“A new command I give you: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” John 13:34
Recently I was with a group of young men as they were talking about dealing with people who were polar opposites from themselves. They were musing about how painfully out of touch these co-workers and acquaintances were with life, God, and the world around them. The reflections ranged from topics of politics to morality, from solutions that were either high-minded or conversely, apathetic. As one young guy blurred out “these folks are impossible to deal with,” my response seemed rather simple. I suggested why don’t we just try to love them as Christ loves them? Let your light shine. Be loving in your reception of them. Scripture calls us to always be ready to make a defense for the hope that is within us, so we can pray that the Lord will give us words of grace and mercy as the need arises and pray to be a loving representative of and an attraction to Christ.
In the 13 chapter of John, Jesus said: “Love one another as I have loved you.” Our modern perspective acts as if the Scripture said; “Love that person as they have loved you.” We would all be in trouble with that scenario. But clearly that is not what is being said.
Likewise in the Epistle I John 4:11, the author writes: “Since God loved us so much, we too should love one another.” Once again our modern mind, filled with self-aggrandizing neediness, might respond that if God loves us so much, so we ought to love him. Of course, He yearns for us to love Him, but that is not precisely what the verse is saying. It says we must love one another....that means our neighbor, with whom we may not always agree. So the love of God and the love of our neighbor are totally inseparable. The passage continues “Anyone who says he loves God and hates his brother is a liar.” (1 John 4:20). It was that deep sense of God’s love and presence in an old monk name Father Matthias who opened the door for me to be “found by Jesus.” There was no moral litmus test, no convergence of our political ideas, no shared background, and no generational identity. There was one thing and one thing only. I understood only later that the attraction I felt toward Christ was because of the love of God revealed through another who lived his faith honestly and easily--for me at that moment it happened to be an obscure monk, who was following the Rule of St. Benedict, written in the 6th century. It reminds those of us in community to receive all guests as if they were Jesus. I was and am the joyful recipient of that grace.
Forty years have passed since I first came to New York City. It has indeed been God’s mercy and grace that has allowed me (not perfectly) to offer that same Gospel-hope to those who come into my life.
Ok, let me say it clearly. We can’t be worshipping some vague kind of deity in another “time zone,” and ignore those around us who are suffering in brokenness and loneliness. The Lord is in the world of our here and now, involving those with whom we rub shoulders every day. It is true that the outcome of faith is love. Try it sometime when some politicians or a political junkie rubs you the wrong way, saying I belong to Jesus and His calling of love. “Love one another, as I have loved you.” He has loved us mightily.
For me, being loved by Father Matthias was the door opener through which my life and soul were saved. The love of Christ provided for me strength, joy, and resources to live and serve in New York City these 40 years. (I recommend checking out the writings of St. Benedict--it might be a game changer for you.)
In His Service,