John 13:34-35 says, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I love 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.” How can we exemplify the love that identifies us as disciples of Jesus? In the above passage, the Greek word used for “love” is Agape. It denotes benevolence or compassion for the loved one. It is a love that focuses solely on the well-being of the beloved. It acts, walks, reaches and cares for the other without seeking benefit for self. Agape love does not require any kind of payment, gratitude, or thanks. Why did God require us to do something so hard, something that feels so impossible to fulfill? Did He not know we would fail at the task? Our tendency in the flesh is to require some sort of pay back for our giving. How can we keep on giving, reaching and caring with not even the sound of a faint, “thank you” or the recognition of how unselfish we are? However, when we get even a small glimpse of the magnitude and force of God’s love for us, then we are reminded it is in and through Him that this is even possible. God does not require us to sacrifice our children for the redemption of people who have been cruel or mean, as He did for us through His son, Jesus:
- God gave His only begotten Son, (John 3:16)
- He sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live. (1 John 4:9)
- “This is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son” (for us)…, (1 John 4:10)
- “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Roman 5:8)
1 Corinthians 13, a chapter we sing about, recite, and often quote with such ease, states that it doesn’t matter what we do, give, or have. If we are void of love, we are nothing and our giving profits us nothing. The writer then proceeds to describe what love is and what it does as a result. He states that everything in life may end up in rubble, but love, “never fails,” and “remains.” (I Corinthians 13:8 & 13) If we as a church or individuals are to follow the command “to love one another, even as I (Jesus) love you,” (John 13:34-35) how do we perform such an unnatural act in everyday life when we have either been hurt or have hurt some one else? First, we must admit that we don’t know how to love well, or without recompense. Our tendency is to even the score. How do we then respond to an offense without being weak or unhealthy? Loving someone who has not only hurt us, but also fails to recognize the magnitude of his/her offense is not easy, yet it is what we are called to do. On the other hand, when we are the offender, we reason or explain away our behavior. We justify our behavior by pointing out what the other person has done to us indicating that they got what they deserved. Loving one another in a way that others will know that we are His disciples, requires a measure of sacrifice and surrender to Christ that we are often not willing pay. It is at this point that we begin to find ways to soften or rationalize the magnitude and force of this command with phrases such as, “I need to defend myself,” or “I cannot let people walk all over me.” In addition, we use scripture to point out the other person’s sinfulness, while denying and ignoring our own. The commandment to love as Christ loved us does not endorse tolerance of abusive or disrespectful behavior, nor does is it condone enabling the violation of the Scripture. However, for us to learn “to love one another” we need to recognize our lack of love without Christ’s help, our limited capacity to give without recompense and our absolute dependency on God’s grace and Holy Spirit when such an unnatural act is required of us.
Elodia Flynn L.C.S.W.
Founder, Walking Worthy