Being a disciple 2: Transformed relationships

2013-39.2

 

John 13:34-35

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Love as Jesus loved

 Love one another

– A question up front: When did you first experience God’s love?

WHEN you step up, with trepidation, and God shows up, despite all your doubts and fears, that is often a transforming moment. Bill Hull, who originated this material, tells a story of when he was a 21-year-old student on a trip to Kenya with a couple of others, and the day they were in a small village outside Nairobi with a local pastor who was gathering about 65 villagers to hear their story.

“Who is going to preach?” he asked. The other two students pointed at Bill, who had been a Christian for a whole six months. So he took Jesus’ words “You must be born again” and had a go. He was stunned to find that the whole group wanted to give their lives to Jesus. Even though he was dimly aware that tribal communities can have an “all or none” culture, he was still overwhelmed that God loved him enough to use him like that.

– Do you have a story of how God surprised you by loving you enough to trust you and use you in a situation that tested you?

The first relationship to be transformed is the one with Jesus. It goes beyond knowing about Him, knowing what He has done for me, even knowing Him personally. It is a relationship of walking with Him and receiving His love and acceptance and affirmation. If it doesn’t start there, it doesn’t happen. At that point we are transformed – and empowered.

A NEW COMMAND

Jesus’ first new command, in the sense that it went beyond an amplification of the Law, was this: John 13:34-35
A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love each other. By this all men will know that you are My disciples.

This raises the stakes. It is more than “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” It goes beyond turning the other cheek, forgiving someone who hurt you or blessing those who do the opposite to you.

It goes beyond, because Jesus asks us to do the impossible: to love other people until they ‘get it’. This is about knowing people, being interested in people, not holding back or being detached but being real with people – caring enough for them to trust you.

Are you a giver or a taker? Others will size you up. And invitations to church events may be perceived as being in the ‘taking’ column, not the giving – at first, anyway!

– How would others see you – as more of a taker, or more of a giver?

AS I HAVE LOVED YOU
(v.34b) As I have loved you, so you must love one another.

This was spoken by Jesus to the gathering of those closest to Him, around the table of the Upper Room. They all had stories to tell about how they experienced His love – the despised tax collector, Matthew, accepted into the group and remembering how Jesus came to his home and interacted with his friends. John, the teenager, who had a special place in Jesus’ heart. Thomas, the ‘late adopter’, who Jesus didn’t dismiss but went out of his way to accommodate. And Peter, an ‘early adopter’, whose impetuosity had brought him highs and lows, from exclaiming  (Matthew 16:16) “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” to his plunging fall in denying of Christ not once but three times – after which Jesus brought him back into fellowship, ministry and leadership in a special encounter by the sea that was like Peter’s first encounter with Him.

Because Jesus loved His disciples so much, He expected them to be able to love much – similarly with us. He calls us to embrace our limitations and to allow God the Father be strong in loving through us.

ALL MEN WILL KNOW
(v.35) By this everyone will know that you are My disciples.

A commitment to love others until they ‘get it’ requires motivation – a solid motivation that is rooted in spiritual depth. So, what about the difficult people? The ones who make you grind your teeth, who you naturally steer away from, read their emails last? Be challenged to move in your thinking from general to specific, from a nice thought to the actual grit and grime of loving. That’s our call as disciples.

– Imagine a person who, for you, is difficult to love. Yet your call is to love them until they ‘get it’. What does that involve? What does it feel like? Where does the love come from?

In this brief saying of Jesus is the heart of our mission. People who love one another – enough to sort out all the difficulties and resentments and unforgiveness issues we all get into – will seem to our wider community like people they could trust, people who won’t turn out to have some harsh edges lurking. And it is the heart of where it all comes from. When we know we are loved, when we are receiving God’s love, we have that love for others – and that’s the only way.

– How do you know that you are loved by God? Not easy to explain in words, but have a go.
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