“Love One Another”
John 13:31-35, May 15th, 2022
Sermon by Pastor Tim Woodard
“Hear now the words of scripture attributed to Jesus from the gospel according to John, chapter thirteen, verses thirty-one thru thirty-five.”
31 When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. 32 If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. 33 Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’ 34 I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
“Having listen with our ears, let us now open our hearts to the love which Jesus speaks of, as we consider its meaning for us today.”
“Love One Another”
When I was a lad, I was told that an “apple a day would keep the doctor away.” Meaning of course, eating a healthy piece of fruit ‘like an apple’ was good for one’s diet. Back up north, in Western Massachusetts where our family settled, there are lots of apple orchards. An all-time favorite was the ‘mackintosh’. Nice look, mix of green and red coloring, but most important, a crisp sharp taste! The kind of apple a young lad or lassi would be proud to give to their teacher as a gift. The underpinning of a good apple comes from the efforts of the crew, the growers, and the dedicated family that puts their heart and souls into nurturing the apple grove, to harvest a high yield, high quality crop. To do this takes a lot of love! Love that comes from hard work and commitment to the task at hand. It takes sacrifice and a crew of workers willing to work together to create an environment for growing apple trees; instilling that there is good nourishment in the soil to produce good fruit.
Jesus was a good grower and a good farmer. He was always working to further develop his followers, especial his chosen inner circle of Disciples. Today’s scripture lesson raises up this very point. Karyn Wiseman, theologian, and writer speaks out about our lesson for today. “One of the stunning parts of this text is the location.” She tells us. “This passage comes on the heels of Judas leaving the other disciples at the last supper to betray Jesus.” So, what does Jesus say, even as he is being betrayed? He quite calmly turns to the remaining eleven of his Disciples, saying: “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.” /John 13:34/ And he lived into this teaching. Do you remember one of his last words before he died on that cruel harsh cross?! Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”/Luke 23:34/ What a power of example he was! Forgive them and love one another! What a testimony this passage is! The heart and soul of Christianity itself is the core of these words!
Most children, and hopefully we as adults do this as well. We look up to others around us. Wouldn’t it be wonderful, if we could grow up to be someone that others would look up to? Emily N. Kansas wrote a saying that I ended up reading on the wrapper of a piece of candy. Amazing the methodologies folks go to get good positive words into our hearts and minds. “Be someone you look up to.” Emily, we thank you for such insightful words! Perhaps you, like myself, we do look up to others who are able to say the right thing at the right time. In this case, I ate a piece of chocolate just at the right moment so that I could share these words with you today. I looked up to my grandparents, did you? Or was it someone else that inspired you? Who was it? Can you remember even one person or persons who struck a chord with you. It truly is good when we are in harmony with others who are also seeking to make the world a better place. The question now becomes, who has set the examples we follow, and are their examples worthy of our following?
Surely, none of us wish to be like Judas and become traitors willing to sell out and betray an innocent man for a sum of money. None of us wish to be remembered for the mayhem, the chaos, nor the tumult that we learned from others, and then passed to still others, as they too watched and copied what we did. Janet H. Hunt reminds us “It is easy to come up with examples of what loving one another does not look like.” Truly it is easy to make this type of list. Sadly, there are many who would have us do so – in hopes we will follow. It is not loving to teach by example what hate, and anger looks like. Truly, many of us have seen way too much of this; enough even to last a lifetime. Bigotry and many forms of intolerance for others exist and our children witness it every day. Many will pick up these negative teachings and pass them to the next generations. As they too shall become bigots with budding prejudices. Which shall nurture an attitude of small-mindedness that permeates, feeding off jealousy and fear. It becomes clear, as we open this thought, that there are countless examples of what loving others… does not look like!
Moving onward, let us change our focus to the next most important point Janet Hunts makes. Janet challenges us by asking “Can you think of concrete examples of what it looks like for followers of Jesus to love one another? Before you begin, in reflection, consider that this is a more demanding thought – is it not! What are the signs of a loving person? Being kind to someone shows that you acknowledge someone else’s needs above your own. You can only do this if you have love in your heart. When you care about someone enough to be kindhearted and show it, that’s a loving example of being a follower of Christ. In theory, in a group of Christians, followers of the teachings of Jesus, you will see people being kind and considerate of each other. Open signs of caring about and for others will be witnessed also. If someone slips physically or emotionally, you will witness others working to help them through that difficult situation or time in their lives. These are simple examples of the basics of which Jesus was and is commanding us to do.
Other things to look for. Have you ever witnessed someone struggling and then an uncaring person makes fun of them, thereby making the situation more difficult for the person who is struggling? That, we know, is not loving one another. Yet, even in such a situation we may witness the person who is struggling, responding in a manner which – follows Jesus’ words. Their response suggests that in their heart they can not hold onto a resentment for another’s careless or callus manner. That is a true Christian response. A response that prayerfully others may follow.
What of the many differing ways in which we may fail to succeed in loving one another? For example, what about the person that misuses the concept of being truthful? Telling the truth is something we all need to be seeking as a way of life. Yet, there are times that being too truthful can be harmful. There are times when holding back a bit or smoothing-off a difficult conversation can be called prudent, and when done appropriately, it is a loving gesture. Restraint of tongue can be a sign of love, when used properly. It is also important we don’t make fun of others, especially in a careless and inconsiderate way. As we reflect on different ways in which we can identify this aspect of loving one another, as Jesus spoke of, we need to keep considering the words of Jesus. We need to continue asking God for guidance when unsure of the correct response. Truly, if you and me, if we attempt to live this way, perhaps struggling at times with what are the best choices… we will be living into the ‘essence ‘of Jesus’ parting commandment to his followers.
After charging his followers, charging us, Jesus goes on to clarify that by doing so, we will help others identify us as his disciples. “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” /John 13:35/ It is therefore very important, vital even, that we witness to each other what Jesus is speaking of. Take for example the thyme that every church declares as a goal: “to be a friendly welcoming fellowship, welcoming and inviting others to join with them. Joining them on a journey of faith that will ultimately take them forward to the everlasting ‘promised land’, ‘paradise’ itself.” In order, to convince others to believe that we are truly on the right pathway, we must show it in how we live out our faith. Talk is easy. Action is in the doing. Faith is in the trusting that God will continue to lead us onward. Pastor Alan Brehm speaks of the defining marks of Jesus’ followers. “The kind of love that Jesus said would be the defining mark of those who claimed to follow him is the willingness to humble ourselves to do for one another what we would not normally do.” Will we, are we able to set aside our personal needs, even our pride and ego. Are we willing to clearly demonstrate, through our actions, that we seek to follow in the example of the Teacher, the Shepherd, the Holy One? Only with the strength, courage, and Spirit of the Living God… shall we be able to love in the way Jesus instructs.
Debie Thomas, writer and theologian, expresses for us, something many of us never consider till it is too late. “If you knew you were about to die, what would you tell the people you love?” A challenging question she proposes. The answer also puts across the point that we must continue to seek to love one another, truly love, as Jesus did till the very end of our journeys. It is never too late to pass love to another, especially the ones we profess to love. As we consider this we may wish to revert to our analogy of the Apple Orchard and the family effort to do our utmost to nourish those we care for, even a crop of Macintosh apples! The actions of those that plant the crop, nourishing it along the way, their responsibilities do not end until the consumer, the boy or girl, or the mom or the grandmother ‘bites into the apple’ or ‘makes a pie’ for the family to have for dessert this very evening. No, that act of caring and nourishing one another goes on until that last act, that last breath.
At that last opportunity, what will you say? A Pastor will say, “God loves you and cares for you and will be with you forevermore.” Mom will say “my love for you shall never end. I will always be with you, just as God has been with me throughout my life.” Would you, will you be ready to reassure your loved ones of the love you have felt and shared with others? Will you be able to gentle tell them that you will be waiting for them in heaven? Will you be able to reassure them of the promises of God? Will you ask them to pray with you as you ask God to watch over these your loved ones? Will you, like Jesus, will you ask them to love one another? How will you truly live into your journey of faith when that last moment and opportunity to ‘pass it on’ comes? Will those you love; will they know how much you love God, and trust God? Will they know this by both your words and your actions?