John 13:34: “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.”
|Awkward family photo night — taken by twitter.com/AndrewShayde|
So, we’re approaching the new year, and people are starting to talk about resolutions. I’ve heard some really good ones already. Last year, a friend made a goal to bring home zero plastic bags from stores. She very nearly succeeded and greatly reduced their household plastic waste. She is brainstorming other resolutions to challenge herself to be more eco-friendly in 2013. Another friend wants to strive for a healthier life – financially, spiritually, physically, and emotionally, and is pondering ways to achieve this. I have many ideas and goals for the new year. What about you?
Trying to pick a bible verse to write about tonight, I stumbled across Jesus’ words in John 13:34. It seems to fit with a theme of making better choices for 2013. Who among us couldn’t try harder to be a loving person? I know I can easily get caught up in negative thinking. We often can think less than loving thoughts, even if it is towards someone anonymous like the slow person ahead of us in the grocery store line or the neighbor whose noise interferes with our own sense of personal space. Maybe we are more frequently unloving if it is someone we know well and even love. In even our closest relationships, we can succumb to negative thoughts: “Why does she always do it *that* way- doesn’t she know it annoys me?” or “He can be so selfish, why doesn’t he pay attention to what I want?” (For a great book that explores this further, check out The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis). A bible verse reminder that we should love one another will probably resonate with all of us in one way or another.
But Jesus also gives us a logic puzzle. We should love one another as Jesus has loved us. What does that mean? I certainly don’t buy into the idea of Jesus as a self-righteous, judgmental jerk. As I see it, Jesus is the guy that reminds us of God’s compassion for the widow, the orphan and the stranger. Jesus practices hospitality and welcomes the outsider. Jesus loves the people who mess up.
The love Jesus calls us to is a radical, life-changing, community-building, reaching-out kind of love. This is the way God loves us. This love seeks to break past the walls we put up about not being good enough, or cool enough, or successful enough, or “enough”. We are enough, as we are, and God’s love includes me, and you, and you (and even you).
So it is one thing to make a resolution to be more loving. It is another thing to make a resolution to love one another in the outrageous and overflowing way that God loves us. It’s such a big commandment, we are guaranteed to fall short. But the logic puzzle comes in again. God’s love is bigger than our mistakes, so we can try again, knowing that nothing we can do will end that love for us. This is something I want to reflect on further in 2013 – the puzzle of being loved so radically and trying to love others in the same way.
Gracious God, Help us to know that you love us more deeply than we can imagine. Help us to love one another more faithfully. Helps us to remember that no matter how many resolutions we fail, we are yours and we are loved. Amen.