Love one another

John 13.31-35

When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. 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.’ 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.”


[The sermon can be found at 24:40]

Love one another

It is a very simple command.
Only three words.
A very young child can learn it
And it is said that the Apostle John, at the very end of his life, had only one sermon. He would stand in front of the assembly, of the people of God, and say, Love one another

But it is almost impossible to do!

It is not a command to serve one another
There is that command in the Bible. 1 Peter 4:10, “Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received”

But this is more than that. This is a command to love one another.

Ten years ago, I went on a sabbatical for three months and I used part of the time to work on what it means to love: I looked at the Bible, I looked at Augustine from the Western tradition, and Maximus from the Eastern tradition, and to my surprise I came up with a working definition of love.

DELIGHT

To love is to delight in another person.

It is to see them and delight in them. Think of human lovers, enraptured, captured by each other.


And for the Christian, to love another person is to see them as God sees them and to delight in them.
It is to see through the muck that we surround ourselves with, the defences that we put up, the hardness and lies that we entomb ourselves in, and it is to see the real them, the image of God in which they were created, the God seed that is in them, and it is to see what it is that they – if we opened ourselves to God – could become.




In one of the earliest icons of the annunciation from St Catherine’s monastery in Sinai, when the angel Gabriel comes to Mary and tells her that she is to be the mother of the Son of God, I am told that if you look closely enough you can see, in faint outline, an image of Christ in Mary. I have to confess that I have struggled to see it, but you can make out Jesus' hand on the sleeve of Mary's right arm.

To love another is to see in even the most corrupt sinner, or the most hardened atheist, the image of Christ, however faint it is. They may have tried to completely erase it, to rub it out, but while they live something will be there, for they were created in the image of God. We may not delight in what we see now, but we look for that image, and we delight in them for that image. and delight in them for that image, and in what they were created to be and in what they could become

GLORY

To love another person is to want the absolute best for them, the eternal best. It is to seek their glory.

If you see someone you love who is in need, and you are able to do something for them, then you will do something. John writes in one of his letters later in the New Testament, ‘How can you say that the love of God is in you if you see your brother or sister in need, and do not help them?’

It may not be exactly what they think that they want, it may indeed be the opposite of what they say that they want, but if you love them you will not do something that will harm them, but you will do what is best for them.

I remember when we took one of our boys, John to hospital. He was very little. The doctors were afraid that he had something nasty and needed to give him an injection. John did not want an injection. He would not let them give him an injection. In the end we held him down, held his hands behind his back, and the doctor was able to give him an injection. He didn’t want it, but we loved him enough to give him the injection, and he is still speaking to us.

We read in our passage, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once.”

That is complicated, but it speaks of the desire of the Son who loves the Father to glorify the Father, and of the desire of the Father, who loves the Son, to glorify the Son.

When you love someone you want them to have the glory, and they want you to have the glory. And when you love someone when they are glorified you are glorified. There is a mutual glory in love.


COMMUNION

To love another person is to desire union with them.

There is an attract-ive, magnetic element in love!

It is to seek union or communion with them in an appropriate way: a way that sees them as they are, and a way that seeks the absolute best for them.

Physical, surface lovers, desire each other and want to be physically together. Often it is not always in a way that really sees the other, or in a way that wants the best for the other, but rather wants to use them to meet our own physical needs.

It is for that reason that God has given us the gift of marriage, so that physical desire for another can deepen over time and become a love that is much deeper and richer.

As Christians we are called to that deeper and richer love. We are not called to be physical lovers, but to become spiritual lovers, spiritual soul mates. It is a love that transcends the physical, and will last beyond death. That is why we speak of the communion of the saints – a communion which extends to those who came before us and those who will come after us. We are called to recognise that we do belong together, that we are part of each other, and that without the other something in me is missing, and that for the other without me something is missing.

This is the love of the Trinity.

Here is another icon – Rublev’s Trinity.



Three persons in communion with each other, independent and yet dependent on each other.

Jesus says that he is giving us a new commandment.

That is odd because the command to love is in the Old Testament:
Deuteronomy 6:5, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength’
Leviticus 19:18, ‘Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbour as yourself. I am the Lord’.
Jesus himself teaches that all the law and the prophets were summed up in these two commands – to love God and to love your neighbour (Mk. 12:28-33; cf. Rom. 13:8-10; Gal. 5:14).

But what is new is what Jesus adds. ‘Love one another as I have loved you’.

Jesus love is the example for our love
Jesus love is the reason why we can begin to love, to really love.

We see Jesus love through the gospels:

We see his delight in people and his compassion for the people.

Even here, he calls them ‘Little children’ – it could be translated ‘Dear little children’. He delights in them.

Jesus tells the story of a shepherd who has 100 sheep. One of them is missing, so Jesus says, this shepherds is so filled with concern for his lost sheep that he abandons the 99 in order to go off and search for the one. And when he finds it, he puts it on his shoulder and goes to his home village and he throws a party, and he says: ‘I had a hundred sheep, and one went missing. So I went to search for him, and I found him, and here he is’. And they said, ‘Jesse, that is wonderful. But what about the other 99?’ …

Jesus tells three stories about a missing sheep, a missing coin and a missing son in order to say that God so delights in you, that when you are lost and allow yourself to be found by him, they throw a party in heaven.

You may think that you are rubbish, useless; that nobody can love you. But God can see deep inside you. He can see the very very faint outline of Jesus Christ in you, he can see what he made you to be and what you could become, and he delights in you.

‘The Lord your God will rejoice over you with gladness, he will renew you in is love; he will exult over you with loud singing’ (Zephaniah 3.17)
I like that. God is like a mother who holds you in her arms and sings over you. He delights in you.

And we see Jesus’ love in that he wants the best for us, the very best, the eternal best. Because he loves us he wants us to share in his glory

He had compassion on the crowd, he healed, he cast out demons, he raised people from the dead. But he did not heal all, and he only raised 3 people from the dead. And there must have been many people who wondered whether Jesus really did want the best for them.

And Jesus, in his compassion, taught and encouraged; but he also challenged and rebuked. And there must have been many who wondered whether Jesus really did want the best for them.

But because Jesus did desire the very very best for us, the eternal best, he died for us on the cross, he dealt with sin – that barrier which prevented us from having a relationship with God, so that we could know God, could become part of the life of God, and in God part of each other.

And we see Jesus’ love in his desire that we should be in communion with him, and with all who are in communion with him. We should become part of him and part of God.

This is a really important theme, especially in John’s gospel. Jesus has come to gather God’s people together.
He says that when he is lifted up on the cross, and when we see his love, all kinds of people will be drawn to him.

And so Jesus tells his followers, tells those who have come to him, ‘Love one another. As I have loved you, love one another

Jesus love is the example to us of love: a love that delights in the other, seeks the best for the other and desires to be part of the other.

And Jesus love for us is the reason that we can love.

We love because we were first beloved

He created us and gave us life.
He has brought us in to the life of God
He has brought us into a body, the Church, his people, where we are so obviously part of one another, with different gifts that complement each other.

He has given us everything that we need to love.

He has given us his word – so that as we allow his word to come into us, as we read it, and learn it, and allow it to shape our thinking and our speaking – so we begin to see this world and other people in a completely new way. We begin to see the working of God in this world; we begin to see the faint outline of Christ in the other.

There is a prayer of Mother Theresa.
‘Dearest Lord, may I see you today and every day in the person of your sick, and, whilst nursing them, minister unto you. Though you hide yourself behind the unattractive disguise of the irritable, the exacting, the unreasonable, may I still recognize you and say, “Jesus, my patient, how sweet it is to serve you.” ’ John 13:31

And he has given us His Spirit
He has planted his seed of love in us.

Pray for more of the Spirit. Pray daily for more of the Holy Spirit. It is only the Holy Spirit who can enable us to love, to really love the Jesus way.

There is a prayer that we pray

“Send your Holy Spirit, and pour into our hearts that most excellent gift of love”

Or each day in Morning Prayer we pray,
“As we rejoice in the gift of this new day, 
so may the light of your presence, O God, 
set our hearts on fire with love for you; 
now and for ever.

People often – and rightly – speak of the sacrifice of love, the cost of love.
We look at Jesus, in his love, kneeling down and doing the job of a slave when he washed his disciples feet.
We look at him going to the cross, the shame and humiliation, the pain that he endured for us.
And yes, there are many many times when we do what is loving, what is right, out of a sense of duty. And there is an element of sacrifice in love.

But real love means that you will do something astonishing for the other – not because you have to, or it is simply right to do so, but because you really want to.

The story is told of the boy who was crossing a deep river. On his back he was carrying another boy, who was paralysed from the waist down. As he struggled to the other side, a man said, ‘Young man, that is quite a burden you have’. ‘No’, said the boy, ‘This is not a burden. This is my brother’.

Love one another. As I have loved you (we need to hear that bit), so you should love one another’.


Lord, you have taught us
that all our doings without love are nothing worth:
send your Holy Spirit
and pour into our hearts that most excellent gift of love,
the true bond of peace and of all virtues,
without which whoever lives is counted dead before you.
Grant this for your only Son Jesus Christ’s sake,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.


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