Every year folks flock to the beach. They enjoy the warmth of the sun, play in the sand and surf, some may do a bit of surfing or snorkeling. A few will just sit and ponder the vastness of the open water before them and the rhythm of the waves. Even fewer will consider the complexity of life just below the surface, the dangers and treasures that are hidden from view. Our next Jesus Said That?! statement is a lot like that ocean scene.
This is our final article in this series of sometimes hard, sometimes startling, sometimes radical statements of Jesus. Our last Jesus Said That statement doesn’t seem all that radical, that is until we dive beneath the surface and try to fathom the depths of all that it means. Jesus said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34–35, NASB95) That doesn’t seem too hard, does it? On the surface, that doesn’t seem too radical. But Jesus’ statement, His command, is a call to radical love that is more complex, with greater dangers and treasures than we can imagine.
Jesus qualified His command. We may think we know what loving one another looks like. In many of our churches love seems to only extend as far as civility. We’ll shake hands and say kind words for an hour or two on Sunday morning before gossiping or having preacher pie on the way home. But Jesus gave us the standard for what He meant. Our love for one another is to be of the same quality as Jesus’ love for us.
Looking into how Jesus loved His disciples and how He loves us is like exploring the depths of the ocean. Just when you think you’ve seen it all new levels and layers open up before you. To at least get a toe hold into what Jesus was meaning we’re going to consider three ways that Jesus loved His disciples and loves us.
Jesus cares for us like a shepherd cares for his flock. Jesus said, ““I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.” (John 10:11, NASB95) Jesus goes on to distinguish between a hired hand that runs away when the flock is in danger and the shepherd that runs to the danger. Think about all that a shepherd does and how they care for the sheep. It’s easy to put this on our pastor. While there is a special responsibility that goes with that office, caring for each other is not a one person job. We are to love one another by caring for one another just like Jesus cares for us.
How do we care? We observe. Who looks down today? Who has joy? Who is missing? Who is new? We connect with others and listen. Ask questions and give space for folks to tell their story. Listening is underrated as a form of caring, but more powerful than we imagine. Pray for one another. There’s something about prayer that links souls and grows love. Oh, and I don’t mean saying that you will pray (later, sometime down the road, if you remember) I mean right then face to face, hand to shoulder prayer. Follow up. Is there more to be done? A phone call or a visit? Or perhaps something more tangible like giving our time and resources to help out someone in some way.
Jesus shared His life with his disciples. They traveled together, ate together, and had special times. Jesus even shared His ministry with them as he sent them out to proclaim the Kingdom of God. How else could these men from diverse backgrounds, political opinion, education, and wealth labor side by side? The gospels only give us glimpses into those relationships. The sometimes dissension as they struggled for position. The joy when they returned from their mission of proclaiming the Kingdom.
Perhaps the most poignant time of sharing is portrayed in the Last Supper. Jesus knew their hearts. The trials that were coming their way. Even that one would deny, that one would betray, and that the rest would scatter. But He still shared the meal, shared His heart, and even provided a teachable moment as He washed their feet. Maybe that one moment of Jesus kneeling as a servant before each one is what sharing is really all about. What love is all about – “love one another, even as I have loved you.”
Love dares. No, not in the sense of “I triple dog dare you to stick your tongue on that frozen flagpole,” but in the sense of accepting the risk of love. Paul reminds us in Romans, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8, NASB95) There is no guarantee that love given will be returned. Jesus does love all, Jesus did die for all, yet only some will accept and return His love.
Love dares to be vulnerable. Love dares to experience rejection and mockery. Love dares to see past today’s sins and hurts towards the hope of tomorrow. Love dares to be honest. Love dares to give more than is received. Love dares to forgive.
One of the first worship songs I learned on guitar was “They’ll Know We are Christians.” It’s a simple song that reflects Jesus observation, “by this (our love for one another) all men will know that you are My disciples.” Just think on that for a moment. Consider all the things that we use to determine who is and who is not a follower of Jesus. The litmus tests of theology, of doctrines, of religious practices, and Church structures. I’m not saying that these are not important or needed but that they are not the razor that distinguishes between disciple and non-disciple. I own a spiritual heritage, a lineage of faith if you will. But while that may provide soil to grown in what makes me a disciple is my love for Jesus and for the one anothers in my world. I may hold a college degree in theology and church ministry but what matters more is growing in Christ’s love and sharing it with others.
The Ocean is Deep
So where are you at? Are you on the beach just enjoying the sun and listening to the splash of the waves? Are you playing in the waves of Christ’s love but not yet ready to dive in? Maybe you’ve snorkeled around a bit and seen what lies beneath the waves. The ocean of Christ’s love is deep, expansive, and full of life. Dive in! Experience that love. But don’t stop there. Dare to care and share love with the one anothers of your world. That’s the radical love Jesus calls us to live in.