Reading: John 13:18-38
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35
They were possibly the most influential three years in the history of mankind – those years that Jesus spent with the twelve men he had gathered around him. It was a time full of surprises, an opportunity to live with God on earth and discover first hand exactly how he wanted them (and all the rest of us) to live together. And how was that? Like him. “As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”
Love was to define them. So much so that when others “looked in” and saw that love, they would automatically assume, “Oh yes, those people must be followers of Jesus.”
When it all boils down, to “Love God” and to “Love others” are the two ultimate purposes of my life. And how much do I have to love? For God, I am to love with all my heart and soul and mind and strength. For others, Jesus simply says, “As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” On a scale of one to ten, that's a ten on both counts.
It's clear to me that I fall woefully short of what Jesus has asked me to do. He must have known that would be the case. And yet, he asked me anyway…
I find myself suddenly taken surprise by the thought that my capacity to love both God and others, whilst still walking on this planet, may be enormously greater than I have previously dared to dream possible. Because ultimately, love is from God. There is no end to his love, but if it is to flow through me, I need to be a willing and open channel, like a wide open artery not blocked up with deposits of “gunk” but open and free.
It's really the work of the Holy Spirit in me and through me that will increase my capacity to love. What's required from me is simply the willingness to say, “Holy Spirit, let's go!”
Jesus, I confess that fear of what might be required of me makes me hesitate. And yet I love the thought of being an open channel for your love. I want to reach the potential that you see in me to love you, and to love others. Please will you deal with the obstructions in me and dismantle all my silly objections. I submit them to you, and offer you my whole self. Holy Spirit, let's go!
See also Perfecting Me
“Holy Spirit, let's go!” was a favourite prayer of the late Ray Edmonds who, I believe, prayed this every morning, and took every opportunity that came his way to share Jesus with those he met.
Reading: Psalms 112-116
I love the Lord, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy. Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live. Psalm 116:1-3 (NIV)
“Because he turned his ear to me…” Two pictures come to mind as I consider the remarkable thought of God turning his ear to me. The first is of a man walking down a road who suddenly stops and kneels down with his ear to the ground to listen to an ant.
The second is of a person who, in the midst of a noisy crowded room, picks out the voice of one particular person and ignores all the other voices so as to focus on what this person has to say.
It is clear from the psalmist's words that God didn't just 'notice' him, but that he showed concern for him in his distress, responding with compassion and grace. And the psalmist's response? Devotion. “Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live.”
This is yet another reminder of God's love not just for the human race, but for me! He loves me, and one of the ways he expresses that love is by listening to me. He values what I have to say, which means he values me!
Nothing is so big or so small that I can't talk with him about it. Paul tells me to “Pray continually.” (1Thess 5:17). In Philippians 4:6 he says, “Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.” (NLT)
But there is more here. Listening is a way that I too can express my love, both for God as I meditate on his Word and seek his voice in prayer, and for others as I take a genuine interest in what they have to say and how they feel about it.
Thank you Lord that you not only welcome open communication with me but you seek it. I don't want to miss any opportunity to commune with you, but I need your help. Please open my ears to hear you more clearly, and teach me as I practice with you the fine art of listening.
See also When Your Words Come
Reading: Mark 10:17-31
You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honour your father and mother.’ ” “Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.”
Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” Mark 10:19-21 (NIV)
“Jesus looked at him and loved him.” I like that sentence. Of course, Jesus loves each one of us. “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.” (1 John 3:16). But something in this man aroused Jesus' particular affection. Perhaps Jesus saw in him a devotion and desire to please God that made him smile.
But Jesus could also see something else – something in the man's heart that was holding him back from complete devotion. He was held captive by love – not love for God, but love for his earthly treasure. To make room for spiritual treasure, he would first have to let go of his precious earthly stash. The one was displacing the other. “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.” (Matthew 6:24).
I notice that Jesus didn't condemn the man for his wealth. Instead he showed him what was missing, the key that for him would unlock the riches of heaven. And though the man went away sad, I think Jesus held hope that after grappling with his choice, the man would indeed lay aside all that held him, and return to follow him.
Jesus loves my devotion. He enjoys my delight in knowing him. In him there is treasure beyond anything this world has to offer. In him “are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” (Col 2:3). Nothing can be allowed to take the place that God has in my heart. I want to be able to say, “I have kept to his way without turning aside. I have not departed from the commands of his lips; I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my daily bread.” Job 23:11-12
Jesus, I so want the treasure you have to offer. And though nothing can surpass the love you have for me, I long for you to delight in me and be pleased with me. Please show me how I can bring you pleasure, and allow me to know you more closely, and to know your presence with me.
Reading: Jeremiah 2-3:5
“ ‘I remember the devotion of your youth, how as a bride you loved me and followed me through the desert, through a land not sown. Israel was holy to the Lord, the first-fruits of his harvest; all who devoured her were held guilty, and disaster overtook them,’ ” declares the Lord. Jeremiah 2:2-4 (NIV)
Israel was once enamoured by God, but their love had grown cold. This same accusation is made by Jesus in Revelation 2 to the Church of the Ephesians: “Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love.”
Even worse, Israel had taken up with other gods, gods of stone and wood who could not help them. “My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.” (Jeremiah 2:13). In losing their first love, something else had taken its place, something that could not possibly satisfy.
I need to hold fast to God. As in a marriage relationship, feelings of affection sometimes well up in what we call 'love'. Often, however, love consists of actions purposefully carried out as the outward expression of a commitment made. To make decisions that line up with this internal commitment, even when my feelings betray me – that is love.
Consistently choosing to act in ways that protect and value my commitment to God and my relationship with Him is my outward expression of love and my true worship. “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.” (Romans 12:1) So love and worship go hand in hand.
Thank you Father for reaching out to me, not as a distant and inaccessible God, but as one who is close and intimate. Help me to always act in accordance with my commitment to you, and may my love for you never grow cold, but forever burn bright and clear.
For more on this topic, you might like to read my previous post Jesus – My First Love. Same theme – completely different part of the Bible!