Command to love is central to Christian life

Good Word
By Rev. Bill Baldwin

Shortly before he died, Jesus had a get together with his disciples to prepare them for what was coming next. He had just shared a Passover meal, the Last Supper, with them, and had washed their feet. He had also shared that Judas, one of the 12, would soon betray him. Shortly after this time Jesus announced to Peter that he, too, would deny him and abandon him.

In the midst of this difficult ending to his earthly ministry, Jesus gave his disciples a new commandment. It is found in John’s Gospel 13:31-35, with the actual command found in 13:34. It says, "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."

This commandment seems so simple, yet is so complex and difficult for us to carry out. This commandment was not just for his disciples then, but also for all who would be his disciples in ages to come. We are to love one another. He didn’t say go out and build a religion in my name, or come up with complicated theologies and doctrines. He didn’t say anything at all about what people had to believe in order to be his disciples. He just said that if you are to follow me you must love one another.

It is so easy to judge and to hate. It is so easy to label someone or a group of people as being less than us. The world has been very good at judging and hating throughout human history. In this one simple command Jesus changes everything. He tells us that we are to love one another. I can only assume that he meant everyone on the planet at a given time is to love the others on the planet at that same time. Jesus taught that it is easy to love those who love us. He even went so far as to teach us to love our enemies. Ouch! That’s a hard one.

When two countries go to war, each country prays to God for protection and victory. Whose side is God on? God is on the side of loving one another, so God isn’t going to bless either side in their killing efforts. We all want God to bless us in our efforts, but God will only bless those who love one another. Period. Without exception. I believe this is also true of churches. God blesses loving churches.

This command is central to my life as a Christian. I want it to be central to the life of the churches I pastor. "Loving one another as Christ commanded" seems to be the perfect mission for any church. This week, let’s put our focus on loving everyone and noticing when we are feeling unloving. God’s blessings to you and yours. Amen.

The Rev. Bill Baldwin is pastor of St. Paul’s United Church of Christ in Plato. The Good Word is a regular feature of The Norwood Young America Times.

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