The gospel reading for today is John 15:12-17:
12 ‘This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15I do not call you servants* any longer, because the servant* does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. 16You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. 17I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.
In this latest of the “farewell discourses,” that Jesus uses to instruct his disciples as he prepares them for their mission after his crucifixion, Jesus focuses on one commandment: “love one another.”
To my mind, that seems simple enough…love people. Love those with whom we are in relationship, love those with whom we come in contact…love one another.
One only has to watch about 2 minutes of the nightly news to see just how truly difficult that simple commandment is for us to follow. In fact, it might be darn near impossible to find ANY examples of how we love one another in the nightly news. Now this isn’t an indictment of our brothers and sisters in the media, but I am left wondering, as I look at my own life, where are the moments when I actually am loving someone?
If we delve deeper into this commandment from Jesus all sorts of difficult questions are sure to arise. As we look at our lives and our loves, perhaps we could ask a myriad of questions: What kind of love do we express and with whom? Can we love people more? Loving people is risky; are we really supposed to risk rejection and won’t that hurt? Won’t we be vulnerable?
Inside my own head, my brain inquires, “well, the Inuit have about 12 words for ‘snow’ but we have only one word for ‘love’…so what kind of love are we talking about here?” OK, brain, we’re talking about agape love. In the original Greek, Jesus uses the word agape for “love.” Agape love is the kind of love that Jesus lived–selfless love, spiritual love, and even “tough love.” My brain concludes, “Awesome…why couldn’t you have used philadelphos, Jesus? I mean I can deal with brotherly love…I can certainly philadelphos a lot of people, but agape love…really Jesus?”
No one said following Jesus was going to be easy.
For Jesus, the ultimate act of agape love was giving of his very life to redeem the sins of the entire world. For us finding agape love in all of those with whom we come in contact is struggle a-plenty. But in those moments of struggle, when we are finding it difficult even to LIKE the other person much less philadelphos love them, as Christians we are commanded by Jesus to go even beyond “brotherly love” to selfless agape love. In doing so, even if we are not able to fully love the other person, but we try, we become more fully the person that God created us to be and the person that Jesus calls “friend.”
This week, look for those moments when you find yourself easily falling into agape love with someone and give thanks. Equally give thanks to God for those moments when you realize you have an opportunity to grow in agape love with someone. Both are holy moments and moments when we can live more fully into the discipleship to which Jesus calls us all.
With Peace and Blessings this Eastertide, I remain your brother in Christ,