Summary: Our society is not geared towards creating deep, lasting relationships. Jesus’ Solution:“Love one another as I have loved you.” This sermon casts a vision for small groups
A New Commandment: Experiencing Biblical Community
John 13:31-35 Aug 31, 2003
I think I am in denial. Summer can’t possibly be over, tomorrow can’t be the first day of September, the fall can’t be here already… I know some of you parents with school-age children are singing along with the back-to-school-supplies commercial, “it’s the most wonderful time of the year…” and you are looking forward to sending your kids to school Tuesday morning, but I also know that many of us are wondering where the summer disappeared to – maybe feeling like it vanished quickly, and we are feeling somewhat apprehensive about all the fall means. Maybe even a little anxious. We expect it to be busy, hectic, stressful. Back to the grind.
In all the busyness of fall, we sometimes don’t stop to reflect on what is really most important. By the time we give our attention to all the demands that are placed on us, there is little time, money, or energy left for the things that matter most. Recognizing that is difficult, I’d like to use our time this morning to think that way – what is most important heading into this fall?
Where We’ve Been:
As leaders at Laurier, we’ve spent a lot of time seeking God over the summer. And we’ve been talking about seeking God’s Kingdom first throughout July and August. Asking that question – “what is most important?” We have sought God’s heart through prayer, His Word, discussion, and numerous other resources. And we have heard God speaking and leading. I’d like you to turn to Jn 13, a passage that best describes what we have been hearing God say about our priorities as a church and what we need to focus on.
The scene is in the upper room, on the night Jesus was betrayed and handed over to be crucified. Jesus and His disciples have finished the last supper, Judas has left, and Jesus now shares His last conversation preparing His disciples for life without his physical presence. Read.
A New Command:
Since Jesus is leaving, He gives His disciples “a new command” (vs. 34) – to love one another as Jesus loved them. It is “new” not in the sense that God had not commanded us to love one another before – Jesus identified “loving your neighbour as yourself” as the second most important commandment after loving God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. It is new in two ways: first it is new in that it is part of the new covenant, which Jesus had just established through the last supper, when He said “This cup is the new covenant in my blood.” Jesus defines the terms of this new covenant here – that it is to be characterized by this new commandment of loving each other just as Jesus loved us. And that leads to the second way it is new – it is new in terms of its depth. Previously, we were commanded to love others “as ourselves” – our love for others should be as deep as our love for ourselves. Now, however, the standard of love for one another is “as Jesus loved us.” He continues in vs 35 to state that this is the single distinguishing characteristic He desires His disciples to be known for – the depth of their love for one another.
I think we have a ways to go. In the church everywhere, and right here at Laurier.
Vertical and Horizontal:
We can think of our faith relationship in two dimensions – the “vertical” dimension, which is our personal relationship with God, and the “horizontal” dimension which is our relationships with one another. As I thought back over the past year in the life of our church, we have been focusing on the “vertical” dimension of faith, and now we have felt God calling us to concentrate on the “horizontal” dimension – our human relationships. And so that has guided our thinking and praying for the fall. I believe it is currently our greatest need.
And I see that need for myself, also. As I think about my “vertical” relationship, I recognize a bunch of areas I need to grow in – in consistency and discipline and reliance on the Spirit’s power. But I also experience God’s presence in a very real way in my life, walking beside me, encouraging me, convicting me, and giving me strength and power for life and service in His Kingdom. But that isn’t enough. And I’m convinced that no matter what height of spiritual maturity I ever reach by God’s grace, that will never be enough. Does that statement surprise you? It surprises me! Aren’t we taught that God is all we need, all we can count on, the only one we can really rely on? Yes, we are. But that isn’t a complete Biblical teaching. Even if there was no sin in the world, it would not be enough. Remember the creation of Adam – before sin entered the world, God concluded “it is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a companion.” Adam walked with God without sin, and God said, “He needs a companion.”