Week 10, Day 2
“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.” John 13:34, 35
Over these final four weeks of the Lenten season we will be re-living scenes from John’s gospel of the closing days of Jesus’ life. We will see how deep the darkness is in which we humans sometimes move. Here’s your warning: read closely and honestly, and you will be made uncomfortable. We will find here more to identify with than we like. Be prepared.
However, as you consider these accounts keep this in mind as well: the only reason we have these pre-Easter stories of betrayal, desertion, suffering and death is because we are a post-Easter people. The lens through which we peer into this darkness is not, finally, one of betrayal, but of resurrection. Even now, in these darkest Lenten days—off in the distance perhaps, there shines the light of Easter morning. We wouldn’t have survived without it.
So, we have to read the stories closely and honestly. We have to be willing to face the image of ourselves we will see in these characters. We have to confess our complicity—if not in those crimes of the past, then in similar crimes in the present. The world is broken, remember. We are broken.
But we are also redeemed. For us the darkness is ever tempered by his light. Our failure is to be expected, but it has already been corrected and we are now defined not by our pre-Easter desertion, but by our post-Easter restoration.
So it’s interesting, but not surprising, that in the darkest of times— for the darkest of times, Jesus gave his “new commandment”: “Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.”
The tsunami of evil at that moment hurtling toward this little band of disciples would leave them sorely tested. They weren’t going to make it. Jesus knew that. “When everything falls apart,” he is saying, “when nothing any longer seems true or trustworthy or permanent—love one another!
Love Anyway. Someone should write a book with that title.
It’s fascinating, to me at least, that at the moment Jesus is preparing to be torn from his friends he tells them to turn from him and toward each other—“Love one another”, he says, “as I have loved you”. The world would know who they were not by their love for him, but by their love for each other.
We navigate the darkness most successfully, you see, in the company of people who care about us, who cover our backs. We need the company of people who take us as we are—who see the warts and still find us lovable. That’s how Jesus loved his disciples; it’s how he loves us; it’s how we are to love each other—Love Anyway.
This “love as I have loved you” command calls us to turn to each other; to build a community of wanderers wandering together; a community of lovers loving each other. Anyway. Because here’s the way it is: we will get through the darkness of our own times together, or we will not get through at all. Peter denies Jesus and survives because he turns to his friends and they are there to take him in. Judas betrays Jesus and dies alone because he turned away from his friends, and thus was alone.
I need you. You need me. That’s how it works. “Love one another as I have loved you”.
Prayer: Teach us to love, as you love, in light and in darkness. Turn these hearts you have redeemed toward neighbor friend and foe until no one is left alone. Amen.
The texts for this week are below:
John 13. 33-38
33 Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, “Where I am going, you cannot come.” 34 I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. 35By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.’