Summary: We are to love one another as Jesus loved us.
“A New Standard”
If you knew that the evening you were spending with your loved ones would be the last you’d ever spend with them, what would you say? What would you do? What would well up in our heart as the final, lasting memory you want to leave with them?
Perhaps the idea sounds farfetched, since most of us will not know when that final time together has come. But for Jesus it was very real. He knew His death was approaching and that these would be His final hours with his disciples. So His message is important – it obviously was well thought out and was the passion of His heart. And, indeed, Jesus communicated and demonstrated one clear, strong message: “A new commandment I give you: Love one another.” The ‘love one another’ is not surprising, but how is that new? That message had been around for a long time – it’s even imbedded in the Old Testament. Jesus continued: “As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” It’s new in that the model for our love is Jesus Himself and in that love for one another is the identification mark of Jesus’ followers.
We are to LOVE AS JESUS LOVED. These words of Jesus follow His demonstration of love. The 13th chapter of John begins with Jesus washing the feet of His disciples and telling them that this is what they should do to one another. And we know that at least John caught the message. When John wrote one of his letters, He said (1 Jn. 3:16): “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.” Jesus’ love was shown in A LIFE LAID DOWN for others. The word used for love is ‘agape’. Agape love does not arise from emotion or feelings; it is AN ACT OF THE WILL. Jesus does not love us because we are so loveable but because He promised to love us – He wills to love us. Agape love moves out of the realm of attraction and into the realm of decision. It includes loving when there are no feelings of love, no motivations for love. Agape love is a posture, a stance, an attitude, a frame of mind, A LIFE’S DIRECTION TOWARDS OTHERS that is conditioned by our understanding of God’s self-giving love in Jesus. “While we were still sinners Christ died for us.” (Rom. 5:8) I appreciate how Eugene Peterson puts it in The Message translation: “Christ arrives right on time to make this happen. He didn't, and doesn't, wait for us to get ready. He presented himself for this sacrificial death when we were far too weak and rebellious to do anything to get ourselves ready. And even if we hadn't been so weak, we wouldn't have known what to do anyway. We can understand someone dying for a person worth dying for, and we can understand how someone good and noble could inspire us to selfless sacrifice. But God put his love on the line for us by offering his Son in sacrificial death while we were of no use whatever to him.” Jesus willingly laid down His life for us.
And we are to LOVE ONE ANOTHER as Jesus loved us. As I said, John caught it. In his first letter he wrote “And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.” But other followers caught it as well. The New Testament is filled with passages that instruct us how to treat ‘one another.’ If you would look up through a Bible search engine the phrase ‘one another’ you would find at least 22 different instructions as to how to treat one another – all of which are forms of love. I offer just a few of them this morning to get just a glimpse of what this love for others looks like.
First, WELCOME ONE ANOTHER. Paul wrote (Rom. 15:7): “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you.” The word ‘accept’ means to “receive or accept into one’s society, into one’s home of circle of acquaintances.” There are no preconditions to love – it’s not “I’ll love you if…”, “I’ll let you in if…”, “I’ll include you if…” Accept one another.
Shortly after this admonition Paul also wrote (Rom. 16:16) “Greet one another with a holy kiss.” Go out of your way to acknowledge the other person’s presence and to make them feel at home with you. To wonder “Who is that?” or “Will they fit in here?” is to ask the wrong questions. The question is, “How can I make them feel at home?” Bill was a young man with wild hair and wore a T-shirt with holes, jeans, and no shoes. That was, after all, his wardrobe for 4 years of college. Bill was brilliant. And He became a Christian while in college. Across street from his college was a church – a church where everyone was well-dressed and very conservative. Bill went there one day. He walked in as he was – with the wild hair, the T-shirt with holes, the jeans, and no shoes. The service had already started so he walked down the aisle looking for a seat. The Church was packed so it was hard to find seat. It was obvious as he walked down the aisle that people were uncomfortable with his presence. He ended up down front without finding a seat, so he sat on the carpeted floor. By now the tension was thick. As Bill sat down the minister spotted a deacon slowly making his way towards Bill. The Deacon was in his 80’s, with silver-gray hair, wore a 3-piece suit, and walked with a cane. He was a godly, elegant, dignified, highly respected gentleman. People were guessing at what he’d do to Bill! The Church was silent as the Deacon slowly walked towards Bill; the only sound was the clicking of his cane. The minister decided to hold his sermon until the Deacon arrived at Bill and did whatever he planned to do. Finally he arrived. He dropped his cane on floor and with great difficulty lowered himself and sat down next to Bill. The people were moved to tears. The minister stood up and said, “What I’m about to preach, you will never remember. What you have just seen you will never forget.” Love as Jesus loved; welcome one another.