Love One Another Command or Invitation?
by Glenn Washburn
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Those of you that have been following my saga of “The Man Who Fell to Earth” or “How I Fell Off a Roof an Came Up Rejoicing”; are aware of what I have been learning in God’s University as I attended classes on Trust and Patience and Joy, Prayer and Thanksgiving. So, you may wonder, what’s next on my class schedule? As I walked through the door of my next class; I was surprised to see “Loving One Another” written on the board. At first, I assumed I was in the wrong room. Was this really the next logical lesson in my education? Surprisingly, I quickly learned that indeed it was.
Before I fell from that roof and was immediately immersed in pain and loss, reading the Bible was almost non-existent, fellowship was scant at best, church attendance was a distant memory, and I prayed only when I was in need and only for myself. However, since the fall all that has changed. What I have learned through my “Trust…” and “Joy…” classes is that I need to put God first. That, of course, means I need to put His Word first. And that means trusting the promises and following the commands that I find there. When I looked up after hitting the ground, I realized how far I had strayed from the path that Jesus has laid out for me. It was time to turn around and limp back. And that’s where loving one another came in.
After Jesus got me looking heavenward again; He began to teach me that my journey home did not have to be on my own. Yes, I had His Spirit within me to comfort and guide and I had Jesus Himself to walk by my side; but He also wanted me to know that I had a family waiting to help as well. Whenever we are in the midst of despair or need, whenever we are lost or confused; our tendency is to tough it out on our own. However, that is not His plan for us. You wouldn’t drag a heavy load down the road when there are brothers and sisters eager to lift the other end and help you carry it. Neither would you go into battle alone when you have a “band of brothers” trained and prepared to fight by your side. So, why do we think we have to conquer sin, grow in maturity, or fight the battles and struggles of life on our own?
The teaching of scripture is clear. In John 13:34 we read, “A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.”
And like all of God’s commands, it is not arbitrary or capricious. All of God’s command are actually invitations; invitations to blessing and new life. The road we must walk as follower’s of the Son of God, the tribulations we must endure, the crosses we must carry; all are to be done together within the context of loving accountable relationships. If this were the only reference to loving one another it would be enough. However, it is commanded another eighteen times from John’s gospel to John’s second letter and woven throughout the gospel’s by Jesus’ example and throughout the epistles not only through the teaching of their authors, but by those author’s love for the recipients of their letters. Clearly, there is power and blessing within the framework of Christian community. If there is strength in numbers; there is supernatural strength in Christian numbers.
I have already begun to receive in abundance the blessings from this teaching. My very first need as I began my rehab was dealing with the pain and fear. As I began to trust my brothers and sisters, I loved them by leaning into them, they in turn loved me back by catching me and lifting me up in prayer; many who never met me. Next came financial need and again I loved and leaned into my family and they loved and caught me again providing for almost all my financial needs. And then as I pondered how far I had fallen away and the sins committed during that exodus; I realized I needed a brother to confess my sin and my need. So, once again I extended my love by trusting a brother enough to ask him to help me find the way home; which he graciously and immediately agreed to do. And recently I asked for prayer when the pain became unbearable and within hours two brothers were kneeling by my side, laying hands on me and lifting me up before the Lord..
When I asked nothing of my brothers and sisters, they provided it in abundance; but likewise, when I asked everything of them, they provided that in abundance as well. This is the power and blessing of loving one another; honoring our brothers and sisters by leaning into them and giving them the opportunity to lean back. And what is born from this holy fusion? We create a beautiful sculpture for the world to witness.
The truth is that when we lean into our brothers and sisters with our needs, confessing our weakness in doing it on our own, we actually challenge them with an opportunity to bless themselves; an opportunity to allow the love of Christ to rise within them. When this love is allowed to increase, so does the power to accomplish all the miracles that such a supernatural love is capable of accomplishing. In other words, when we give each other the opportunity to respond to one another with Christ’s love, we are essentially giving each other the opportunity to grow in Christ. And such growth always comes with power and transformation. Such a love, such a power and such supernatural transformation will not go unnoticed by a watching world; they may be able to convince themselves that the reality of our message is not for them; but they will be unable to deny our love for Christ nor will they be able to deny that the transformation we enjoy is a reality for us and may, in the end, at least give them pause to consider this “holy insanity” that we share with each other. However, our primary goal and greatest blessing is that in sharing His love we grow in it and become more intimately connected to the Source of it; as we continue to move toward:
“…Your kingdom come, Your will be done; on earth as it is in heaven.”
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