Sunday, April 28, 2013

John 13:31-35 Easter 5 "Love One Another"

"Love One Another"
When he was gone, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified and God is glorified in him.  If God is glorified in him, God will glorify the Son in himself, and will glorify him at once.  My children, I will be with you only a little longer.  You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come.  A new command I give you: Love one another.  As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”  John 13:31-35
1.  Christian love is one of the hardest topics for me to talk about.  I guess it’s because I don’t want you to think that I’m weak or effeminate if I stand up here and spend the next 20 minutes talking about love.  But I don’t think any of you would accuse Jesus of being weak or effeminate, and he was the one who said, “Love one another.  As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”
Besides, I’m not actually telling you that you need to go around telling everyone that you love them.  That would be both weird and dangerous. Saying “I love you” to someone is like handing a person a loaded gun.  It’s powerful, risky, and you don’t always know what is going to happen next.  I would never say to another man’s wife, “I love you.”  In fact, I very rarely say those words to anyone but my mother and my fiancée.
But you don’t even have to say the words to be dangerous with love.  Sometimes just showing that you care about another person is dangerous.  That’s the other reason why Christian love is such a hard thing to talk about.   It’s so easy to try to love like Christ, but have it blow up in your face.
People who are dating need to be very careful how they love.  For instance, a lonely high school boy wanting a girlfriend may hear Jesus’ words, “Love one another as I have loved you.”  Then, wanting to love and be loved, he gives his heart away to some girl who really would not be a good spouse for him.  Maybe he realizes that later, and has to break her heart.  Maybe she realizes it and breaks his.  Maybe neither of them see, but the relationship continues to destroy both of them.
A man meets a woman by chance at a coffee shop.  They get to talking, and she indicates that there has been some sorrow in her life lately.  Her husband left her for another woman.  Out of Christian love and concern, he listens and tries to comfort.   After a while, he gets up to say goodbye, and she thanks him.  She tells him how much it helped for him to sit and listen, and asks if they can do it again.  He says yes, thinking that he is just showing good Christ-like love and concern for this woman.    After a few meetings, the woman asks for more.  She wants a relationship, but he can’t give it.  Now she is doubly hurt.  Nobody wants her.
You want to be like Christ and you reach out to help someone in need.  Now that person won’t leave you alone.  He is always there.  He is always taking your time, always looking for more.  When you try to pull back, he gets angry.
You get the picture.  When we try to love, it can blow up in our face.  Like the teenager, sometimes we love so that we will be loved.  When our love isn’t returned, it hurts.  Maybe the man in the coffee shop didn’t realize the potential harm he was doing to that divorced woman because he was too busy feeling good about helping her.  In the last example, sometimes we show love and concern and regret it because it turns out to be more than we bargained for.  There is usually a selfish side to our love.  That’s not good, it displeases God, and it often is going to blow up in our face.
2.  This business of loving each other like Christ loved us is tricky.  We need to take another look at how the Master did it.  Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, just after the betrayer left, turned to his disciples and said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified.”  On the last night of his earthly life, about to be betrayed, denied, condemned, and crucified, Jesus was remarkably secure with himself.  He knew that he would be raised from the dead, that he would ascend into heaven, and rule at the right hand of the Father.  That’s what he meant when he said he would be glorified.
Jesus knew that his future was secure, but he was concerned about his disciples.  He wouldn’t be with them visibly anymore to assure them of God’s love for them and his own love.  In a sense, they would be left behind while he went on ahead into heaven.  He said to them, “My children, I will be with you only a little while longer.”  Doesn’t it sound like a dying father giving his last wishes to his children?  He wanted us to take care of each other after he died.  He said, “Love one another.  As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”
This changes the picture for us.  How could we not show some love and concern for each other?  This was Jesus last wish.  Especially because he is alive and can see what we are doing, how horrible it would be for him to see us just looking out for ourselves—and this after he has loved us with such unconditional, selfless, sacrificing love.
Jesus’ love for us isn’t the kind of love that you have for someone who makes you feel good, like “I love my wife; she’s a great cook,” and “I love my husband when he isn’t watching TV.”  Jesus loved all kinds of people who weren’t very good to him at all.  He loved Peter and died for him, knowing that Peter would deny him.  He loved Judas and died for him too, knowing that Judas would betray him for 30 pieces of silver.  Jesus loved the soldiers and died for them, though they would pound nails through his hands.  He even prayed for them, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”  Jesus loved and died for the Sanhedrin, even though they would never love him back.  That was a restrained love though, because they would have taken his love for them in the wrong way.  Jesus loved and died for all of us, even though he knew how many would never return his love.  He died for you and me, knowing that we would be glad to take his love but so slow to imitate his love.  Really, we are like the clingy friend who keeps on taking advantage of Jesus’ love, but rarely giving back—but Jesus has a heart big enough for all of that.  He died for all of us.  On the night before he died, his thoughts were all on us.  He called us his children.  His last wishes were that we care for each other.  Love one another, as I have loved you.  That’s unlimited, unconditional love.  Big love.
How could we not show some love and concern for each other?  Especially since Jesus is alive, and he sees us caring for the people he loves so dearly.
Trying to love people is still going to be a risky thing, but Jesus’ big love for us changes the picture again.  He has given us the security to be able to handle the risks.  We are part of a big loving heavenly family.  We have a Savior who not only loves us enough to die for us, but actually did.  We have a Father who knows our every need, cares deeply for us, and thanks to Jesus blood washing away our guilt, he sees no reason why we should not be his dear children.
Showing love and concern for people is still going to be risky, but we have the security we need.  Some will always take advantage of you, but you can handle that, because you have the Father’s love and you have riches in heaven.  When you think about how Jesus has loved us, it really doesn’t seem like such a big deal when people take advantage of us.
Jesus brings security to the person who is dating.  If you know that you are loved by God and precious to him, and you are unconditionally loved and supported by your Christ-like parents, it will help you to not feel so needy for love.  You will be able to show care and concern for the people you are dating, but also be careful how closely you love until you find that one to marry, the one your parents approve of.
The man in the coffee shop who wanted to show his love and concern for the divorced woman would be helped by God’s secure love.  Knowing that he is securely loved by God and precious to him, he can tell himself that he doesn’t need the warm fuzzy feeling that comes from helping others, and he might be a little more careful about the way he shows his love for that hurting woman.  Maybe he would refer her to another woman—someone who would care, but not become attached.
When we are secure in Christ’s love for us, look at the beautiful thing that happens: we become like little Christs as we show the same love and concern for others.  Jesus said this would happen, “They will know that you are my disciples when you love one another.”
In hindsight, I see a lot about Jesus love and the love I should imitate from my Father.  He used to take me fishing all the time.  He was very busy with work, the fish weren’t always biting, and I wasn’t always a very pleasant fishing partner.  I didn’t want to talk, I was focused on catching fish.  And I would get really frustrated when I wasn’t catching any fish.  Dad kept taking me though.  That’s unconditional, unlimited, selfless Christian love.  Looking back, I realize what he was doing, how wrong I was at times, and how good he was to me.  I want to be like that.  The really beautiful thing about it is that it’s the kind of picture that shows me how Jesus keeps on loving even if I haven’t been a pleasant, loving person, just in the hope that I would see how wrong I am, how good he is, and how I should imitate him.  Yes, it will be risky, but God’s love for us gives us the security we need.  And it’s worth it to be like Christ to each other, fulfilling his last wishes.  “Love one another.  As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”  Amen.