For the last 31-plus weeks we’ve been going through the 31 chapters of the soon to be released book Love Like Jesus: How Jesus Loved People (and how you can love like Jesus). Last week we posted the epilogue. This week we’ll pick up where we left off before we started posting chapters of the book. So we’re in the Gospel of John. Read John 13:31-38.
Many of you have been serving as Beta Readers and sharing feedback. I can’t tell you how invaluable that is! Thank you. Recently I connected with someone who’s an accomplished Christian author and he’s been offering some advice. Part of that advice includes possibly re-framing the information in the book. The information would be the same, the way it’s presented might look a little different. So it may be that you see a different title when the book comes out. But enough about the book. Let’s get into Jesus’ words from God’s book:
“Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek me, and just as I said to the Jews, so now I also say to you, ‘Where I am going you cannot come.’ 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.”
Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, where are you going?”
Jesus answered him, “Where I am going you cannot follow me now, but you will follow afterward.”
Peter said to him, “Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.”
In the fire service, if the fireground commander had to respond to another fire, or leave for some other reason, he was trained to pass along the most important information to the people who would take his place, before he left. I think that’s what we’re seeing here. Jesus has to leave. But before he does, he gives the most important information, the most important commandment, “a new commandment,” to his disciples.
“Love one another: just as I have loved you.” And, “This is how all people will know you’re my disciples, by your love.”
This is Jesus’ new commandment. We were already commanded to love in Leviticus 19:18, but Jesus’ commandment is new because he adds a qualifier: now we’re to love “just as I have loved you.” This is his great commandment, to love as he loved. Just before he had to leave, he chose to focus on this, on loving how he himself loved.
Henry Drummond wrote a book about loving like Jesus based on 1 Corinthians 13. He called it The Greatest Thing In The World.
So this instruction, this commandment from Jesus, this new commandment from Jesus is among the greatest and most important that the disciples ever heard.
And after hearing this great commandment that is of the utmost importance, Peter asks the question, “Lord where are you going?”
I can’t get inside Peter’s mind and know what he was thinking at the time he asked that question. But I can’t help but see myself in Peter’s response.
You’re interested enough in following Jesus’ command to love people the way he did, to be reading this blog post. So you’re probably doing better than I am. But honestly, I’m in the midst of a struggle to love like Jesus. Almost all the information in the book I wrote about loving like Jesus came out of my own mistakes.
And the reason I identify with Peter’s response is because I would rather do almost anything than love people.
In no particular order, below you’ll find a list of 10 things I’d rather do than love like Jesus:
- Play my favorite massively multiplayer online role-playing game.
- Watch football on TV.
- Go on a date with Kathy.
- Talk on the phone to friends or relatives.
- Knock out an item on my to-do list.
- Watch Netflix
- Talk about how someone or something offended me.
- Talk about theology.
- Talk about politics.
- Talk about someone else’s behavior.
But wait, there’s more. Here’s something really crazy: I’d rather talk about how to love like Jesus than actually love like Jesus. I’d rather read about how to love like Jesus than actually love like Jesus. I’d rather write about loving like Jesus than actually love like Jesus.
This is so wrong. When Jesus tells us what the final judgment will be like, he says to those “who are blessed by my Father,” he says to those who will “inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world”:
“I was hungry and you gave me food,”
“I was thirsty and you gave me drink,”
“I was a stranger and you welcomed me,”
“I was naked and you clothed me,”
“I was sick and you visited me,”
“I was in prison and you came to me.”
(see Matthew 25:31-46)
I can’t help but notice the people who are received by our Lord at the final judgment are those who did something.
They loved like Jesus by doing, by doing things for “the least of these.”
Those who are sent away into eternal punishment are told that even as they did not do for one of the least of these, they did not do for Jesus.
I’m inclined to do what you saw on that list. And I’m not inclined to love like Jesus by doing for “the least of these.”
So what Jesus says is a problem for me, because of who I am. But, he also gives us the solution.
He says that we can love like him if we abide in him, and if he abides in us. If we do that, then we’ll love like Jesus. (John 15:5) In Henry Drummond’s book The Greatest Thing In The World he writes that if a chunk of ordinary steel is connected to a magnet for long enough, it too becomes a magnet.
In the same way we need to be connected to Jesus. We can stay connected by imitating him, and praying to him, and studying him. And very importantly, we can stay connected to Jesus by living inside the body of Christ: we can stay connected to Jesus by connecting ourselves to Christ followers who have given their lives over to him.
Several months ago Gabe and I went to a Fan Fest Convention for the MMORPG video game I mentioned in the list. I hung out with Gabe and his friends for one week. Next thing I know I’m hanging out with gamers online, in-game, communicating with headsets. I never dreamed I would do that. I find myself doing all kinds of things I never did before. I find myself wanting to do all kinds of things I never wanted to do before.
I recently heard Francis Chan talking about how he’s trying to get in shape, so he’s been hanging out with a group of people who do CrossFit. He also finds himself doing all manner of things he never did, before he started hanging out with that group who love doing CrossFit.
I’m just an ordinary chunk of steel. But one of the most important ways I can connect with Jesus is to find people who love him with everything they have, people who are doing what Jesus describes in the passage on the final judgment. And after I find them, just by hanging out with them I’ll become magnetized if you will.
After reading what Jesus said about the final judgment I’m struck by what’s at stake. The words I hear from Jesus on that day are the most important words ever.
My hope is found in abiding in Jesus directly, and through abiding with his followers who make up the body of Christ.