Love one another – John 13:20-35
Easter has been and gone but it is always valuable to read, again, the story of Easter, and reflect on what it means to love. Jesus’ example seems so far out of our reach – how can we ever meet it?
As we look at the above passage it is interesting to note a couple of things.
Firstly, John, commonly known as the disciple that Jesus loved (v23), appears to be the only one who noticed the conversation between Jesus and Judas – Jesus’ troubled spirit was noticed by the disciples (v21-22) and Peter motions for John to find out what was wrong. The conversation appears to be private, so that when Jesus gives the wine dipped bread to Judas and tells him to do it quickly (v27) no one else bats an eye and his departure, assuming something to do with money.
Secondly, following this incredible betrayal of love, Jesus calls the remaining disciples to an even higher standard – actually not calls but commands!
If we are to understand what this love is we are commanded to do, we need to be able to define it; because if we, the church, don’t, popular/secular culture will, and if we have seen anything about what is going on in society today, we KNOW that is not going to end well.
To understand what it is, it is helpful to know what it is NOT.
Love is not:
1) God – while 1John 4:7 clearly states God is love, this does not help us define love, if we are to obey the commandment Jesus gave. In one sense loves is the heart of all God does, but this answer is too simplistic for our needs and does snot show how or to whom/what.
2) Feelings – we reduce love if we say love is only feeling. We certain experience feelings when we love someone, but time, the feelings change, and if our definition only relates to feelings, we will no longer love! Jesus command is a call to action, too. This implies an act of will, which is more than feelings.
3) 1 Corinthians 13 – to how many weddings have you gone where this verse is read. It is an helpful view of love but it shows more the outcomes or expressions of the act of love, rather than actually defining love.
While we said what it is not, we have somethings towards our definition – it is an act of our will, it needs an object and it expresses itself in action.
If we want to understand what Jesus wants, the answer will be in scripture.
In Paul’s famous passage on instructions for wives and husbands, he tells us (Eph 5:25-30):
25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. 28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body.
We all understand the bit about husbands loving their wives, but the bit we need to look at is where Paul implies love FOR someone comes out of loving yourself (v28a). This means, somewhere in the definition of love, we must see it comes from the perception of how we see and love ourselves.
If you have grown up in the church, it is quite possible that you have heard the verses about putting others before yourself, denying yourself etc. (Matt5:3; John 15:13) The Bible, and the New Testament are balanced not contradictory. If we are to love others well, we need to understand what it means to love ourselves (Matt 22:36).
In Genesis 1:26 we find that we are made in God’s image and 1 Corinthians 6:19 reminds us our bodies are a temple for the Holy Spirit. This is incredible to know – how loved are we!
When we appreciate the love put INTO us we begin to love ourselves. Conversely, we lose the capacity to loves others if we do not rightly love ourselves.
So how do we love ourselves? Eph 5:29 says we are to feed and care for ourselves (NIV) and the ECV puts it as nourish and care for ourselves. This implies that at the heart of love is nourishing and cherishing, and it starts with the self and moves to others.
So what does it mean to NOURISH and CHERISH?
Nourish means to provide for or to build up to maturity. Think of a seed – when we give it water, and soil and sunlight (nourish it), it grows into the plant it was meant to be (to maturity).
Do you see, too? This is the whole deal – everything that the plant needs, and that is the same for us. We are to nourish ourselves – physically, emotionally, socially and spiritually – we can love others.
Cherish means to esteem, protect, give value to. Have you ever had the opportunity to see a nest? The bird/s takes so much time and care to ensure that the nest is strong and perfectly crafted to hold the egg/s. The very act of building like it does makes the eggs special – given value to.
If we go back to Jesus’ command in John 13:34 we can determine that when we build up others to maturity, and give value to them, then we are following Jesus’ command to love one another. This, to is what Jesus has done for us.
While we are called to love (nourish and cherish), we do not doing it along. The command comes in chapter 13, but in John 14 we see that Jesus promises the Holy Spirit will dwell in us and in chapter 15 Jesus reminds us about the importance of remaining in the vine.
Both chapters show us we do not do this alone; as we remain in Him, allowing the Holy Spirit to work in us, HIs love flows out of us to others.
To unbelievers we love by holding out Christ.
To believers we love each other, as commanded, remembering it is a two way street; we nourish and cherish (love) each other. How we speak, act towards, the notice we take of each other and so on draws others to Christ.
When love other believers, then everyone will notice! (v35)