Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Reflections from the book of John #14: They will know we are Christians by our love . . .

John 13:34-35
34 "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."
Back in the 70s, we used to sing a folk-type song called, "They'll Know We Are Christians By Our Love."  We sang it at youth group, and we sang it in the mountains, sitting around campfires.  Once a youth group event got cancelled because of rain and we gathered in our basement, sat in a circle on the floor, and sang the song.  If you click on the link, you'll get the Jars of Clay version, which is far better than the monotone song we used to sing.

After we sang that song, we usually followed it with "Give Me Oil in My Lamp," another youth group favorite from the 1970s.  We added verses to this very repetitious song, and instead of just "Give me oil in my lamp, keep me burning, burning, burning, keep me burning till the break of day."

Here are some of the verses I remember right off the top of my head:
  • Give me gas for my Ford, keep my trucking for the Lord . . . 
  • Give me hot sauce for my taco, let me witness in Morocco . . . 
  • Give me beans for my burrito, let me witness really neat-o . . . 
If you are from the 70s, I imagine you can share some verses I never even heard of.  I welcome them.  

The day we sang in my basement, we also sang California Dreamin'.  We liked the Beach Boys, and sunshine in California seemed preferable to snow and rain in Colorado.  I think an argument can be made for the spirituality of sunshine, but this is neither the time nor the place.  

My point is, we really didn't think about the lyrics, and we should have.  We didn't think about what it means to really love one another, and sometimes we weren't even kind to each other.  Lots of kids, myself included, felt totally left out.  And I don't think any of us knew that the song was based on something Jesus said.  

A new command I give to you.  Love one another.

Love.  Love is patient, love is kind, it does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
Love sacrifices.  Love submits.  Love includes.  Love forgives.  Love serves.

Love doesn't gossip.  It doesn't talk about what so-and-so did last night, last week.  It doesn't judge.  It doesn't hold grudges.

Love shares.  And by this all men will know you are my disciples, if you love one another.

The converse is also true.  If we don't love one another, if we don't treat each other with love, we're not really following Jesus.  Certainly, we aren't obeying his commands.

In 1 John 1, John talks about what it means if we don't love one another, and the words aren't pretty.

7 Dear friends, I am not writing a new commandment for you; rather it is an old one you have had from the very beginning. This old commandment—to love one another—is the same message you heard before. 8 Yet it is also new. Jesus lived the truth of this commandment, and you also are living it. For the darkness is disappearing, and the true light is already shining. 
9 If anyone claims, “I am living in the light,” but hates a Christian brother or sister,t that person is still living in darkness. 10 Anyone who loves another brother or sistert is living in the light and does not cause others to stumble. 11 But anyone who hates another brother or sister is still living and walking in darkness. Such a person does not know the way to go, having been blinded by the darkness.
 If we want the light of Jesus to shine through us, if we want to follow him, if we want to obey his commandments, we will love one another.  When we don't obey him, when we don't actively love one another, we aren't following him, and no light lives through us.  We walk in darkness, and we may not even realize it.  

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