Posts Tagged ‘loving others’

Love One Another

 I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.

 John 13:34-35

The “love one another” saying of Jesus is one that appears in each of the Gospels, although in different variations and contexts. In Matthew 22:34-40 and in Mark 12:28-34, a religious leader asks Jesus which of the commandments is the greatest. Jesus says the greatest commandment is to love God, and the second is to “love your neighbor as yourself.” In Luke 10:25-28, a lawyer asks Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus tells him to love God and to love his neighbor as himself. The lawyer then asks, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus responds with the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:29-37), where a man was beaten, robbed, and left by the side of the road. A couple of religious leaders pass him by without offering assistance. A Samaritan (a despised foreigner) stopped and bandaged his wounds, took him to a town, and paid for his care.

In John’s telling, Jesus was with his disciples at the Last Supper where he gave them a new commandment: to love one another. Further, Jesus told them they should love one another as he had loved them. A few verses earlier, Jesus washed the feet of the disciples, modeling humility and a readiness to serve. Jesus gave his time and attention to all who came to him. He healed infirmities and fought ignorance by sharing wisdom. He accepted those whom society rejected. The love of Jesus was laser-focused on the needs of others, not personal emotions or feelings.

On a recent trip to New Orleans, I encountered panhandlers throughout the French Quarter, sometimes five or six per block. One haunting example was a young female who looked to be high school or college age. Her sign said, “Homeless and pregnant.” Her gaze was fixed on the sidewalk in front of her, as if in shame and despair. Like the religious leaders in the story of the Good Samaritan, I passed her by. I justified my insensitivity by rationalizing that I could have given thousands of dollars and made no significant dent in the needs of the area, or possibly even in the needs of this one person. It was overwhelming. In retrospect, I know I could have done something for a few – at least for this desperate girl – but I chose to keep walking. I failed even to acknowledge these unfortunates as fellow children of God by saying “Hello,” or by sitting to hear their stories. Would Jesus have passed them by? How would I judge those, like me, obliviously passing by if I were in their situation? Perhaps the sorrow I saw in them was their pity for me, a well-to-do middle-classer unwilling to share his abundance.

One of the reasons I find myself bypassing opportunities to love and serve others is my tendency to project out of the present moment. In each of my moments in the French Quarter there was one person in front of me with a need. Had I remained in the moment, I could have loved another by attending to that one person in some way. Instead, I looked at the immensity of the needs of the many outside of that moment and ended up not serving any of them. The immensity of the need outside of the moment distracted me from what I could have done to help someone in the moment. I was reminded recently that we only meet God in the moment. God does not reside in the future or the past, only in the present.

Jesus says, “By this, everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” Active love is the mark of a Christian. Using Jesus as a model, and not allowing past failures or future worries to remove us from the needs God places before us in the moment is one way to follow the example of love and service we see in Jesus. While I do not believe we are condemned for passing by those in need without helping, those are God-given opportunities to respond in kind to the love and service shown to us in Christ. By loving one another we display the mark of Christ for others to see. At the same time, we relieve a bit of the suffering in our hurting world. And both are desperately needed.

This is the 39th in the series of Life Notes entitled “What Did Jesus Say?”

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Won’t You be My Neighbor?

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second (command) is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these. Mark 12:30-31 

Love isn’t a state of perfect caring. It is an active noun, like struggle. To love someone is to strive to accept that person exactly the way he or she is, right here and now.  — Fred Rogers

My children were not among the tens of thousands of children who watched Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood on a regular basis. The show, however, was a regular feature on television for 33 years. At the beginning of each episode, Mr. Rogers would sing the song, “Won’t You be My Neighbor?” as he came through his front door. He would put on his cardigan sweater, and then sit down to put on his sneakers. After he was comfortable, he began an informal visit with his (mostly) young audience. Fred Rogers – both in character and in real life – preached love, acceptance, and gentle living. He received training as a Presbyterian minister, so his focus on virtues, values, and the respectful treatment of others should not come as a surprise.

In one of his simple and profound writings, quoted above, Mister Rogers stresses the importance of recognizing the action implied in love. Too often, we relegate love to emotion and to romance; and while those are important expressions of love, they are not necessarily love’s highest expressions. Jesus, too, focused on the act of loving, saying we are to love God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength. To love, both God and our neighbors as ourselves, is the greatest of all the Biblical commandments.

During this season of graduations, imagine a commencement address given by Jesus or by Mister Rogers. There would be no shallow platitudes such as, “Be all that you can be,” or “Go forth and prosper,” or “Seize the day!” There would be no cheerleader-like chants and no sports metaphors. Equally absent would be tired clichés and forgettable advice. I believe a graduation speech given by Jesus or Mister Rogers would be straightforward. The focus would be on relationships – with God and with others – and the words would be about love. The words of love would be couched in caring for and about others – being a good neighbor, particularly to those less fortunate than we are. There would be no flowery descriptions of dreamy, fairy-tale futures. There would, however, be direct instruction for a focused present – a moment-by-moment, single-mindedness that assures its own glorious future, beside our God and with those we love.

Come home to church this Sunday. Won’t you be my neighbor?

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Life Notes—February 14, 2013 

“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

I have heard of organizations with a one sentence policy manual.  It reads something like “Do the right thing.”  At my company, our policy manual requires hundreds of pages to define doing the right thing.  The Old Testament lists 613 laws for the Jewish people to follow in order to be obedient to God.  Thankfully, the New Testament gives us one, “To love one another.”  Simple?  Well, maybe not so much.  Today is Valentine’s Day and not unlike the laws of old, our celebrations have become complicated, expensive and ritualistic—cards, candy, balloons, flowers, jewelry, dinner and the like.  We are told if we really love someone we will do these things for them—at least on this one day of the year.  But is that really our highest expression of love?

Obviously, there are many types and expressions of love.  Romantic love, plutonic love, brotherly love—to name a few.  But Jesus didn’t distinguish different types of love.  Healing, teaching and affirming were Jesus’ primary expressions of love.  Elsewhere in the Gospels Jesus says the greatest commandment is to love God, followed by loving our neighbor as our self.  When asked who qualifies as a neighbor, Jesus tells the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37), where a traveler comes upon an injured man and pays to have his injuries tended to.   For Jesus, love is about providing what we are able to our neighbors in need.  Like the policy manual above, love is doing the right thing.

In order to do the right thing we must be aware of the condition of those around us.  We must be intentionally conscious of family members, friends, neighbors, even strangers on the street.  An expression of love might be as simple as a card or a phone call to let someone know we’re thinking of and/or praying for them.  Or it might be as all-consuming as dedicating one’s life to digging wells in a third world country.  In between the two extremes are endless expressions of love that will make someone else’s life better.  The key to love is our service to another.  Love requires action, not necessarily emotion. We have all been given specific gifts and talents, and there is a corresponding need for every one of them.  When we offer our gifts to God with open eyes and open hands, God will match them with a need.  However, for those of us with a romantic ‘other,’ cards, flowers or candy are still the safest expressions—at least for today!

This Sunday is the first Sunday of Lent, where the six-week journey to Easter begins.  The youth lead worship downtown, where Life worship is at 10:00 in Brady Hall and traditional worship is at 8:30 and 11:00.  Mitch preaches at the west campus where worship is at 9:00 and 11:00. His sermon is “Give Up Something Bad for Lent.”

Come home to church this Sunday.  Perhaps it’s time to reassess how and who we love…

Greg Hildenbrand, Life Music Coordinator

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