Embarrassed by each other?

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. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” – John 13:34-35

These are words Jesus spoke to his disciples on the night before his torture and crucifixion. They amaze me. They cause me to bow in shame. They cause me to rejoice.

This passage has been simmering in me for quite some time. I have found it hard to tackle this core truth; this beautiful, beautiful diamond of a command that Jesus gave us his last night on earth pre-resurrection.

“By this all people will know that you are my disciples . . .” – by what? By the fact that we have love for one another. I like the way the ESV (and NASB too) render that last phrase: “if you have love for one another”.

Do you know anyone who has love for you? I certainly hope so. I hope I’m not mangling this or reading too much into it – not all versions translate it that way – but I am caught by the subtle difference between “if you have love for one another” and “if you love one another”. Someone can love you and never show it, can’t they? Someone can say they love you, and not mean it. But if someone has love for you – the image I get is that they have love ready, available, on full display, kind of like a good meal, set out for you – now that’s quite another thing.

But be that as it may, it is definitely quite another thing, quite a different thing, quite an amazing thing, to love our brothers and sisters in Christ so that all the world can see it. That’s the beauty of the church. You see, loving people who are just like you is easy. But the church is diverse, different, full of many, many different kinds of people, spanning the globe and spanning history.

The love of Christ is the kind of love that can spring into full bloom between two people who’s only similarity is that they are in Christ. When the world sees that, they know it’s real. The love of Jesus, truly and freely given to our brothers and sisters in Christ, is the height of (to use a word very popular these days) authenticity.

It’s absolutely beautiful.

And this is one reason I am afraid. Not just because the church is divided; God’s love can span those divisions and has for millennia. But in our day, in this time, it seems our divisions are becoming more dumbed-down, and hence less hefty, and, therefore, far less excusable. It’s one thing to respectfully divide from a brother over the weightier matters of doctrine. It’s quite another to divide from him because he isn’t as relevant as you are, or because you want to be called “Christian” and he wants to be called “Christ-follower”, or because his suit irritates you, or . . . whatever. It’s one thing to disagree on the meaning of communion, quite another to bash your brother because you think ministering to people’s physical needs is primary and you’re embarrassed because he wants to give them a Bible.

It’s common to be embarrassed by our brothers and sisters in Christ, isn’t it? It’s so easy to have that thought slip into our minds: “They’re doing it wrong. They’re giving me a bad name.” When, God help us, by our rejection of our brother, we give Christ a bad name. I’ve written around this subject recently, and continue to think on it with Christ’s words in mind.

I read the passage at the top of this post and I want to sing and dance for joy, and I want to fall to the ground and hide from God’s wrath. I’m no theologian, but I’m pretty sure that it means that Jesus wants us to have love for our Christian brothers and sisters. Full, unashamed, on-display, familial love. Not a love that sweeps aside true differences, but rather a love like that with which Christ loved, one that sharpens our brothers and sisters, speaks the truth in love, forgives, yields, shows mercy, gives others preference in honor, and stands beside them always.

“just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.”

If there was ever someone who Jesus could be embarrassed of, it’s me. It might be you too. Yet he loves me. And he loves you. And he wasn’t too embarrassed to be seen with us. In fact, he humbled himself beyond all imagining to come dwell among us so we could kill him.

In light of that, the least I can do is follow his example and love you.

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. – 1 John 4:7

2 thoughts on “Embarrassed by each other?

  1. Soon 🙂 – it is a theme that will only work with the latest (upcoming) version – version 1.1. I’m really trying to get that ready before the end of April.

    There are some other themes coming too.

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