A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. (John 13:34)
This commandment given by Jesus at the last supper has always struck me as one of the simplest, yet the most profound message within scripture. Notice that He calls this a “Commandment.” Not a suggestion. Not a punch line. A Commandment!
The words used by Jesus here were no accident. God’s act of giving His people His ten commandments was an incredible act of love. By providing us with the roadmap to His righteousness, he was giving us the key to ultimate love. And with every word and action of Christ on this earth, the core message He gave was that of love. Because of the most incredible act of love ever done, our sins have been paid for with incredible grace.
We live in a world that is contrary to this message of Jesus. Look around you. It seems that people disagree with others more vigorously than ever, taking their emotions to the extreme in their earthly convictions. There are forces aggressively creating false narratives every day, presenting a twisted version of the truth, or outright lies. Sometimes a true story with partial information is being used as a weapon to enhance an agenda. Nearly everything has a ‘side’ to it these days. According to the world, you are either on this team or that team, in this political party or that political party, believe in science or deny science, belong to this church denomination or that church denomination; and the list could go on forever. The world does not want nuanced discussion or compassion, nor does it care about the truth. Is this what Jesus wanted for us?
Scripture tells us that loving others well means telling them the truth, even if the truth is uncomfortable. But there is a fine line we must walk. We must be careful that we are not serving our own agenda. We must be careful that we are not serving a “worldview” that we have chosen to adopt. The enemy masterfully weaves falsehoods in ways that are tempting to believe, especially if it aligns with our worldview. But we must strive to look deeper for truth. If we are unsure, we should invite the Holy Spirit to guide us in the right direction. Jesus gave His followers this gift of the Holy Spirit, and it is a powerful one!
People are persecuting each other in countless ways, whether it be on social media, violent protests, or even at a family dinner. We can be too quick to throw stones at those who misstep. But let us remember to put that stone down. You may think someone is speaking in error – maybe they are, and maybe they are not. If your opinion in the heat of the moment leads to anger and not peace, this should give you pause. We do not always see the whole story, and we are never in a position to judge another individual. In essence, Jesus gave us another key to expressing love: “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.” (Matthew 7:1)
This topic has been on my heart for some time, and therefore I spent considerable time praying about it and trying to keep my eyes open to what God wanted me to see. As I was contemplating this writing, I felt the Holy Spirit speak to me when I was in the shower one morning. It was so compelling that I grabbed the back of an envelope, and with a red pen I wrote these words:
“Jesus would have us tear down our walls of division and seek common ground and understanding.”
These words came to me mid-week, it may have been a Tuesday morning, but it almost took my breath away when I was listening to the church service that following Sunday. Almost verbatim, this was the core message from the Pastor. It felt like we had watched the same TV show the night before and we were quoting lines from the show – excited to share the details with anyone who would listen. This profound message, which was spoken to me repeatedly in different ways, is a testimony to God’s glory.
As I finish this message, it happens to be Father’s Day – and I feel compelled to share these closing thoughts. As you can see from the photos above, my children love each other immensely. They are 4 ½ years apart in age, but their bond is undeniable for anyone who sees them together. When I look at them, I want them to be close; to love each other, to sacrifice for each other, and to have each other’s back. I’m sure most Dads out there feel the same for their children. And it occurred to me that Jesus said that we are all brothers and sisters to God. He would want nothing different for us. He wants His children to love each other and set aside all differences.
In today’s world, as in the days of Jesus’ life on earth, we all need to take a step back and treat one another better. More than that: we must love one another. We are all brothers and sisters, and we can all contribute to the greater good.