John 13:34-35 (NKJV)
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
As mom to five “fearfully and wonderfully” made individuals required house rules as a way of life for most of my life. The kids currently range in age from 26 to 13. Regulations put into place to maintain order and not lose tract of anyone seemed totally necessary wrangling all those personalities and trying to accomplish more than just getting out of bed. Those days seem so long ago with just two left at home. Some here and others there, I find that I am definitely mellowing. I thought it was from age. Or maybe, they have just worn me down over the years. I see young mamas frazzled and exasperated in the concept of “perfect” parenting. Let me set you free today. There is no such thing. Overwhelmed and lost in the doing, running and buried in laundry and homework, I encourage you that this day shall pass and all too quickly. When I look at my ideas regarding parenting over the years, I see a marked change. On those days, it is not so clear the children are more than happy to let me know the difference in how I treated their siblings compared to my harsh and overbearing treatment of them.
When I read John 13:34-35 this morning, it reminded me of those times when it seemed like I was recanting the same instructions for the 457th time. Clean your room. Put your clothes in the hamper. No food or drinks in the bedroom. Do not hit your brother. Do not aggravate your sister. Over and over and over again. So many times with a sarcastic twist, we would preface the redundant statement by saying, “New rule…” as if implying that what came next might be new and exciting rather than hearing myself repeat the same thing one more time. Children require repetition to learn. We wish that they would get it the first time but they don’t. From the earliest age, they will test boundaries or ignore our directives. It is human nature to rebel. It is innate to be selfish and seek our own way. We desire immediate gratification and abhor self-control some more than others. Jesus is so patient, loving and kind with us. He reminds us gently but firmly over and over again those things of importance that lead to the everlasting and manifest God’s Favor in our life. Are we listening? Do we obey?
New rule – love one another as I have loved you. Over and over again, it is repeated. Have we finally accepted and applied this concept called loving one another to every facet of our life. The problem I ran into with my own children is similar to that which Jesus runs into with us. He tells us to love one another yet each one must decide whether or not to apply it to their life. My adult children were raised with the same moral and ethical instructions. How they apply it to life now is completely up to them and beyond my control? I tried to instill the proper guidelines and develop their character as they grew, developed and matured but now application is completely up to them. They are now accountable for their choices in life.
I Peter 4:7-10 (NKJV)
But the end of all things is at hand; therefore be serious and watchful in your prayers. And above all things have fervent love for one another, for “love will cover a multitude of sins.” Be hospitable to one another without grumbling. As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.
Jesus tells us that people will know that we are His disciples by our ability and frequency of love in our life. How do we love? Is it completely unconditional? Is it full of grace? Do we offer mercy as much as we are given? Is it new each day even for those repeat offenders in our life? If not, it should be if our goal and aspiration is to represent Jesus in all things.
Side note – an automobile has an exhaust manifold that takes the burned up gas from the engines cylinders and ejects it out of the tail pipe. Over time with expansion and contraction, this component may begin to leak. These hot emissions from the exhaust reach the motor where it will damage parts. I think it ironic that we are called to be good stewards of the manifold grace of God. God’s Grace is like a manifold exhaust in us. When we get frustrated, mad, angry, disappointed or hurt by other people, it is God’s Grace that should work properly as to remove it from our heart and mind so we can love those who cause us to feel such hot-tempered emotions. Love is affected when the manifold of God’s Grace is not working properly in our life. It consumes us with selfish and unrealistic expectations of others that belong to Jesus Christ. Love will cover a multitude of sins. It does when I think about my precious kids who don’t always act so precious. My love for them far exceeds any mistake, fault or failure. It does not stop there. They also have grace for me in those times I lose my patience, yell or overreact. We all need God’s Grace fully operational in our life in order to love as we are supposed to.
John 15:11-13 (NKJV)
“These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full. This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.”
I wish I had a dime for each time I was told by my children that so-and-so’s mom didn’t make them make their bed, do chores, or do a certain thing. When we give our children directives, they cannot see the value and worth of each one in their inexperience and naïve state. Many of the things that were required of them was to develop discipline that would allow them to prosper in life as the character trait of self-control grew inside them. House rules were created out of respect for one another. If we do not teach our children to respect authority and a sense of responsibility including discipline – they will not be successful in life. They will struggle in their relationship with Jesus. It will literally put them in harm’s way physically and spiritually.
Jesus said, “I have spoken to you, that My joy man remain in you and that your joy may be full.” When we accept the Lord’s Mandate to love one another, it is to say, “Yes!” to His Fulfillment. His Purpose in us grows and blooms into fruit that satisfies our soul when we yield to His Word, Will and Way. He is specific. “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” Jesus is asking us to love others as He has loved us. To be inconvenienced and uncomfortable. To put the needs of all mankind before our own. To be a living sacrifice for all human life. New rule – we are to love others more than ourselves.
Hebrews 10:23-25 (NKJV)
Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.
The level of faith and confidence of hope that abide in us are reflected in our ability to love others. Total trust in the Lord’s Love allows us to love others without restriction. God’s Love is fathomless. No one will ever find the depth, height, or width of it. (Ephesians 3:17-19) We can never cross the boundary because there is not one. Just think about that for a moment, there is nothing that I can do to be separated from God’s Love. (Romans 8:38-39) By faith, we are able to stir up love and good works in others. Unity is bound by love. Peace is established by His Love working its way through us to the outside around us. His Love changes the atmosphere for those who accept it and apply it their life loving others more than themselves.
Romans 12:9-13 (NKJV)
Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality.
It is hypocrisy to accept God’s Grace and Love yet not extend it to others. We do not deserve it and did nothing to earn therefore we are not entitled to it. Our relationship with Jesus Christ removes all expectation from the world and who lives in it placing it in the Hands of our Lord and Savior. No longer do we need anything from others because we live in the fullness of Christ. To be honest, sometimes we forget. We make our own set of rules to love by that are contradictory to the Word of God and try to be successful in it. Our inability to love others as Christ loves us will hinder God’s Favor in our life. We will not be satisfied. (I John 3:22-23)
The Love of Jesus and His Grace fill us up to overflowing. We need nothing. We have it all. The only thing that is required is that we extend the same love and grace to others. It is a tall order. We have big shoes to fill. When we fall short the same love and grace bring us back into right standing again so we can keep trying to live up to this mandate that we are given.
Romans 12:14-18 (NKJV)
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion. Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.
Live peaceably with all men. How is this even possible? I am challenged with teenage girls to maintain peace in my own household let alone the surrounding world. We are called to liberty. (Galatians 5:13-16) The Holy Spirit lives in us producing everything in us we need to live a satisfied and abundant life. (Galatians 5:22-23) Freedom in Christ means that we do not need anything from anyone else. We just need Jesus to be satisfied. When we cannot love someone else, it means that we put an unrealistic expectation on that person that is not of God. The Holy Spirit maintains our bond of peace with all people IF we choose to walk in lowliness and gentleness with longsuffering bearing with one another in love. (Ephesians 4:1-3) We are to abound in love.
I John 4:7-12 (NKJV)
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us.
The Lord is telling us today, “New rule – love one another.” He has said it countless times before. But He is saying it again. To know God’s Love completely allows us to love others. If we fall short, it is because there is more of His Love for us to discover and accept into our own life. What does Jesus say? “Beloved, love one another.” The word “beloved” signifies our Savior’s affection for us. It affirms us as His One and Only. Beloved means greatly loved or dear to the heart. It is in the boundless overflowing love that we are able to love others completely selflessly without regret. It will change our reactions to offense into responses of grace and forgiveness. We will stop trying to make everyone else think like us, act like us or do what we say but rather love them with the Love of Jesus as we guide and teach them the way. The world responds to love. It stops them. They take notice because agape or godly love is different. It is humble and not self-seeking. Some of the most hideous transgressors of this calling live in the church. Bound by religion not a relationship they must drive home right rather than allowing righteousness to take over. Focusing on anything else while losing sight of people is to be sitting in judgment unconsciously withholding love given to us to share with others is a dangerous position.
My grandmother was patient, loving and kind. As a grandmother, I think it is a role requirement for them. At her funeral, I cannot count the people who came to me sharing stories of her gracious love and kindness. She loved Jesus and loved them. This is her legacy. I want that legacy, too. Not just to love those who are lovable, but to love everyone the same. Jesus loves me. He has given me great grace. I must love others. I must give them equal measures of the same grace. In doing so, there is no limitation on the love that I have for others. Today, I am adopting a “new rule” to love others as Christ loves me. I may have to be reminded tomorrow and the next day and probably the day after that as I continue to humble my life surrendering all to Jesus. That’s okay – His Grace is enough for me.
Romans 13:8 (NKJV)
Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law.