oh we Christians can be a hated bunch. and rightly so in way too many times and spaces [although almost always when we say or do things that aren't particularly Christ-following in nature]
this week i was called a ‘reprobate’, told i have no spiritual teeth [i am not quite sure what that means but i think i was meant to be offended] , a ‘coward pastor’ and i think there was an insinuation that i am evil [when i said i was going to watch a movie with friends, the response that followed was ‘Even the evil love their friends and family.’ [and all this from someone who calls herself a 'fellow believer'] all because i mentioned on facebook that i didn’t feel i had the authority to share effectively on the situation in Gaza because i am not up to speed on everything that is happening there.
34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” [John 13.34-35 New International Version]
this did not feel like that.
last nite, tbV and i attended a wedding of some friends of ours in Americaland… this is four days before we leave the country where we have been living and working in non-profits and return to South Africa… also about two months ago they weren’t even engaged… there was an engagement and then a sense of ‘You’re leaving when?’ and then a scurrying to make a wedding happen so that we could be there before we left for SA. i was invited to MC at the reception after the wedding and we just got to spend a fun and fondu-filled evening with church friends and especially be there for a significant life event for some friends we have gotten to know and love over here.
34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” [John 13.34-35 English Standard Version]
this felt a lot like that.
on the way home from the wedding, my beautiful wife Val told me a story of the way that some friends of ours really went above and beyond in terms of showing love to another friend of ours who was in a really bad place and feeling completely low. a welcome at the airport with some of her significant and favourite things and a week of just showering her with love and friendship and special attention. in a completely tired and shattered state, driving us home after the wedding and just so ready for bed, this story lifted my spirits immensely and gave me huge hope and was really not the hugest surprise knowing the people in question.
34 A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another; even as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.
35 By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another. [John 13.34-35 American Standard Version]
arrive home from the party and discover an envelope that a friend and someone who had worked alongside me in the youth ministry had slipped into my hand at Friday’s farewell party that other friends of ours [that we hadn't even spent crazy time with] had offered to throw for us – open it and read amazing and encouraging words in a card but also an immensely generous gift from someone who had spent so much of last year out of a job… catch a glimpse of the photo/message book that another friend of ours [again, someone who we hadn't spent a lot of time with] put together for us to map out significant parts of our journey in Oakland and remind us of the people we loved and who loved us along the way… close my hand around the wad of cash my bossman gave me towards buying a new computer when we get home [before this one completely catches fire and burns up from overheating] and smile again at the pics of our visit to a place called ‘Bacon Bacon’ which could only be the best place to take me to celebrate the end of working for him…
34-35 “Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other.” [The Message]
all of those things felt a lot like this.
don’t get me wrong. there are definitely times to call people out and to challenge people when they are not living up to the message they are proclaiming. Jesus had a field day with the Pharisees and the people in the temple and on many occasions even His own disciples. there is a time for harsh words and sometimes even harsh actions.
But the first 3 verses of 1 Corinthians 13, remind us of this important principle:
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Which is followed by this reminder of the kind of choice Love that often takes a little bit more effort, and personal cost, and perseverance, to achieve:
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
8 Love never fails.
If the person or the thing or the event, does not have love, then it is not of God.
The Love of God is the tattoo of the Christian. It is the mark by which we will be known and recognised.
It will hopefully do the job of helping attract other people towards God.
Who is the Source of all that is Love and Good and Right.
Thank you to all of those who have loved us well in the whole of life, but especially in these last few weeks and days… it has been muchly appreciated!