Friday, February 7, 2014

(40 Days of Focus) Day 34: "Love One Another"

Read: “I'm giving you a new commandment: Love each other in the same way that I have loved you. Everyone will know that you are my disciples because of your love for each other” (John 13:34-35, GW).
Think About It: What a week it had been. The economy’s crashing, he’s struggling to hold onto what seems like the only job left, and the inspection sticker on his pickup truck with four bald tires and an oil leak has just expired. Emotionally he’s fighting hard to hold it all together, though at times he mumbles the question, “What’s the point?” His relationships are on the rocks, his self-esteem has taken a direct hit, yet he yearns to believe that God still has a purpose in the situations at hand. He ventures to walk through the doors of a church he’s visited a time or two on a whim, because he’s desperate for something to change. As he enters the building that he has driven by many times, he’s welcomed with a hearty handshake and a warm hug. When asked, “how are you doing, today?” he’s impressed to find an infectious sincerity, as though someone would really be interested in the life that he now questions. He allows his eyes to wander to see others that look just like him talking with each other. Some are clinging to a white Styrofoam cup of hot coffee smiling and chatting about the week that had just past. Others sit down together with a Bible to share some nugget of inspiration God had showed them through the week. Still others are seen with heads bowed, eyes closed, one hand on the shoulder of the other and praying together about present challenges and needs. When the service is over and after he has engaged in further conversation that has been initiated by those who notice him there, he walks towards his truck with a new sense of hope. It isn’t so much the words the pastor had spoken. Though the coffee was nice and the pastry would tie him over until he got home, it was the love of others for one another that have left the greatest impression upon his life. It is real. He can see it. He longs for more of the same.

Going Deeper: Jesus told his disciples that He was giving them a “new commandment” to love one another. It wasn’t “new” in the sense of “it hasn’t been done before.” Leviticus 19:18 admonishes through the Law of Moses “to love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus carried that further in the New Testament as He challenged both followers and religious teachers with the question of “who is my neighbor?” What was missing was not a new commandment to love, but an awareness, acknowledgment, and application of the original commandment to love. It was new because it wasn’t being done. Love is the greatest indication and revelation of who Jesus is, why He came, and how He directly affects life-altering change in those who will yield their lives to Him. When people see love being lived out among those that have been “changed” by His love, it becomes the loudest and most convincing sermon they will ever come to hear. Love speaks louder than words. The reality of relationship with Jesus is reflected by the authenticity of love between those who believe.  

Next Step: Do you realize that how you love others is a full-colored billboard to untold numbers of people who are eager to observe? They want to see something real, yet fully expect to pin-point all that is not. It’s easier to point out how so many others fall short in how they are or are not showing the love of Jesus with others, or even with you. The better question is how are you showing the authentic love of Jesus with those who, like you, have been impacted by the love of Jesus? Are you quick to head for the door when things don’t go your way? Are you faster on an email to address an issue of conflict or confrontation than to approach them in love and humility? Are you willing to give somebody a chance to be who God has called them to be, even though you may not see how or why? No one ever said love would be easy. The greatest love wasn’t easy love, but it was effective love. It took Jesus to the cross. Choose to love those in your church and others that identify with Christ in a way that is selfless and sacrificial. When the world sees that, they’ve seen something real. They’ve seen Jesus.

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