Weekly Bible Devotional
“Everything Is Holy: Our Relationships”
June 27, 2021
Scripture for Sunday: John 13:31-34
31 When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. 32 If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. 33 Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’ 34 I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.
Notes on the Text:
When I read Jesus’ words to the disciples about loving one another, I find myself filled with gratitude for the many ways these words are embodied in the love of many communities of faith. This love is not always motivated by always agreeing with each other or having similar backgrounds. What holds us together in Christian community is the love we share in Christ. The cultural divisions we may have don’t ultimately compare to our shared experience of God’s love. We sometimes forget this, but at the heart of Christian community is the unconditional love of God.
This is the bond which Jesus shared with his disciples and gave to us as an example. This bond was not naive or based on good circumstances, perfect theological agreements, or when the disciples were loveable. It was not based on them always getting what he was teaching them. It was not based on whether they deserved his love or not. It was not even based on their ability to love him. It was based on something much deeper!
The passage for this week was part of the farewell speech by Jesus to his disciples. But the setting is really important. It took place when Jesus was facing betrayal by Judas. In verse 21 of this chapter in John, Jesus “was troubled in spirit.” He had just washed the disciples’ feet and had his last meal with them, yet Judas was ready to betray him and sell him out to the Romans. Judas had left the inner circle of the followers of Jesus to commit an act of severe betrayal. Jesus was clearly in pain over this. But his actions following that were not motivated by his fear or pain. He did not let those dominate the scene. Instead, Jesus did two surprising things. First, he gave Judas bread to eat so that the other disciples would not even know what Judas was doing. Second, he asked the disciples to love one another. Think of how radical these acts are in light of what Jesus was facing. I could think of several options for the way Jesus could have reacted if he had let fear and anger rule the day. He could have at least made Judas feel guilty. He could have talked about him behind his back after he left to teach the disciples a moral lesson. He could have exposed Judas for the fraud that he was. He could have canvased the other disciples to see who was on his side. Instead, Jesus chose to do the next loving thing. Despite his feelings of agitation and pain, Jesus chose to focus on love. This is the example which Jesus left for us to follow.
Each day we are faced with the choice between fear and love. Fear is seductive and seems to make sense, especially when it comes to protecting ourselves when we feel threatened. But when we choose fear, we always end up hurting ourselves and others. I am reminded of the current tensions for our Roman Catholic and Southern Baptist brothers and sisters and how their divisions are weakening their witness of love in the world. Think if Jesus gave into the instinct of fear how he would have demoralized his disciples and had them focused on hate instead of love. Instead of focusing on Jesus, they would have focused on Judas. The whole Last Supper would have devolved into a family feud night that would have accomplished nothing. Think about it from your own experience and how anger and attack often do not result in peace of mind or of serving the purposes of the kingdom God. The opposite is true when we are able to focus our energy on love. We can set healthy boundaries as to not let others to abuse us, but our energy goes toward the common good instead of hating those who offend or scare us.
Jesus showed us what it means to be truly human, to be truly alive to the Spirit, and to be truly loving. His commandment to the disciples at that critical moment was to love one another. He commanded them to be defined by love as his community of followers. Love in the face of fear and hatred was going to be their unique mark. That is what attracted others to their movement.
And so as the followers of Jesus we are called to be defined by love ourselves. This love which Jesus calls us to is the radical kind which makes us uncomfortable. It is not the kind of love which comes because we like others or because they are deserving of our love. It is not the kind of love which we give only when things are going well or when we agree with others in our community. The love which Jesus was talking about was radical because it does not come from our normal ways of calculating and behaving. It comes from a deeper source within us. It is the kind of love that stays true even in the face of fear or pain. Even when we are terrified or hurt deeply, this kind of love does not allow our fear or pain to dominate our actions. It is about knowing that we belong to one another because of our bond in Christ. The sacred presence of God in our midst is what holds us together in these relationships. This kind of love is the measure of our faith.
“Imagine our homes and families when love is the way. Imagine our neighborhoods and communities where love is the way. Imagine governments and nations where love is the way. Imagine business and commerce when love is the way. Imagine this tired old world when love is the way. When love is the way – unselfish, sacrificial, redemptive – when love is the way, then no child will go to bed hungry in this world ever again. When love is the way, we will let justice roll down like a mighty stream, and righteousness like an ever-flowing brook.
When love is the way, poverty would become history. When love is the way, the earth will be a sanctuary. When love is the way, we will lay our swords and shields down by the riverside to study war no more. When love is the way, there’s plenty of room for all of God’s children. When love is the way, we actually treat each other, well, like we are actually family.” ~ Michael Curry
Here is a link to an invitation from Bishop Michael Curry to practice the way of love: https://www.episcopalchurch.org/way-of-love/getting-started/. I highly recommend this to you as it gives us a structured and practical way to fulfill Jesus’ commandment to love as he loved.
“Love measures our stature: the more we love, the bigger we are. There is no smaller package in all the world than that of a man all wrapped up in himself.” ~William Sloane Coffin
Prayer by Ted Loder:
Empower me to be a bold participant, rather than a timid saint in waiting, in the difficult ordinariness of now; to exercise the authority of honesty; rather than to defer to power, or deceive to get it; to influence someone for justice, rather than impress anyone for gain; and, by grace, to find treasures of joy, friendship and peace hidden in the fields of the daily you give me to plow. Amen.