• Buddy Coffey

Loving Jesus' Way: Can You Do It? Will You...?


To set the scene, imagine you are in the upper room at the Last Supper. What's the mood? What's being said? What is everyone feeling? Jesus knew that in a few short hours he would be dead. His physical life would be over. These were the last private moments He would have with the ones closest to Him. After this night everything would be done in public.

Painting: Sacred Heart of Jesus - Joseph Fanelli, 1993

There would be reminiscing, reliving memories of the past three years with the disciples. There would be an intimacy that only occurs when a friend is departing, maybe never to be seen again. The past would be relived. The future would be anticipated. And at some time during the night, the talk would turn serious. Friends who are about to part for an extended period of time tend to get around to telling each other the deepest secrets of their hearts. Time is short, and only the most important and most profound things are discussed. Finally, friends start making “last requests.” They will say things like, “Don't ever forget...” or “I want you to do this...” Anyone who has gone through this for himself will know exactly what I'm talking about.

This is the scene we encounter in the upper room that night. The emotion is thick. Not just the emotion of sadness, but of intensity and love. The Gospel accounts of the Last Supper show us rich, deep closeness. Sharing a meal together. Jesus washing the disciples’ feet. One of the disciples could even lay his head on Christ's bosom. In this atmosphere, Jesus is about to tell His disciples something new, an “I want you to do this...” statement. Let's listen in to what Jesus is saying:

“My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come. A new commandment I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:33-35)

THE NEW COMMANDMENT

Let’s focus on the bolded part that identifies a “new commandment.”

“A new commandment I give you, that you love one another.”

But “loving one another” wasn’t new in and of itself. You can go back to the Old Testament, the Shema: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and mind and soul and strength” which Jesus would say is the greatest commandment (Matt. 22:36-40). We can even find examples and commands in the Old Testament of “loving our neighbors as ourselves.”

So that part wasn’t new. The “new” part is the next phrase:

“A new commandment I give you, that you love one another. As I have loved you, so are [we] to love one another.”

That’s the “new” commandment.

And how did Jesus love? How different is that from the standard love of the time? Or the standard love of our time?

It would benefit us to think about, perhaps to meditate upon, that thought right now since that is the commandment that Jesus gave in His final private moments with the disciples. To help us do that let’s look into just how Jesus did love.

LOVE ISN’T DIVISIBLE

Think a moment. Who did Jesus love the “most?” Maybe the disciples. Maybe that inner circle of Peter, James, and John. Maybe the disciple of whom it is said Jesus loved, who we think is John. No? Maybe his family. No?

I don’t think we can think of anyone who Jesus loved “the most.” He just loved! Love “is.”

You see, love’s not something that can be divided or portioned out like slices of pie, where most everybody gets a little slice, and maybe our closest friends and family get a bigger slice, and our spouse gets a bigger slice still. And of course God gets the biggest slice of all!

Now we may have more affection or more affinity or more things in common with others that bring us closer together. But love itself isn’t divisible like that. It wasn’t for Jesus. When he loved, he loved with his whole heart.

So with my spouse, I love with all the love I have. Or with my children, with all the love I have. With close friends, whether next door or miles away, with all the love I have. With whomever I encounter, with all the love I have. All! All! All! That’s how Jesus loved!

Now since we are limited in time, energy, and emotion, our expressions of love are of necessity limited, too. These expressions are resources that must be used wisely, and we need to be good stewards in allocating them. Likewise, the way we express love will differ depending on to whom we are expressing it. The way I express love to my spouse is of course far different than the way I might express love to a neighbor or friend. But despite these limitations on our expressions of love, the love itself has no limit. We can always love with all the love we have.

LOVE DOESN’T HAVE REQUIREMENTS

Another question. Who did Jesus love the “least?” (You’re probably on to me by now.) Maybe it was those power-grabbing sons of Zebedee, who wanted to sit on the left and the right of Jesus. Or Peter, who could be a great guy and a great leader if he didn’t keep putting his foot in his mouth. Or Thomas. Always asking questions.

How about the “rich, young ruler” who Jesus told to go and sell all that he had and give to the poor… and couldn’t do it? No. Scripture says that Jesus loved him even in spite of that.

And even from the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they are doing.” He didn’t love anyone “the least.” He hung out with lepers and social outcasts and all, and loved them just like everybody else.

He didn’t love anyone “the least.” He hung out with lepers and social outcasts and all, and loved them just like everybody else.

Now with me at least and perhaps with you, that’s not so easy to do. We can always think of someone who we love “less”: a different race, a different nationality, a different lifestyle, a different religion or denomination or way of worship. The list goes on and on.

But not so with Jesus. There was no one that Jesus loved the “least.” That’s the way Jesus loved.

LOVE IS DEMONSTRATED

Another thing that we’ve all probably heard is that “love is a verb.” It’s not just a sentiment that we work up in our minds. It’s not a theory to be examined or a feeling to be felt. Love is something that is demonstrated. It is outward and out flowing.

And Jesus demonstrated his love with everything he did, wherever he was at and with whomever he happened to be. Healings. Forgiveness. Uplifting the downtrodden. Encouraging the hopeless.

The Apostle Paul would later write to the Romans that “God demonstrated his love for us, in that while we were yet sinners [some of those “unlovable people that might be loved the least”], Christ died for us.”

All the healings, all the miracles, all the acceptance. All the demonstrations of love. That’s the way Jesus loved.

LOVE IS TWO WAY

But love is more than a verb, because the heart that opens up to give love should remain open to receive love. That’s the way Jesus loved.

“Suffer the little children to come unto me, for of such is the kingdom of God.” He wanted to be immersed in the love of the little ones.

Jesus said lots of other things about his receiving the love of others. “If you love me, keep my commandments.” “If you love me, feed my sheep.”

Jesus said lots of other things about his receiving the love of others. “If you love me, keep my commandments.” “If you love me, feed my sheep.”

It is said that it is more blessed to give than to receive, but I’ve found personally, while that’s true, sometimes it can be far harder to receive love than it is to give love.

That’s because when we give love, we get to decide who to love, and when to love, and how to love, and even when to stop loving. We are in total control of the loving.

But if we’re going to love like Jesus loved, and open up and let the love come in, we give up all that control. So that in addition to love being a verb and love being an action, love is also surrender. The surrender of control.

Let me give you a couple of examples from my own life. Years ago when living in Albuquerque I decided to take some clothes and other items down to an outreach for homeless families. They were things I wasn't going to use, so I decided to donate them so that the homeless could use them. Sounds pretty good so far. By taking these clothes to the center I was loving them.

I saw a number of men standing around and sitting at tables, waiting -- who knows what for. They looked at me, and I looked at them for a while. Then I had to avert my eyes and head for the door. I couldn't bring myself to sit down with one of these men for even a short time and let him love me! I wanted no part of that.

Or, how about visiting with the elderly or a widow at church? We go over and say hello. We stay and talk for a while. Then when we decide it's time to leave, we leave. Did she get to love us, or did we just get to love her? Jesus' example says it takes both. The kind of love Jesus lived was love as a relationship, not love as a duty or as an obligation.

Some of those who are trying to love us don’t know what we know about love, and their love can be very, very imperfect. Jesus didn’t care about that, either. He opened up to receive whatever love or imperfection you might want to associate with someone’s love.

It’s so amazing that this passage in John’s gospel quoted at the beginning of the article concludes with the thought that by this – by this love – shall everyone know that we are Jesus’ disciples.

It’s an amazing thing! It’s so amazing that this passage in John’s gospel quoted at the beginning of the article concludes with the thought that by this – by this love – shall everyone know that we are Jesus’ disciples. That’s how radical, how outrageous, how extravagant, how incredible and different the love of Jesus is. Just because of that love, we’ll be known as followers of His.

The sign of the covenant with Abraham was circumcision. With Moses, in the Old Covenant, it was the Sabbath. But Jesus says the sign of the New Covenant – the way we’ll be known – isn’t from those things. It isn’t because of certain doctrines and practices. It isn’t even because of a particular set of beliefs. It’s because we love and we learn to love the way Jesus loved.

I CORINTHIANS 13

There’s a very familiar passage of scripture that was read at my wedding. It was read at my daughter’s wedding. It may have been read at yours. Paul is writing to the Corinthians about love, and I would like for us to read it in the context of the article: the relationships we have with each other, the intimacy that’s developed.

Love is patient; love is kind. It does not envy; it does not boast. It is not proud; it is not rude; it is not self-seeking. It’s not easily angered. Love keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. Love always protects, always trusts; always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.

Perhaps the first thing we learned way back in Sunday school days was the verse that says, “God is love.” And what we can say of God we can certainly say of Jesus.

So let’s read through that passage again, knowing that our commandment is to love the way Jesus loves:

Jesus is patient; Jesus is kind. Jesus does not envy; he does not boast. He is not proud; Jesus is not rude; Jesus is not self-seeking. He’s not easily angered. Jesus keeps no record of wrongs. Jesus does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. He always protects, always trusts; always hopes, always perseveres. Jesus never fails.

And since this article is about that new commandment, to love as Jesus loved, let’s use our own names. I’ll use mine, but you imagine yours in its place.

Is Buddy patient? Is Buddy kind?

Does Buddy envy, or boast, or be proud?

Is Buddy rude, self-seeking, easily angered?

Does Buddy keep a record of wrongs?

Does Buddy delight in evil, or does Buddy rejoice in the truth?

Does Buddy always protect, always trust, always hope, always persevere?

Will Buddy ever fail?

No, we all fall short of that ideal. None of us are the kind of “lover” that Jesus is. But as we follow him and as we increase our devotion to him, we can’t help but become more like him. And that includes the way He loves.

IN CLOSING

Jesus said that by loving the way He did, everyone will know that we are his disciples. Not only that, He commands us to love that way. That’s a challenge, at least it is for me. To be the kind of “lover” Jesus is? I have a long, long way to go.

But no matter the distance, every journey begins with a first step. Let me offer a couple that have helped me. When you encounter someone, ask yourself how Jesus might see that person. Would He only see the person’s appearance? Would He only see the person’s circumstances? Or would He seek to understand how the person got into the circumstances he or she did? Could we begin to do the same? Could we seek to understand, remembering that understanding doesn’t require acceptance of behavior.

Ask yourself, “What would loving this person the way Jesus loves look like?” It may be an act of service. It may be a listening ear. It may be surrendering our sense of control and letting the other person love us. It may be something else, but you won’t know if you don’t ask the question.

Jesus reminds us that by living this type of love as a way of life, we’ll be known as His disciples. I’m not there yet as my love is no way close to Jesus’ love, but I’m learning! I invite you as warmly as I know how to join me, to become more aware of opportunities to love the way Jesus loves. Wherever you are. With whomever you happen to be.

#Jesuslove #LovinglikeJesus #Godsway #1Corinthians13 #Loveispatent #Scripturesonlove #NewCommandment #LearninghowtolovefromJesus

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