Love One Another

Maundy Thursday, April 6, 2023 “Love One Another”  Pastor Teddie McConnell   John 13:11-17

I can understand why Peter reacted the way he did to Jesus telling him to sit down to have his feet washed. I’m a people-pleaser, too. He wanted so badly to serve Jesus, to please Jesus, that when Jesus wanted to do this job that was normally done by servants, Peter refused. Jesus was far too important to do that for him. People in first century Jerusalem walked around in sandals through streets that were filthy with animal and human waste. It wasn’t a pleasant task.
Then when Jesus insisted, Peter wanted Jesus to wash his whole body. It’s really a bit comical, when you think about it. But Jesus wanted to give the disciples one final and vital example before his arrest, flogging, and crucifixion. He wasn’t laughing.

We’d all like to please Jesus, right? He’s our God and King, our Savoir. Jesus makes it simple: Here’s your new commandment: Love one another as I have loved you.

It’s that simple. And it’s so difficult we need God’s help to even begin to do it.

God in the flesh told them to love one another. But what about Judas? He was still in the group when Jesus said this. Apparently, Jesus even included Judas, the betrayer, in his love. So how well did the other disciples love Judas after they found out what he did? No one did an intervention to keep him from hanging himself. Why would they? What he did was horrendous, the most infamous betrayal in history. I believe Christ would have forgiven him if he had repented. I doubt any human being could have had that kind of mercy.

Jesus didn’t say to love the people who love you in return or just the people in your family or your close friends or even your church. “One another” is bigger than that.

Earlier, Jesus had told his disciples to love your neighbor as yourself. When asked, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus told the story of the good Samaritan. A man had been robbed, beaten, and left for dead on the side of the road. Two different Jews came down the road, saw the man, and passed by on the other side. A Samaritan came by and helped him. Now, Samaritans as a group were despised by the Jews, so for one to help a stranger by binding up his wounds and taking him to get help was a shocking idea. It would be like a white supremacist helping a black stranger.

Love isn’t just a warm fuzzy feeling. It’s taking action. Sometimes love is just listening to someone who’s hurting. Sometimes it’s giving someone a smile. Sometimes it’s leading someone who’s asking for gas money to the nearest gas station and putting ten bucks worth in their tank.

And sometimes, it’s having the self-control to walk away instead of lashing out at a person who says something harsh or insulting. Sometimes, it’s calling the police to hold a person accountable who’s hurting someone else. That’s tough love, but it’s still important.

We can’t help everyone we meet. A man who was walking along a beach where thousands of star fish had been stranded on the sand came across another man who was picking up one starfish at a time and tossing it back into the water. He asked the man why he was doing it. “After all,” he said, “there are too many to help them all.” “True,” the other man agreed,” picking up another starfish. “But I can help this one.”

On to the hardest part. I can do “love one another.” Well, a lot of the time. But the other piece, “as I have loved you” part? The kind of love that traded heaven for a life in a human body facing human temptations and pain? The kind of love that went without resistance to a farce of a trial, to certain betrayal and abandonment by his friends, to a beating meant to cripple if not kill, and to being nailed to a tree, all for our sake? Only Jesus has that kind of love and still shows it to us.

Thank God, I’ve never had to risk my life to save someone else. I would for my husband or my kids or grandchildren, or even my country. But for the world? For anyone and everyone, no matter how sinful or evil they may be, if they repent and ask for forgiveness? That’s too much for a mere human to do. We need that perfect sacrifice. We need Jesus to be our savior, our redeemer, our friend, and our example. To love one another is a small price to pay for that kind of love. It’s that simple. And it’s so difficult we must ask God for help to do it every day.   -Pastor Teddie McConnell

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