Summary: It is easy to love church family members in blue sky moments, but real love is demonstrated in the grey sky days.
This morning I want to focus on Jesus’ command: “Love each other as I have loved you."
Please note it is a command and not a suggestion. You of course know that I as a military person understand the difference between a command and a suggestion. At first glance this command looks easy enough. Jesus is talking to His disciples. He is talking to the people who have been traveling with Him for three years now. He is not talking to the Pharisees or the Sadduccess. He is not talking to people who hate him and wish he were dead. So when the disciples hear Jesus say listen remain in my love, make my joy complete by loving each other the way I have loved you. They must have thought, Got it, no worries. I can do that Jesus. I thought you were going to ask me to do something really difficult like love my enemies but these are my friends, these are the people I enjoy hanging out with, these are the people I don’t mind hanging out in the hot-tub with, WE ARE FAMILY.
How about you? Take a look around. Take a moment and really look at the person you are sitting next to. If they were hungry would you provide them something to eat? If they were thirsty would you get them something to drink? If they were crying would you offer them comfort? Of course you would. Even if you are a guest here when you enter into those doors, you are like a member of the family. We want each person that enters to experience love, acceptance and community. We want everyone to feel like they are part of the family.
A couple of weeks ago I was meeting with several United Methodist pastors. We are discussing a book called “A Work of Heart” Our discussion turned towards community and worship. One of the pastors shared that they knew of a pastor who had once said his greatest experience of community was when he went to a multi-level marketing convention. The pastor shared how much he enjoyed going to those conventions, how they felt so much like family. I used to be involved in multi-level marketing and I know of the experiences that were being described. You see when you go to those conventions there is a lot of positive energy, there is a lot of single-minded focus, when you enter into that covention center floor you know you have entered into an environment that is all about making people believe they are winners because everything is directed towards one single focus.
Guess what that single-minded focus is - MAKING MONEY!!!! It really was all about making money - but here is where the real sense of community came - If I was not making money then others were not making money, therefore it was crucial that I make money so that others would make money. A win for me meant a win for others, just as a loss for me meant a loss for others. Paul said it better, “When one part of the body hurt the entire body was sore…” The people that were gathered at that convention were invested in one another. Their future, their success was dependent upon the success of others.
Jesus knew that He was about to go the way of the cross. He knew that if people were finally going to see the depths of God’s love for them, it was going to happen through this rag-tag group he had assembled. If they failed to love one another, if they failed to invest in one another, there was no way the world would come to see and know the depth of God’s love. The only thing the world would remember about his teachings and his miracles was that it had led to a brutal and painful crucifixion. The disciples had to embrace this command or else all would be lost. Jesus was saying to them, “If you cannot love one another as I have loved you, then you will never have the capacity to love others.” Jesus was telling them that they must have one single-minded focus and that focus must be on Loving One Another. Plain and simple. No other thought could be allowed to penetrate the hearts and minds of those disciples. John writes later, “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” (1 John 4:8)
Again on the surface this sounds like a very straightforward command and easy enough to execute. And it is pretty easy to execute this command under blue sky conditions? Blue sky conditions of course means the universe is functioning the way it was intended to function. Cotton Candy tastes like cotton candy. People say thank you, please and your welcome. There is a no waiting line available at the Wal-Mart check-out. Have you ever noticed how much easier it is to love your children after you put them to bed… That is blue sky conditions.