The Rev. Jay Lawlor
“Loving Each Other” 6th Sunday of Easter – Year B (RCL) – May 6, 2018
Grace Episcopal Church – Muncie, IN
Jesus said to his disciples: “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love.” (John 15:9b). “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” (John 15:12). “I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.” (John 15:17).
These words are part of Jesus’ Farewell Discourse. All of Jesus’ words are important, but these words are some of the final ones he will speak to his disciples. And Jesus focuses on abiding in Jesus’ love by loving one another. For abiding in Jesus’ love is entering into the love of God. And this love is given to be shared with one another.
Love can be hard. Love for the disciples was about to get a whole lot harder as they experience Jesus’s crucifixion. But Jesus gives the disciples a promise along with the commandment to love one another.
We are pointed toward Jesus’ commandment to love. Not to earn God’s love toward us – God already loves us. God already loves everyone: even those with whom we struggle to love, those who seem unlovable…even our enemies. God’s love is unearned, sometimes undeserved, but always given freely by a loving, forgiving, liberating God.
Jesus told his disciples that loving others is not to earn God’s love towards us but, rather, to show we love Jesus: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” In showing we love others, we reveal our love for Jesus – our love for God. And that love leads us to new life. Not a perfect life. Not a life without troubles, or messiness, or pain, but a life lived always in the presence of God where God is with us every step of the way.
Karoline Lewis, Associate Professor of Preaching at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, MN, has this to say about today’s passage from John:
It’s so easy to pass up such a simple invitation. Abide in my love. And yet, we do. Because we construct expectations for said love. As if Jesus didn’t mean it. As if Jesus had requirements in mind. As if Jesus set out certain criteria for loving and being loved.
It’s so simple. And yet so very complicated, isn’t it? Basically, we distrust the truth of love. We suspect its simplicity. And as a result, we reject the very gift, the very compassion, the very love we need.
We need love. We need to be loved. We need to feel love. We need to express love. I believe that is at the heart of what it means to be human. And I believe that’s why God made us, approached us, and chooses to be in relationship with us.1
I believe Karoline Lewis is correct. God has made us for love. The deep and profound love Jesus shares with his disciples. The love which Jesus desires his disciples to share with one another.
“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” (John 15:12). “I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.” (John 15:17).
In his book titled In the Name of Jesus, Henri Nouwen wrote that:
The knowledge of Jesus’ heart is a knowledge of the heart. And when we live in the world with that knowledge, we cannot do other than bring healing, reconciliation, new life, and hope wherever we go. The desire to be relevant and successful will gradually disappear, and our only desire will be to say with our whole being to our brothers and sisters of the human race, “You are loved.”
My friends, knowing the heart of Jesus changes everything. And the heart of Jesus is love. It is our guiding principle as followers of Jesus. It is established as the norm for Christian community. To accept that we are to love as Jesus loved means we accept that we are first loved by God and recipients of God’s grace. To accept we are to love as Jesus loved transforms our view of ourselves, our community, and our world.
Loving with the heart of Jesus changes us. It allows us to get out of our own way, to get over and move beyond ourselves. When we love as the community of friends of Jesus it changes our perceptions of what is possible. When we love as Jesus loved we can begin to see it is about loving a broken world back into wholeness.
It begins and ends with love. Jesus said to his disciples: “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love.” (John 15:9b). “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” (John 15:12). “I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.” (John 15:17). Amen.
1 “Dear Working Preacher: Abide in My Love” by Karoline Lewis, https://www.workingpreacher.org/craft.aspx?post=5142