This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth …
And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us.
(verses 16-18, 23)
I wonder how often John reflected back to the Upper Room, to the night before Jesus’ death. How often did he remember water splashing on his feet as the Master unexpectedly washed him clean? How often did he hear again the riveting words of the New Commandment? How often did he feel the thrill of expectancy of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit taking up residence in the core of his own life, and then marvel at its present reality? How often?
I imagine it was a frequent meditation.
In urging us to “not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth,” I am certain he was hearing Jesus’ voice once againintoning, “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet” (John 13:14). In reminding us that “Jesus Christ laid down his life for us … (so) we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters,” I am sure that he was reflecting again on his own insight that around the table that night Jesus was showing them “the full extent of his love” (John 13:1), the foot-washing being a graphic preview of the cross.
This, then, is “how we know what love is” – we simply look to Jesus. He gave his all. He laid down his life. That was the full expression of his love. We ought to do the same.
It’s a tall order. Yet John makes it intensely practical. He calls us to take stock of our own material possessions and then have open eyes, open hearts, and open hands towards those in need. It’s costly, but clear. This is what love is.
It gives me pause. I live in a world of countless needs, and I am aware of so many of them. The awareness can be overwhelming. Meanwhile, I am committed to being open and generous with the resources the Lord has entrusted into my hands – it’s an essential part of my discipleship to Jesus. I want to take it seriously. So, as a family, we have allocated resources to ministries and churches and Christian organizations, knowing they are carrying out Kingdom work. We trust that needy individuals are impacted as a result.
But there is something more. “If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?” I need to take more seriously what it means to “see.” I want to make room for the unexpected, to respond more quicky to the needy in my own circle, with my own hands. I need to give greater priority to caring for the homeless and destitute in my community, supporting local ministries that provide care. I will search more diligently for organizations that serve the world’s needy, being responsive to the ones the Lord opens my eyes to see.
None of us can carry it all. But John’s words waken me to the need for clearer eyes and quicker compassion for the needy – both nearby and far away.
“This is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us.” Lord, I believe. Help me to love, just like you.
Lord Jesus, you call me to love like you – to be intensely practical, responding to needs just like unwashed feet in your hands. Give me eyes to see and wisdom to act. The earth is yours, and everything in it. You have given me a portion. Help me to use it well. To your glory. Amen.
Examine your resources. Reflect on the needs you see. Ask the Lord for wisdom to respond. Choose to love like him.
Photo: Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons