Soul Talk Advent Series 2019: 'Words to Live a Life by.'
Guest Blogger: Healey Roseweir
On a beautiful but extremely cold November day, I’m at a friend’s wedding, nosey-ing around the venue, a former castle. Somewhere amongst old paintings, bookcases full of delicate antique books and mounted deer antlers, I find a collection of title deeds hanging on the walls, spanning back to when the land was first purchased. Now I am a bit of a history geek, so I find these signatures of people from times past completely fascinating. Each name was an actual person who lived a life, even if those lives are mostly unremembered. It got me thinking - what would I liked to be remembered for?
I realised though, that there is a question before that question, which is, what do I want the mark of my life to be right now? In John 13, Jesus speaks to his disciples, his closest friends, nearing the end of his days on earth. Jesus knows he will have to leave them soon and that they have to be prepared for the time when he would no longer be with them, giving them words to live by after he is gone. In verses 34-35, he says to them, "But I am giving you a new command. You must love each other, just as I have loved you. If you love each other, everyone will know that you are my disciples” (John 13: 34 - 35 CEV).
The context of this verse is important - Jesus says this right after Judas has walked out, his betrayal hanging heavy over this ragtag crowd of Jesus’ followers. One of their own has turned against them, and Jesus knows what will follow. Of all the things Jesus could be talking about right now, he chooses to talk about loving one another. He talks about love even in the face of betrayal, even in the face of death.
What struck me about this verse is that Jesus says “I am giving you a new command”. This is not the first time Jesus has spoken about loving those around us. When asked what is the greatest commandment, his response was love God, and love your neighbour as yourself. Loving God and loving others were central to his message. So what’s new about this command?
The difference here is that our love for ourselves is no longer the standard for how we love others - the standard instead is how Jesus has loved us. This is an important difference, because if the source of our love for each other is ourselves, then we’re going to run out. It can be hard loving people, even the people that are closest to us, and it can wear thin. If we love each other out of the love Jesus has for us, it will never run out, because his love is so much more than our own.
It’s the kind of love that would die for another, no matter who they were. It’s self-sacrificial. It’s the kind of love that forgives, that holds nothing against us. The kind of love that turns the other cheek instead of seeking revenge. It bears with us, even on our worst days. It has no terms and conditions, no limits, selfishness or any other ulterior motive. It is the kind of love that keeps on loving even if it means death. That’s the mark of Jesus’ life. And, if we call ourselves followers of him, this kind of love is to be the mark of our lives too.
Jesus takes it a step further and says that if we love each other as he has loved us, everyone will be able to see it and by this, everyone will know that we belong to him. I love that Jesus gives this as a command to his followers, saying we must love each other, because I often think this is something we miss in the church. Love for each other is the mark of a community that follows Jesus, yet often times the mark of the church is what we can’t agree on.
We are commanded to love each other, even if we can’t see eye to eye. If we can’t first love those in our church community, or the different churches in our communities, how are we going to love our neighbours and those on the fringes? This is what Jesus says will be the mark by which the world sees who we are. How would they know that Jesus has made any difference in our lives if it doesn’t affect how we treat other followers of him?
Extraordinary love is what Jesus wanted to be remembered for, and he calls us to live a life of loving others as he has loved us. I’d like that extraordinary love to be the mark of my life too.
Healey Roseweir is a Northern Irish native who makes books and creates art things in Edinburgh. She loves the outdoors, is obsessed with the sea, drinks around 6 cups of tea a day and has an ever growing pile of books on her bedside table which she hopes to get through eventually. She looks after Production and Design for Muddy Pearl, an independent Scottish publisher.