We love because God first loved us

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-34). If you had never heard of the Christian faith, wouldn’t these lines from John’s Gospel sound like a wonderful community to be a part of? If you are a part of those who call themselves Christians, are you living these words out?

1 John 4:19 says that we love because God first loved us. That adds so much more significance to those words about loving one another. Our world has so diminished the meaning of the word love over the years. I fear Jesus would not recognize the word love the way our world throws it around. When He spoke those words shortly after sharing with his closest friends in that special meal we call the Last Supper, they knew what He meant because they had seen Him live a life that reflected this love over the past three years as they traveled with Him. This is a deep love; a love without strings attached; a love that does not depend on the one being loved doing anything or behaving in any particular way.

The Christian churches of today are called to live this out … and we fail often. It is easy to love someone when they are nice to you; when they listen to your needs and are ready to help you, but we are the children of the One who asked for forgiveness of the very ones who drove spikes through His hands and feet. We in the church are called to a life that reflects Christ. When we fail, as I said we often do, it is the result of our human weakness.

Being a Christian never, never means we think we are someone special; never, never means we are perfect; never, never means we don’t have failings in this Christian life we seek to live. In our failings to live a life that truly reflects this unconditional love that Jesus commanded His followers to live out, I picture us like Peter, trying to walk on the water when Jesus called to him to step out of the boat. We are called as Christians to step out of the boat, to leave the safe environment and put ourselves in a place in life where we will face challenges. When we fail, we are much like Peter when he started to sink beneath the waves – we know enough to reach out our hand to the One who will save us, give us yet another chance to get it right, and once again call us to love others as He loves us.

You have read stories in this paper about an event coming soon called ReviveOhio. Revival may be an old-fashioned word, but it still means the same thing – helping people accept what Jesus came to offer all – love and forgiveness. In simplest terms, this is about loving others as Jesus loves us. It is about carrying out His command to “…love one another as I have loved you…” I would encourage all to get involved in whatever way you feel led. Be earnestly in prayer now and always that God will lead us to share His love with others. Pray that we will be able to let our egos step aside that we may be filled by the Holy Spirit, for only in that way can we love others as Jesus Christ loves us. May others recognize us as followers of Jesus by our love of one another.

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By the Rev. Randy Locker

Your pastor speaks

The writer is the pastor of the Anna and Botkins United Methodist churches.