Love in the Community of Christ

Sermon by Wasihun Gutema

Good Shepherd Lutheran Church

Alexandria, VA

April 23, 2016

John 13: 34-35

Jesus had his own people through the centuries.  These are the people who follow him amidst all the crises that encounter them.  Even in the situation where a choice is tough, Jesus had those who committed to continue with him. There are people who always choose Jesus even in the ugly situation of life. There are people who better understand and committed to Christ even when a painful cross is waiting. For those who are committed and decided not to look back, for those who do not bargain over Christ, Christ has a new word, a new commandment, a new instruction which looks difficult but easy to carry as Christ himself gives the grace. Such people are always there when even members of their group close the door and go, prioritizing the things of these worlds over Christ (John 13:31a).

For those who do not go, Christ is the ultimate priority and Christ is the end of their walk. Christ is with whom they begin and end their race.  Unlike these groups, those who close the door are those who are beaten by the glittering things of life. But those committed do stand with Christ, even when their nearest betrays. They stand in the midst when their marriage is in crises, they stand when they lose what they think is already in their hand. They stand when their health or anything that they consider as their best goes for good. Such people have words from Christ. They have a commandment from Christ. They have new instructions from Christ by which they walk, by which they discern, by which they are seen. I had known someone when I was in Michigan years ago. As I came close to this person, I started to visit a church where he was a member. One Sunday he was witnessing about his life and the difficult paths he came up. As he was witnessing, he was in tears speaking about his marriage. He witnessed that his marriage was broken without any Biblical ground. His wife took his kids and left. This person was in tears and his tears were dropping down his cheeks but even in this situation, Christ was the priority for him. Amidst difficulties of life Jesus was instructing and strengthening his spirit and mending his brokenness. We all have brokenness of one type or two or more but should we put Christ as our priority his words encourage us. Jesus has words that guide us as we live in this world.

In today’s text, Christ is speaking to undeparting group. He is making his farewell to his inner circles and said “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you….By this all people will know that you are my disciples.” When Jesus is making his farewell, it does not mean that his is completely and for good leaving them. Jesus is not orphaning them (John 14:18). Christ’s departure or facing death does not mean life ends there. Jesus possesses life beyond the grave. The same life is possessed by those who follow him.[1] Even Jesus gives life to our dead things. If anything has died from us, Christ will bring them to life. Mention anything where you need Christ to intervene, write on a piece of paper and show him that you need life in those matters. Christ imparts life into your marriage, your situations, for Jesus has the power beyond the grave. Let us point to our graves and speak to Christ we need them to be empty.

In these few lines of verses, Jesus was speaking that he is giving a new commandment. The word new is “Kainos,” in Greek and it designates something more than the old one. [2]Jesus is not repudiating the old commandment which says, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” (Lev. 19: 18).   But Jesus is speaking that his new commandment is not like loving our neighbors. It is a commandment given to a family member, the family of Christ. I love my neighbors as myself but I love my family members, the family of Christ in a sacrificial way.  This sacrificial love is a love where we consider others in the Christian community as better than we. Whoever is in Christ is better than me and whoever is in Christ deserves a sacrificial love meaning for I and you as Christians, those who are sitting besides us in the church of Christ have priorities. The love we have to each other has a reason which is a pricy-costly love.  This means as we love each other sacrificially, other who does not belong to this gate will be drawn.  The truth is that unless we love each other sacrificially, we cannot love the others. True love starts from or home. It starts from cleaning our home and then expands itself.

This love has also a measurement.[3] The object of this love is that we love one another in a new and high standard of love.[4]  According to Spurgeon, it is new because Christ instituted it.[5] It is of high standard because it is costly and not simply a feeling. It is accompanied by actions. It is not passive nor a choice. It is a command and we follow it, live it and bear fruits of it.

The measurement of this love is “as Christ loved us.”[6] Christ loved us on the cross, unprecedented and unequal in history. The same standard of love is for us. Jesus’ standard of love was accompanied by foot washing, correction, rebuking, carrying, feeding, praying and teaching.  The fact that you or I fall does not mean it is the last, it means there is someone who cares and rubes my dust and enables me to walk. The same love is for me and for you that we treat those who are crawling, who are sitting, who are passive, and who are stumbling. This love that Christ is speaking is not found in organized communities. It is not found in sport center or anywhere. It is only found among the followers of Christ.[7] It is found here in this church where we share from the cup and the broken bread.

There are people looking for love in the wrong places. There are those who crave for love but fall short of finding as they seek in the wrong places. There are people who Google all the time thinking that they may find from dating sites.[8] They think they may find from any of the internet pages. When I was doing my CPE at Providence Hospital in DC, a patient who was in her mid 20s was sharing with me that she lost a father at the young age. She did not see a fatherly love and she was seeking this love from individuals but end up being abused, alcoholic and finally worn out. This patient was looking for love in the wrong place and ultimately found herself in wrong side of life. Brothers and sisters, true love is here among the community of Christ. This love radiates from here to the world.

This love is the mark of who we are. Jesus said that if you love one another, you are my disciples. It is by which we are differentiated. It is by which we are explained. It is by which we are read in the world. It is by which we are evaluated. May Christ fill us with this love ever and ever. Amen!

 

 

[1] Burge, Gary M. John: From Biblical Text … to Contemporary Life. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2000, 377.

[2] Burge, John, 377.

 

[3] Krell, Keith. “3. Love Power (John 13:31–38) | Bible.org.” Accessed April 23, 2016. https://bible.org/seriespage/3-love-power-john-1331-38.

[4] Krell, Keith. “3. Love Power (John 13:31–38) | Bible.org.” Accessed April 23, 2016. https://bible.org/seriespage/3-love-power-john-1331-38.

[5] “Sermon #2936 Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit 1 CHRIST’S …” Accessed April 23, 2016. http://www.spurgeongems.org/vols49-51/chs2936.pdf.

[6] Krell, Keith. “3. Love Power (John 13:31–38) | Bible.org.” Accessed April 23, 2016. https://bible.org/seriespage/3-love-power-john-1331-38.

[7] Krell, Keith. “3. Love Power (John 13:31–38) | Bible.org.” Accessed April 23, 2016. https://bible.org/seriespage/3-love-power-john-1331-38.

[8] Krell, Keith. “3. Love Power (John 13:31–38) | Bible.org.” Accessed April 23, 2016. https://bible.org/seriespage/3-love-power-john-1331-38.

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