Scripture: 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
Reflection: My two years as associate pastor at Oak Cliff United Methodist Church, south of Dallas, gave me an opportunity to minister in a mission field with several rival gangs. I met several gang members when I tutored at-risk students at Adamson High School and I accompanied several parents of gang members to Juvenile court hearings.
Gang members and gang activities are often easy to spot. Most gang members are proud of their association with the gang and they want everyone to know it, even if it makes them easily identifiable targets to rival gang members. We can suspect someone belongs to a gang by the clothing they wear such as: baggy pants, baseball caps turned at an angle, a brand of shoes, shirts, bandanas, jewelry, hand signs, colors, and team jackets. Some gangs wear unique tattoos. They also use graffiti to identify themselves and mark their “turf” or territory, signaling to other gang members to stay away or else.
Jesus tells his disciples that their identifying sign to everyone that they were his disciples – gang members if you will – would be the way they loved one another.
“Love one another.” Sounds simple, right? Its easy to love and stay in communion with those that think like us, look like us, and want the same things we do. But I’m sure that what Jesus said, made at least a couple of his disciples in the Upper Room that night, cringe with hesitancy.
Two of the disciples – Matthew and Judas Iscariot – Jesus commanded to love each other represented differing points of view. Matthew was a tax collector working for the Romans and by that work supporting their rule over Palestine. Simon the Zealot, as his name makes clear, was a member of the Zealots, a political party committed to the overthrow of the Romans and all who collaborated with them; that is, the Matthew’s of the world. These two men were as far apart politically as you could be in first-century Palestine, yet Jesus called both to follow him and to love each other. A hopeful sign that would turn the attention of a conflicted world to Christ would be for these two, through the power of love, would transcend their differences and see each other as fellow disciples of Christ, brothers to each other, instead of enemies.
The love Jesus commanded his disciples to practice was not a sentimental love, but a love that was a decision. A decided love means I’m going to love you no matter what. It is a fierce love that never gives up on the other and shows everyone the unfailing love of Christ that never gives up on us.
Now, go on disciple, show everyone you are a member of Christ’s gang committed to his unfailing way of love. Show everyone love that is patient and kind. Show a love that does not envy, does not boast, and is not proud. Show a love that honors others. Show your love unselfishly. Show a love that brings peace. Show a love that keeps no record of wrongs and is able to forgive. Show a love that does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. Show love that always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Show everyone Christ’s love, a love that never fails, and everyone will know you are his disciple.
Prayer: Help us to be your disciples walking in your way of unfailing love, seeing others as you see them. Forgive us when we failed to show grace and love to our fellow disciple and our neighbor.