Have you ever considered what love looks like? Everyone likes to think they know what love and therefore isn’t. Many will tell you that they are great lovers and will brag about their adventures. Some like to splash what they call love all over the television and movies screens, insisting that it is about good storytelling and in some cases it will be called art. But does it really tell us about what love is? The gospel draws us back now to that night in the upper room where Jesus told his disciples that time was short and that he was about to go to suffer and die. We are reminded of that awful night now in the cool light of a spring morning and we are asked to consider – do we really know what love is?
Scripture calls us to consider who it is that we are in relationship with. Every Christian will certainly claim that they are in relationship with Jesus. But why is it that we have enough religion in us to make us nasty but not enough religion in us to move us to love as Christ loves? We need to remember that Jesus speaks in his farewell discourses not to the world but to his Church, his own people, when he challenges them to love one another as he has loved each of them. And we need to remember that this love has been betrayed by Judas and denied by Simon Peter; two people who knew him best! It is a pointed moment for the rest of the Church – those early followers had to choose whether to be like the rest of the world or to begin to live and to love like Jesus, thereby being like Jesus and being united with God through not only in relationship but also in action.
It is interesting we seem to think that there will be a time when the whole Church this side of the new creation and the new city will “play nicely” and get along in some kind of prefabricated, even forced harmony. It seems to not be recognized that there has always been struggle and disbelief and not just beyond the church but within also. We need to in our own ways figure out what it means to live the risen life in this new and global age. We need to discover how God is acting and then to move with God, knowing that this will cause conflict within ourselves as we are asked to move and will cause combat with others who will think differently. There will be so long as this world lasts, struggles in the Church community over who we should know and be in relationship with and who we are as the people of God. God is working out his plan of salvation and God is calling us to participate in that plan to draw others into his city and into his life and relationship with him. So in this moment we experience upheaval. We are unsure of who we’re supposed to be. Our goal is not to set the world on fire but to turn the church inside out so that it might be faithful to the commission that Christ gives to all of us. And that commission calls us to in the going and the making of disciples to live so that we can give sacrificially to others, both within the Church and beyond the Church. When we live like that we show God’s love and show God’s glory.
But who do we need to love? Consider who it was that Jesus spent most of his time with: the power and the lowly, the blind and the deaf, the sick and the weak, the suffering and the demon possessed, the lonely and the dying ones. And we need to ask ourselves, who is missing from this table? Who should be here that is not? Who have we failed to care for? Salvation is not about what rules you follow or what church you belong to; it is not about where you were born, or what colour your eyes and skin are. It is about receiving grace and participating in the life and actions of Christ and therefore of The Father himself. We glorify God by showing what differences he has made in our lives by loving each other in spite of the old barriers and hatreds that have so long entrapped us, even if that means living and loving and even dying in the face of betrayal and denial.
People need to know that there is a new world coming with a new heaven and a new earth. People need to know that there will be a new and eternal city and those who will live with God will live there. This is the life we live in this moment filled not only with love but also with hope and with courage. And because we believe in that and because we want others to come to that city where every tear will be wiped away, we are willing to live in such a way that they will see God’s love and glory too. So do you you know what love looks like? Come and see!