Shortly before he is arrested, on the night before he was killed, Jesus tells his disciples a new commandment, “Love one another as I have loved you.” I want to say three things about this beautiful Gospel verse–the commandment, the condition of the commandment, and the outcome of the commandment.
This is Jesus’ last message, his last words, the last important instruction for us. This is what we are supposed to do: love one another. Notice that Jesus doesn’t say, “It sure would be nice if you loved one another.” He doesn’t say, “Perhaps you might think of loving one another.” He doesn’t say, “At least, love the people who are nice to you.” He says, “This is a new commandment I give you: Love one another.” That’s that. Instead of the ten commandments, instead of “Thou shalt not,” he says, “Thou shalt love one another.” This is the job description for the rest of our lives. This is the work before us.
I think that love is like a road. Love is a path. There are many roads and paths we can take, but if we follow Jesus, we walk one road, one path: the road of love. The road of love leads to life, which means it is a way of life. It also means love has boundaries. On the road of love, some behavior is no longer permissible.
This week we saw the horrific photos of the U.S. soldiers torturing Iraqi prisoners, a horrific crime, but the whole U.S. war on Iraq is a crime against God and a violation of the new commandment of Jesus because we’ve killed thousands of women, children and men. So we have to pray and speak out non-stop for an end to this unjust, evil war, that all the killings and violence stop, that the U.S. soldiers return home immediately, that our government war criminals be tried, that the United Nations resolve the entire crisis, and that we abolish our weapons of mass destruction. The reason why we stand against violence and war is because of this Gospel verse, because we are “commanded” to love one another. We can’t support the war and love one another at the same time. It’s one or the other. We are people who walk the road of love, which means we do not walk the road of war. We go against U.S. warmaking, torture, executions and nuclear weapons.
The second thing to notice is that there is a condition to the commandment. The key to the commandment to love one another is the phrase “as I have loved you.” We have to love as Jesus loved. How did he love? He gave his life for people. He served people. He helped people. He healed people. He fed people. He liberated people. He taught people. He encouraged people. He blessed people. He prayed for people. He felt compassion for people. He forgave people. He was nonviolent toward people. He resisted evil for people. He laid down his life in love for everyone and he says to us, “Now you go and do the same thing. Love others as I have loved you.” It’s a great challenge, but it’s also the best way to live, to walk in the footsteps of Jesus on the road of love, trying to love as Jesus loved us.
Finally, notice the outcome of the commandment: “If you love one another as I have loved you, then you will be my disciples and everyone will know that you are my disciples.” So the measure of our discipleship to Jesus is not whether or not we are popular or successful or law-abiding or rich or patriotic; not whether or not we support our country; not whether or not we did what everyone else did–but whether or not we love one another.
You do this well so you are disciples of Jesus and I want to encourage you to keep on loving one another, to love everyone in your family, to love everyone in town, to love the people you don’t like, to love everyone you will ever meet, to love every human being on the planet, to love the people the government tells us we’re not supposed to love, and to refuse to go along with the culture of hate and indifference and fear and violence and war, so that everyone will say, “Wow, those people in Cimarron are so loving, they are just like Jesus,” and one day, when we reach the end of the road of love, we will be welcomed home into the house of love, as we hear in the book of Revelation, where there are no more tears, no more suffering, no more pain, no more violence, no more empires, no more wars, no more nuclear weapons, and no more death, and we will be ready to spend eternity in the land of love because we know how to love one another.