The text from St John 13:34 which stands at the masthead of this blog, and has done so since I created it, is the hardest one for Christians to keep. We can keep to the commandments (with difficulty), we can keep to the Law and what it says (with difficulty), we can repent (and sin again, and repent again), and we can, with the help of God do all manner of wonderful things through faith. But by far the most difficult is to love one another as he loved us.
I have just noted, with huge sadness, that Grandpa Zeke, whose comments are always loving and caring, has decided that the tone of the comments here about Michael Voris mean he can no longer be with us. Perhaps, as is sometimes the case, those whose tone he has found so unhelpful will wonder at his sensitivity – if so, then perhaps they cannot love as Christ loved us? Those who so often need to preface the word love with the word ‘tough’, may also be a way off loving others as he loved us. If so, they can join the club – because this is, as I say, by far and away the hardest things for us to do.
Let us consider. Christ loved us and we, that is mankind, crucified him. Christ loved his disciples, and many of them left him when they could not take his ‘hard saying’ about eating his body and drinking his blood; the rest of them ran off at Gethsemane – except for the one who had already accepted money to betray him. Even when he rose, some of them were slow to believe. He loved them throughout, and he prayed for forgiveness for those who crucified him, and he promised the repentant thief that he would be in paradise with him that same day. It is no accident that in old age, when St John was asked for advice, he would say ‘little children, love one another’ – just as it is equally unsurprising that the Fathers who tell us this tell us that those who heard it went away disappointed. They wanted, perhaps, some great insight, some profound truth which would renew their lives. Or perhaps they wanted some strict rule that would aid them in their Christian lives, something by which they could govern those impulses which come to all of us and which we call the temptation to sin. If so, their disappointment is understandable. Here was the last of the Apostles, one who had leant on Christ’s breast at the Last Supper, and all he could tell them was to ‘love one another’.
Christ says it is by that love for one another we shall be known as his. This is the acid test of Christianity. If that is the supreme piece of evidence and we were on trial for being a Christian, how many of us would actually be convicted? To love those who betray us, who desert us, who do bad things to us, as well as those whom it is easy to love – can we do that?
For me that’s a particularly live question as, for reasons I’m not going into. I have had a lot of disruption in my life and have been betrayed by quite a number of people whom I trusted, for whom I have worked hard, and from whom I had every reason to expect kindness and help and yet who, when it came to it, offered none of these things. I know one of them has repented and said he is sorry to me, and I had no trouble forgiving him; but can I love him as I am commanded? Yes, I think I am getting there, but it isn’t easy – but then is it meant to be? What about the others? They have not said sorry to me, indeed they have ignored me, even if one of them has, thanks to the efforts of the lawyers, settled out of court for unfair dismissal. Do I forgive him? Yes, I have done so in my heart; can I love him – I don’t know. I have no bitterness or bad feelings, but as yet, love is hard; but I pray and I am getting there. So, when I say it is the hardest thing, perhaps I am alone in finding it so?
Jesus loved us though we were sinners, and he died for us sinners. Some of us might screw up the courage to die to save someone else were we unfortunate enough to be in that position (though I pray never to be tested), but could we die for ‘a sinner’? Jesus did that. He did it for me and he did it for you. I can, and do love him for that, and I love my fellow Christians – but those who have hurt me deeply and who have not said anything like ‘sorry’ – I’m working on it. Forgiveness, which I have I think reached, is not enough if I am to obey Christ – I have to love them. But then I think, I am a sinner being redeemed, so as part of that, can I not find it in my heart to do more than forgive? Can I? I pray for that. It’s a work in progress, so, before anyone thinks I am preaching at them, I’m not, I’m writing a memo to myself.