Love One Another
John 13:34 ESV
From the Jar
Loving one another can be one of the easiest commandments for us to fulfill.
It can also be the most difficult commandment to fulfill.
I’d like to be able to say it’s all a matter of perspective but I don’t think I can make that claim.
That’s because (at least in my life) I’ve met a few people who just don’t want to let you love them.
Today we’re going to talk about why. Without naming one of them I’m going to use a real life example of someone in my life who made it really really hard to love them.
Scripture tells us in John 13:34, “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.”
It’s a commandment given without an explanation of behavior. I learned we have to struggle to love people who are often unlovable.
I’ve known people who made it so difficult to love them that I had to continually pray to ask God to help me speak to them.
I’ve also known a lot of people who were a joy to be around. They made it easy to love them.
Both are examples of believers. When I was younger I couldn’t imagine how someone who believed in Jesus could be so difficult to love. I know a woman who was very difficult to love but she seemed lovable when I first met her. When I met her I had just moved into a town that wasn’t always open to accepting new people. Still, she was polite and offered to help me if I needed help. We attended the same church.
I looked forward to getting to know her better.
It didn’t take long for me to begin to figure out that her definition of help and my definition of help were not the same.
Within a month I found out that her definition of help included telling me how my children should dress and behave, where they should sit in church, and who they should be allowed to hang out with.
I was always open to letting my children choose their own clothes and accessories. I was born in the 50’s but I was a teenager in the 60’s when peace, love, and free thought reigned. She was a teenager during the 50’s when order was paramount…think June Cleaver.
We had different rules.
She let me know that I needed to be aware that my children needed stricter guidance. She made suggestions on numerous occasions.
When I would see her coming and I sensed she was going to tell me (yet again) how I needed to raise my children, I would start praying.
I continued to be kind to her and I asked God to help me love her.
Gradually when she realized her suggestions had fallen on deaf ears, I was shunned when I didn’t comply with her standard.
I cried and I prayed and I cried and prayed. Nothing seemed to make a difference.
I continued each time I met her to treat her with kindness and respect. I found that every time I was kind to her, she became more certain of her course of action.
I had to choose to pray for her. I chose to love her anyway. She didn’t receive my love, but I learned that I wasn’t responsible for how she received love. God called me to love her anyway and that was what I tried to do.
I found great comfort in scripture when it came to loving others. I realized that while Jesus loved everyone, that didn’t mean He had to agree with them. There are numerous examples in the Gospels of people who disagreed with decisions Jesus made. In Luke 6:27-28 we learn, “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.”
So, there’s the answer. As we read the Gospels we find many examples of people who were Jesus’ enemies. Many of them were Hebrew Pharisees. Jesus WAS Hebrew. They were His people, yet they hated Him because He was changing their system. Jesus was changing the rules.
So, he blessed them. He prayed for them.
And that’s what He calls us to do.
The woman in my story hated my rule changes. She didn’t believe older children should have the right to choose their own clothes, hats, and (within limits) friends. I say within limits because I did talk with my children about surrounding themselves with people they can trust and rely on. I did not tell them they needed to befriend someone because of their economic or social status.
Looking back, I don’t know that she intended to be hateful and hurtful.
I would like to think she didn’t understand.
She had never walked in my shoes.
Many decades later I learned that knowing her had a huge impact on my children. They learned not to let other people define who they are.
They learned to look to Jesus. They learned not to model their lives after people who criticized them. They learned to BE like Jesus.
So see, in the end the unkind woman gave them a great gift.
Today’s Spiritual Practice is: Love and Peace
Love those who hate you and pray peace for those who persecute you.
In God, Deborah