Summary: The new command is fulfilled by Jesus on the cross thereby changing our hearts so that we can then love one another as He first loved us.
Grace to you and peace from God the Father and from our risen Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
“I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
These sentences are the reason today is called Maundy Thursday, from the Latin mandatum, from where we get the English word mandate or command. Jesus leaves no wiggle room in how we are called to act as His disciples. He leaves no doubt as to how we are to treat one another: Just as I have loved you, you should love one another. Period. Mic drop. There is nothing more to say.
And there would be nothing more to say if, and it is a big if, we actually followed what Jesus said. There would be nothing more to say if, following the example of Jesus we spent all of our time in our church and in the world loving one another. There would be nothing more to say if people walked into our churches on a regular basis and were blown away at how we acted toward each other. There would be nothing more to say if those who are outside the church looked at us and said, “Those Christians are not like anyone else. They are different through and through. They don’t argue. They only disagree. They never gossip about one another, they only talk respectfully about one another. They never assign ulterior motives to anyone, they put the best possible spin on each other’s actions. They don’t point fingers and blame, they forgive and work toward common goals. Their community is unlike any other community. They are different. They truly love one another.”
You know as well as I do, that those outside the church do not say that about us. You know as well as I do that folks say almost the exact opposite. “I don’t go to church because it is full of hypocrites.” “The church is just like any other organization–they fight, they argue, they want money, they want time. There’s nothing different about them!” Sam Harris, a prominent atheist writer penned these words, “Christians have abused, oppressed, enslaved, insulted, tormented, tortured, and killed people in the name of God for centuries, on the basis of a theologically defensible reading of the Bible.” These are all observations you probably have heard–at least you should have heard if you do not wear rose colored glasses in regards to the church. If our governing command given by Jesus Himself is, “Just as I have loved you, you should love one another,” then we have failed.
And it is not really a surprise. Our hearts are not geared to love as Jesus loved. What do I mean by that? Close your eyes and take a look around the room where Jesus and His disciples are eating the Passover meal. Look at Judas who will betray Jesus into the hands of the Jewish Sanhedrin and then Rome. Look at Peter who will deny Jesus three times. Look at James and John who will fall asleep when Jesus asked them to stay awake and pray. Look at all the other disciples who will turn and run when Jesus is arrested, leaving Jesus to stand alone to face the coming ordeal. Look at all of those faces who betrayed, denied, disobeyed, and ran. And pretend that you knew they would do the same to you. Pretend like they would abandon you, deny you, betray you, disobey you. Would you still wash their feet? Would you still serve them? Would you still love them? Even though you know, you absolutely know that Jesus told you to love them, would you love them? Would you be willing to die for them?
I think it would behoove us to be honest with ourselves. No. We wouldn’t. We wouldn’t want to love them. We wouldn’t want to serve them. We wouldn’t want to wash their feet. These people would be hurting us deeply. They would be dishonoring us. They would be causing us emotional pain, and our hearts would not want anything to do with them.
The great George Strait once sang a song that applies here, “You can’t make a heart love somebody. You can tell it what to do, but it won't listen at all. You can't make a heart love somebody. You can lead a heart to love. But you can't make it fall.”
Why do we know that we are supposed to love one another but fail to do so? Why do we fully acknowledge that Jesus is a perfect example and yet fail to imitate Him? Our hearts aren’t like Jesus. We are not like Jesus.