A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. John 13:34-35
“Love one another”. This command of Jesus’ is sweet and simple ― three divine words that roll off the tongue like little gum drops. The WHAT of the command is deliciously appealing to our sensibilities and almost universally embraced as an ideal. It is the WHO of the equation that tends to stick to the roof of our mouth.
As a Christ follower I long to be like Jesus, to have His heart and to walk in the light as He has instructed me to. But all too often my own nature, tugging with interminable might, seeks to pull me back toward the darkness from which I came. Learning to walk out His mission to love one another is no exception.
In reflecting back over the past few years, I am checked in my spirit. It looks suspiciously like I have chosen targets for my love in the same way one might go about selecting players for a baseball team. I fear I am guilty of performing acts of love based on some covert criterion of worthiness: children of poverty, missionaries, the disabled, orphans —an arguably worthy list to be sure.
Yet upon further analysis I am forced to acknowledge that these recipients have something in common. They are members of groups that are victims of some social injustice. Translated, they are innocent of their plight and apparently, therefore, deserving of my love.
What about the “guilty”? What about the snot-nosed jerk, the sleaze-ball, the despicable liar, or the tramp? Even closer to home, what about members of my own family whose foolish choices have proven an embarrassment to the rest of us? Or those who have willfully abandoned or twisted the truth they were taught and chosen to spit in God’s eye? What about them?
I am once again reminded, even in my good intentions, how very unlike Christ I really am. Jesus chose to leave ninety-nine good little sheep to go after one naughty one. Would I do that? The evidence says otherwise. How can I claim to love, to have Jesus’ heart, to hope to have made any progress toward the likeness of Christ if I cannot even love sheep from my own pasture?
This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. 1 John 3:16-18
Love is not a theoretical proposition. It is not something reserved for a distant and worthy recipient. Real love is up close and personal, where there is no hiding from the stench, the sight and smell of sin’s squalor. Maybe we find this kind of love the most difficult because it is a poignant reminder of who we once were; who we are still — spotted sheep.
I needed to be reminded this week that there is only one spotless Lamb, and He was slain to free us from our own sinful pride and empower us to love others as He has loved us.