“I give you a new command: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you must also love one another. By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another" (John 13:34-35, HCSB).
They were in the midst of The Last Supper. Judus, the discipline who was going to betray Jesus, had already been sent out of the room. And now Jesus left his disciples with a final command. He told them He was leaving soon, returning to be with God the Father, and that they had a great task while they were here on earth. They had to love, like He had loved.
I find it interesting that Jesus gave this command here, just after Judus had left. The disciples would certainly have a lot to face in the days to come, a lot of people to be mad at, including Judus. Judus had been in their closest group of friends, their confiendent, one of Jesus' selected twelve. It would be hard for them to come to terms with his betryal. It would take a lot for them to turn around and love, love Judus, and love the very people who had nailed their Lord to the cross. They would see this all come down personally. They would experience all the feelings, the outrage, the confusion, the judgment. So the words Jesus spoke here were personal. Their job here on earth would be to love. Love people into the kingdom, tell them the good news of Christ and the price He paid for all of our sins.
We all carry personal grievances, things that have been done against us, ways in which we feel we have been wronged. Honestly, some of my greatest grievances are against fellow Christians. People who have done me wrong, hurt me over the years. It's amazing how we can hold onto such things, carry them along as baggage for years. One thought, one memory, and the wrong doing comes back to haunt us again. Have you ever been there? I know it doesn't take much for me to get mad about something that happened years ago. A memory will surface, and before I know it, my shoulders were tense, my brow will furrow and my heart will start to race. Suddenly I'm in that place again, and I feel so angry, so wronged, so indignant.
But I truly believe that God wants something differently for me, and for all believers. He doesn't want us to live in such moments, to dwell on such wrongdoings. The disciples could have focused on how their buddy Judus had wronged them. They could have carried those grievances with them for the rest of their lives, or they could give them up, let go, move on in love. It really is a choice, focus on the injustices, or focus on loving. Loving the very people who have wronged us, loving when it's difficult, when it doesn't come easy. Loving, sharing God's love with those around us. Loving the people closest to us, even when they get on our nerves.
Sometimes there's that person that seems impossible to love. They rub you the wrong way, get on your last nerve, really annoy you to no end. Trust me, I've been there more than once. Sometimes, I've chosen to just let them annoy me, to move on and not seek out friendship. But, sometimes, I've chosen to love. I've chosen to dig deeper, try harder, seek out things we've had in common. I've asked God to help me love them. To fill in the gaps that I can't. The love of Jesus is a beautiful thing. The friendship grown out of seeking mutual ground is even more beautiful. It's love there. Love that can only come of God above. A love that looks past weaknesses and loves anyway. It's a beautiful thing.
And here's another honest thought. Sometimes it's hard to love my children. Sometimes, when I'm sleep deprived, headache ridden, and I have two children screaming and pulling on me, I don't feel all that loving. I don't feel all that joyful. Instead, I feel grumpy. I feel dissatisfied. But that, that's a feeling. Feelings that are perfectly human.
God's command to love goes so much deeper than a feeling. It's the ins and outs, day to day. It's feeding, clothing, investing time in my children. It's praying over them day and night, teaching them right from wrong. It's actively living out 1 Corinthians 13 for them, and for those around me. This type of love is no easy task. I can identify a feeling, but this deeper love is so much harder to see, so much harder to live out. On my own, I truly don't think I could live out agape. I see everyday how I fall up short. I truly need Jesus to even begin this. But this is true love. This is unfailing love. This is the very love that God has for all of us. A love that does not fail. A never ending love. A kind, patient love. It's a love that's outside of me and that only can be done when I surrender my everything to Jesus. It's the kind of love I pray that I can have for my children, my husband, my friends, and even those I find the hardest to love in this life. I'll leave you with the description of this type of love. They're such beautiful words. Bask in the glory and wonder of a Savior who loves each of us this way:
Love is patient, love is kind.Love does not envy,is not boastful, is not conceited,does not act improperly,is not selfish, is not provoked,and does not keep a record of wrongs.Love finds no joy in unrighteousnessbut rejoices in the truth.It bears all things, believes all things,hopes all things, endures all things.Love never ends.
Now these three remain:faith, hope, and love.But the greatest of these is love.(1 Corinthians 13:4-8a, 13, HCSB)