John 13:31- 35 When Judas had gone Jesus said: “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and in him God has been glorified. If God has been glorified in him, God will in turn glorify him in himself, and will glorify him very soon.
My little children, I shall not be with you much longer. I give you a new commandment: love one another; just as I have loved you, you must also love one another. By this love you have for one another, everyone will know that you are my disciples.”
It is not easy to love one another. We humans aren’t even good at loving the folks we are supposed to love. Parents disown their gay children; kick their pregnant, teenage daughter out of the house; physically abuse their children in countless heinous ways. Spouses cheat on each other, disrespect each other, abuse each other.
We certainly are no good at loving Christ. His closest friends, his disciples, weren’t either. In the scripture passage, Jesus has has pointed out that Judas is going to betray him, and just after this reading, Jesus tells Peter that he will deny him three times before the night is over.
So, we’re Christians, right? We are followers of Christ. Here, in our sacred scriptures, Christ commands us to love one another.
What do we do instead? We fight over which rituals are the right ones. We fight over whether or not to allow women to preach. We fight over what is or is not allowed to be worn in our houses of worship. We fight over who is or is not allowed in our houses of worship. . .
We fight .
We don’t love.
And as consumers of conflict-as-entertainment, we eat it up. We can’t seem to get enough. Because the news relies on advertising dollars to keep afloat, they mainly show the stories that bring in the audience, so every day our screens and papers are filled with tales of violence and war and destruction. As the old adage goes, “If it bleeds, it leads.”
Our social media is filled with groups dedicated to their particular version of the Right Way to Do It whose sole aim, it seems, is to fight with the other groups who have a Different Right Way to Do It. If there is some tragedy–or better yet, a scandal–involving our group’s chosen enemy, this will keep us delightedly crowing for days.
To love in a culture that thrives on an outright hatred of others is a radical act.
Love one another, as I have loved you, Jesus commands. So, you know:
Feed the hungry.
Heal the sick.
Befriend the unclean (like the prostitute, the tax collector, the Samaritan).
Favor the poor.
Invite people outside of your “in group” to join you.
To the Disciples and other early followers of Jesus, who were looking for a powerful leader to rescue the Jews from oppression, this was almost impossible to understand. Two thousand years later, we STILL don’t get it. We can’t fight our way out of oppression. We can only change who it is that is doing the oppressing. It is only by loving one another that we are, in fact, all made free.
Loving one another is not something out of an animated film where all the forest animals are singing and valentines are shooting out of our eyeballs. Loving one another is hard, holy work.
To love one another is our call as Christians. That is how we are to be known and recognized. Radical.