Faith seeking understanding, my personal journey towards a deeper knowledge of and intimacy with God, the cosmos, humanity and myself through thoughts, words and (occasionally) images, is a series of [hopefully] daily reflections I’m writing with the purpose of publishing something on a regular basis for others to read, either here, at joncarllewis.com or among my writings at Medium.com.
“I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
The gospel for today, the 3rd day of Christmas and the feast day of John the Evangelist, comes from John 13:20-35. It’s a rather long passage, beginning with some statements about receiving Christ, then moving on to Judas being sent to betray Jesus, followed by some talk about glory and being glorified, followed by the new commandment.
I must confess, that the only thing I understood was the new commandment—and that imperfectly. Because I wonder what it looks like to love one another the way Jesus intended. Do we need to go back to insular, close-knit communities defined by faith? Or does it mean something else in this day and age where Christians are dispersed into “the world”?
Some have taken this as a mandate for social justice, to provide for the material and emotional and health support for people in need. This is a good impulse and needs to be encouraged. But Jesus seems to be saying that people will know that we are his disciples by loving one another. By treating other Christians in loving ways. By caring for other Christians, not in a dispassionate way, but with a sense of intimacy. Of course, the verb used in the command is ἀγαπᾶτε, derived from ἀγαπάω, “I love.” Now, C.S. Lewis would have us believe that this is dispassionate love, a completely selfless love, but looking at the way it is used elsewhere in the gospels signifies to me a passionate, even inordinate love.
What would be the effect if “outsiders” saw the passionate love we have for each other? Not a desire to “do church” but to actually spend time with each other because we like each other and want to? I suspect that there would be all sorts of benefits derived from being in a community of love. I have seen glimmers of this in some congregations and felt its effect on me in others: this desire to be with each other, if only because we have been commanded to look around ourselves with the eyes of love is something that could be cultivated, that should be paid attention to. Sure, we feed the poor, but do we talk with each other deeply? Sure, we give to the homeless, but are we welcome in each other’s homes? In each other’s hearts?
I guess I must confess that this scripture has me longing for intimacy with a community of people who love each other. People who love each other passionately. I must also confess my deep-seated fear of getting in too deep with a community and having my heart broken as it was before.
But I am seeing this commandment with new urgency tonight. We must love one another. We must love one another passionately. We must love one another enough to give up ourselves for each other.
Which means that (my fears of commitment to community aside) I need to pray for whatever grace I need to allow myself to find a community where I can risk falling in love.
Because that’s what my Lord and Savior told us to do.
Thank you for your time and attention.
I’d love to know your thoughts on what you’ve read.
Please comment, below, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
May God richly bless you on your journey.