“A teenager came home from choir practice early one evening. His Dad asked, ‘What brings you back so soon?’
“And his son answered, ‘We had to call off choir practice. The organist and the choir director got into a terrible argument about how to sing, 'Let there be Peace on Earth,' so we quit for the night.’”
Don’t you love it! Our Gospel lesson today has that wonderful – and yet quite challenging commandment in it. Jesus is talking, and he’s telling his disciples, “Love one another as I have loved you.”
I am often somewhat puzzled by that. A commandment. A new commandment. Why does Jesus think that he needs to command us to love each other?
Have any of you ever given any thought to that? Why do we have to be commanded to love each other? I’m not sure. Quite frankly, I’m not sure. But let me throw a few thoughts at you.
Jesus calls this a new commandment. Let me suggest that what Jesus is doing is just making it easier for us to remember. We are familiar – at least I hope most of us are familiar with the Ten Commandments. Ten. Not so hard to remember all ten. Well, maybe. If you think you have trouble remembering all ten, and remembering them in order – try remembering 613. That’s the number of commandments that a rabbi in the 3rd Century came up with for our Jewish friends to adhere to.
No – I like that Jesus gave us just one – just one when it comes to our life with each other. And of course there is another commandment – not given in our text today – but another commandment where Jesus tells us we are to love God with all your heart and soul and strength and mind.
But what I want to talk with you about today is this commandment where Jesus says, “Love one another as I have loved you. By this all people will know that you are truly my disciples if you have love for one another.”
Pretty easy to remember, don’t you think? Not so easy to always remember to put into practice.
Let me share with you a story about “An incident a couple of summers ago in San Antonio, Texas. It was a hot, 99-degree August day when a ten-month-old baby girl was accidentally locked in a parked car by her aunt. Frantically the mother and the aunt ran around the auto in near hysteria, while a neighbor attempted to unlock the car with a clothes hanger. The infant was bawling at the top of its lungs, beginning to turn purple and foam from the mouth, a combination of anxiety and the intense heat inside the car.
“It had quickly become a life-and-death situation when Fred Arriola, a tow-truck driver, arrived on the scene. He grabbed a hammer from his truck and smashed the back side window of the car to free the baby. Was he heralded a hero? Not so. According to an article in the San Antonio Tribune, he is quoted as saying, “The lady was mad at me because I broke the window. I just thought, 'What's more important – a baby or a window?’”
And Jesus says, “Love one another as I have loved you.” Who showed the love of Christ, Fred Arriola, or the woman whose car window he smashed?
Folks, the most important thing for you to know – is that God loves you. When we need forgiveness, God forgives – and God forgets. It is the love of God for you that has brought you here today. It is God’s love for you that welcomes you – and embraces you – and makes you a part of His family. His Kingdom. In turn, it is our love for God that makes us want to tell others about God’s love, Gods’ grace, God’s forgiveness. To tell them about Jesus – about his life, his death, his resurrection –as the means by which we have forgiveness and the hope and the promise of eternal life with God forever.
So – if we have that kind of love for others – we will want to tell others about God’s love – and what God has done for them through His Son Jesus Christ.
Now I don’t think there’s a person here today who would not agree that love is a good thing. We all want – we all need to be loved – and to give love in return. But you know – it isn’t always easy.
Like Lucy from the cartoon strip, “Peanuts.” “Lucy stands with her arms folded and a resolute expression on her face, while Charlie Brown pleads with her. ‘Lucy,’ he says, ‘you must be more loving. The world needs love. Make this world a better place, Lucy, by loving someone else.’ At that Lucy whirls around angrily and Charlie goes flipping over backwards. ‘Look, you blockhead,’ Lucy screams. ‘The world I love. It's people I can't stand!’”
You laugh, because you know it’s true. There will always be some people we don’t like – we don’t care for – and people who are just plain difficult to love. And they’re usually the people who are closest to us – at school – at work – members of our own families – the family next door – or perhaps even the people we sit next to in church. Maybe that’s why Jesus gave this to us as a command. He did not tell us to love as an option, but as a command because he knew how difficult it would sometimes be.
All I can say is, they are among the ones that we are called to honor, to respect, to show kindness to, compassion, courtesy – to encourage – to pray for. Just remember love is not determined by the way you feel about someone else. Love is not about how you feel. Love is something that you do. When Jesus says, “Love one another as I have loved you,” he’s talking about putting love into action. And what you also need to know is that right before Jesus tells his disciples to love one another – he has just finished washing their feet. As an example. In other words – the one who loves is the one who serves – others.
Last week I talked about what happened at the Boston Marathon. The horror and heartbreak that the city of Boston suffered two weeks ago brought out the best in many. First responders and ordinary Joe’s and Josephine’s ran towards the places where the bombs went off. I saw one news story where a college senior who, having finished the race, went to the aid of an injured man. This young man took off his shirt and used it as a tourniquet. From what I could tell, that young man’s actions saved the older man’s leg. Interviewed in the older man’s hospital room, both men were of the same mind that they’re lives were forever linked – friends for life – because of the heroic action that the younger man took.
Those kinds of acts of love, and care, and sacrifice – and there are many that none of us even know about – are examples of what Jesus is talking about. Now you and I are not likely to be in such situations. The places where we serve are less tragic, less dramatic – not newsworthy at all. But nevertheless – no matter what the situation – we will step up as followers of Jesus Christ – stepping up – as one who serves.
One other lesson that I see in what happened in Boston. You’re familiar by now I am sure, with the phrase that’s been around since 911, “See Something, Say Something. Do something.”
I’m thinking of the guy who noticed a bloodstain and a torn tarp on his boat in his driveway. He dialed 911, and reported what he saw to the police. But the boat owner did more than just “say something.” He took action. He did something. He got a ladder, climbed up the boat, and peeked under the tarp on his boat. Now – I’ve gotta tell ya, I don’t know if I would have been so bold. Or so brave. That was a pretty gutsy thing to do. But the fact that he did something – something that gave key information to the authorities about a terrorist – helped bring an end to the nightmare in Boston.
I’d like to apply that thought about “See something. Say something. Do something.” And use these three to illustrate what Jesus means when he says, “Love one another.”
See something — see what Christ is doing in the world, and in the lives of those you meet.
Say something — speak a word of encouragement. You know, it’s so easy for us to criticize – give a roll of the eyes. But how about if when we say something, it’s a word of encouragement. Say a word of comfort. Let your words to and about others be gracious. Say something to someone about the good news of God’s love for them in Jesus Christ.
Do something — let’s agree that we’re going to live our lives in such a way that others will know that we are disciples of Jesus Christ by the things that we do. Jesus washed his disciple’s feet, then he offered himself as a living sacrifice on the cross. That is His gift to us. The Holy Spirit also gives gifts. And let me tell you, these gifts are given to you so that you can do something. Your gifts have not been given to you in order for you to deal with your problems. No! You have been given gifts in order for you to serve others.
So see something. Say something. Do something. And then be something. No! Be someone — be someone transformed by the love of Christ – so that who you are at the core of your being is the person God wants you to be. Remember – that God loves you. God loves you just the way you are – but He loves you too much to let you stay that way.
So see something, say something, do something, and be someone who is transformed by the love of Christ – someone who loves the way Christ loves you.
My friends – may you be known for the love you show for others. May you be known for having a servant’s heart. May others see Jesus in you.