If you missed the Intro post in this series, be sure to read it. It will provide more context around this series.
Jesus gives 6 very clear statements about being one of His followers or disciples. These are not requirements for salvation or forgiveness; rather they are conditions or evidences of being His disciple.
- Mark of Discipleship #1 Hate
- Mark of Discipleship #2 Suffer
- Mark of Discipleship #3 Forsake
- Mark of Discipleship #4 Abide
Anyone who knows me knows that I have am not a cat lover! I find them to be pretentious, self-absorbed and too good for their own fur. Do I hate cats? Well, for sure, I do not love them. Having said that, would I intentionally harm a cat? Um…well…OK, would I intentionally do something nice to or for a cat – NO! Somehow, this has something to do with Love!
MARK OF DISCIPLESHIP #5: LOVE
“By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:35 NASB
In our 21st century American culture, a command to love one another is not only expected but commonplace. We have profited from over two centuries of preachers & evangelists heralding the virtues of Christianity. LOVE is always, and rightfully, among the top of the list. However, the 1st century Christians did not benefit from the same environment. Theirs was a culture of rules, regulations and legal statute. Admittedly, this religious approach continues to rear its ugly head even in our time. The Pharisees and Sadducees had made a living on being the social and moral conscience for the Jewish people, while the relationship with God was defined by the laws and rules that were followed.
Jesus’ message was in stark contrast to this legalistic template. He said to “go the extra mile”, “turn the other cheek”, “love your neighbor as your self”. This type of teaching would have vexed the leaders and intrigued the people. This concept of loving one another under these conditions was so unusual that Jesus had to demonstrate it with the ultimate example…His own death. However, Jesus would never ask us to demonstrate a Mark of Discipleship if He did not also give us some guidelines around how that Mark should be showed:
1. “This is my commandment, that you love one another, even as I have loved you.” John 15:12. This was a NEW commandment (John 13:34-35). If this was a “new” commandment, what was the “old” one? The Old Testament law stated that we should “love others as your self!” (Leviticus 19:18). But the New Commandment takes this love to a new level – we are to love them as Christ loved us. He raises the standard and asks us to think like He does (Phil 2:5). How did Jesus love us? Unconditionally! We strive for our own agenda, we take the better portion for ourselves, we ask questions or make statements just to gain the compliment. These are the selfish acts of a people that have an inward focus of “how can I take advantage of this situation?” thinking. And yet, Jesus still loves us and pursues us with a jealous love that we cannot fathom. This is the Love that Jesus examples for us!
Here is the contrast: if we love others as we love ourselves (Old Commandment), we love in a way that seeks our own advantage. When we love others as Jesus loves us (New Commandment), we love with the good of others in the front of our minds and motivation. This is new, different and foreign – this is Loving each other as one of His disciples.
2. “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13. There is no higher expression of love than this. It is the truest demonstration of selflessness. Christ lived and died to show us this kind of love (now it the moment to find a soldier or Marine and give them a hug…they live this Love every day – Thank you!)
Self preservation is so hard-wired into our creation that we can hardly prick ourselves without someone forcing our hand. To overcome such strong instincts would require one of two things: extreme illness or extreme love. It is amazing how profound the contrast between these two extremes. When someone takes their own life (suicide) it is the highest expression of Selfishness. This person is SO self-absorbed, that they cannot conceive of anyone or anything more important than their own pain and discomfort. However, when someone lays down their life for another, it is the highest expression of SelfLESSness…it is the Greatest Love – Jesus said so!
Throughout the New Testament we see Love held to a high standard. At the end of the famous Love Chapter (I Corinthians 13:13), Paul says, “But now abides faith, hope, love, these three; and the greatest of these is love.” Faith and hope are very necessary virtues so what makes love so much better than either of these? Love describes the very character of God. Faith and Hope are more accurate descriptions of our response to God. God does not have “faith and hope”, nor does He demonstrate them. He does, however, demonstrate and epitomize Love. God IS Love.
We have become so glib in our culture with our references to Love. “I love pizza. I love football. I love going to the movies.” We attach love to anything and everything and yet seem to have so little knowledge of what it really means to love anything or anyone. The Love that Jesus described had nothing to do with feeling. It was about responsibility. It is not Emotion; it is Action. If I say that I love you, then I should do loving things for you; I should look for ways to make your life fuller – more abundant (John 10:10). If I care nothing for you, I am content to let you drift through life without help, guidance or care. True Christ-like Love forces us to re-consider our own agenda in favor of someone else’s well-being.
I know that I do not love cats because I will never do anything to make their life better. I have to now wonder is I truly love my neighbor if I never seek to find a way to make their lives more abundant – more like what Jesus wants for them as well. I pray that this blog makes your life a little richer – it is the start of sharing love with you. Be a Disciple of Jesus; Love one another – as Christ loves us!
Love is properly the image of God in the soul; for God is Love. By faith we receive from our Maker; by hope we expect a future and eternal good; but by love we resemble God. – Adam Clarke’s Commentary of the New Testament
OPEN MIC: SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS
- How would you demonstrate Christ’s love to someone who does not deserve love?
- Has anyone ever surprised you by showing you love when you did not expect it or feel like you deserved it?