love! With peace and love, Adam