Our house church has been slowly making our way through the attributes of a church as we see them in Acts 2 (there’s a great visual video here if you want to see an example) since the beginning of the year. *ahem* Yes, it is May, thanks for noticing. To our defense, there are quite a few attributes to go over- things like, prayer and studying the Word, the Lord’s Supper and Baptism. But I kind of giggled when the last two topics that we covered were “Giving” and “Loving One Another.” Now, excuse me if I’m reading into this too much – but did we save the hardest for last?!
I think most of us don’t enjoy the inevitable yearly Sunday sermon on tithing or giving at our local congregation – and even when done well it can feel awkward. But the one that made me smile the most was “Love One Another.” Now that’s a hard topic!
The Second Hardest Command
One thing I’ve started to see as a pretty widespread epidemic in Christianity today is our lack of ownership in loving one another well as followers of Jesus. I’ve talked to friends who have attended churches where the cliques rival those of high school lunchrooms. I’ve talked to friends who prefer their Non-Christian friends over their Christian ones because they are “less judgmental.” And I’ve found that many find it hard to think past just “being nice” when it comes to being a loving Christian.
So here are some things we can keep in mind to help us as we try to live up to the words of Jesus when he said, “I give you a new command: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you are also to love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples.” 1
Become A Blue Collar Believer in a White Collar Religion
Honestly, I could probably just quote all of John 13 and call it good for this article. What we see right before Jesus’s big command reveal was him doing something totally crazy. He sat his disciples down and washed their feet. For all intents and purposes Jesus became a servant. And not just any servant, like the cool guy who serves the drinks or the guy in charge of the household, no he became the guy who gets down and dirty.
We tend to value the white-collar workers of our faith – those with lots of Instagram followers, or those standing under the bright lights preaching to crowds. But Jesus shows us He values something else. He values the love and care of others. Putting others’ needs above our own. In fact, I would go so far as to say, Jesus has a different currency than we do.
Instead of how many disciples do I have, how many churches have I started? How many people attend my Bible study? I believe Jesus cares more about the one left behind. A willingness to leave the 99 and go after the 1 makes absolutely no sense in economics. And you might even tell me that it doesn’t make sense in modern faith either. But I still think the Lord smiles upon our faithfulness to one. Investing in, serving and dare I say loving one lost neighbor is 100 percent worth it.
Love Your Enemies and Frenemies.
Once again, back in John chapter 13 when Jesus is washing the disciples we count them off and all 12 are accounted for: Judas hadn’t left yet. I don’t think this was an accident, in fact, what a picture for the remaining eleven when they looked back on this night (as I’m sure they did often!) and remembered how Jesus had said, “Do what I do.” And then washed the very feet of the one who was about to betray Him.
This means we as followers of Jesus are called to love those who aren’t loveable. We are called to love those who hurt us, those who disagree with our values, those who are actively sinning. Even as I type this, the strong-capable-part of me is screaming “Don’t get taken advantage of!” “Don’t get hurt!”
But, guess what? In my 9 years of doing house church and doing ministry in the harvest places I’ve cried more, been used by more people, invested and turned my life upside down for all sorts of people who aren’t around today. It’s our greatest honor. We as followers of Jesus are not to think twice about whether it’ll be “fruitful.” Was it fruitful to serve Judas? Was washing his feet one last ditch attempt to get him to not betray Jesus? No, I believe it was love. Pure and Simple.
You guessed it, we are again referring to John 13. This time we see how Jesus shows an example of how to love in a very different way than the warm and fuzzy washing of feet. Telling the truth about sin. This part is no fun. We don’t love it (And honestly, if you do-is it really coming from a place of love?!). But, here Jesus ever so firmly calls Peter out (Ahead of time, no less!) regarding his sin. He points out Peter’s blind spot: Was it caring what people thought? Was it fear? That’s probably an article all to itself!
Whatever the case, what we see here is something really important. This passage combined with Peter’s reconciliation with Jesus in John 21. 2 shows us the full picture of how loving it is to deal with sin. Jesus could have just stayed quiet, not pointed out to Peter what He saw, but instead He warned Him of his blind spot. This later played a part in Peter’s realization and repentance of heart after the rooster crowed. 3 This picture of reconciliation from a place of sin, is all part of Jesus’ example of love. We are not to condemn but we are called to bring light to the blind spots of our generation and even to one another. There is nothing quite so humbling then to see your sin for what it is, and for being loved and forgiven by a body of believers. I’ve messed up and been called out and yet never felt quite so loved by my fellow brothers and sisters than when my sin sees the light of day and is faced with understanding and forgiveness like Jesus showed Peter.
The statement by Jesus that His disciples would be known by their love could not be more true now than at any time in history. Jesus’ love is countercultural and we are commanded to do it.
While it may have been the last thing we talked about in my church, it’s the thing we spend the most time practicing and trying to get right. I haven’t even scratched the surface of the topic here, but I hope these notes from John 13 will get you thinking about this second greatest command and what it should look like in your life.