By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.

John 13: 35

 

Love in the manner that Jesus is describing it here is not a warm and soft emotion. It is quite distant from the sort of thing that most greeting cards depict, and this form of love is certainly not the easy ideal that people compose romantic phrases about in poems and songs. Jesus’ love is determined, suffering, and bold. It does very little to embrace culture; yet, it does everything to bridge the great cultural divides that separate people from each other. As Jesus was with us in the flesh, He loved in ways that were lasting for the rest of time. All of us can know and experience this same love that was before all of creation and that continues on throughout the rest of time. God so loves each and every one of us to the degree that He gave His own blood for our salvation from the death of separation that sin condemned all people to otherwise endure.

 

Jesus is saying that He and His loving grace have brought all who believe back home into a restored relationship with God. He wants us to understand that an important aspect of this state of healing and restoration is found in our own transformed hearts. In Christ we have a heart that can love as He does. We have the ability to step out of our self protective and defensive neediness and into His openness and acceptance. When we choose to love others, we are agreeing to walk with Christ. Love requires us to risk all of ourselves in order to achieve unity and to bring our world closer to the glory of God. Love is the primary thing that frames in and defines the living reality that is the Kingdom of God.

 

This love that Christ demonstrated for us and that He commanded us to embrace is not easy and it is uncompromising. It speaks out in truth, and it has no place in it for hatred, oppression, and rage. It implores people to embrace the sick, weak, defenseless, the unlovely, and the lost. It also refuses to assume that the oppressors, murderers, and thieves of our world are without hope of redemption. Christ has never stopped loving all people, even those who express opposition and hatred toward Him, and He doesn’t grant us the right or the ability to make determinations of eternal worth that exceed His own. When Christians determine to live as Jesus commands us here, the result is even more compelling in our world. As we set aside difference and focus on the essential commonality of our faith in the risen Christ, the love of person to person that must ensue is compellingly counter to the way this world operates. This love is also strikingly desirable, and it points straight to its source in Jesus Christ.

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