Beloved – Forever!

Lamentation – Violence in our Homes!
April 24, 2024
Living Unpeacefully in an Unpeaceful World
May 13, 2024
Lamentation – Violence in our Homes!
April 24, 2024
Living Unpeacefully in an Unpeaceful World
May 13, 2024

I wonder if you looked around your church and thought about your church community, would you be willing to die for the people sitting in these pews, these your church family members, your neighbours who are the body of Christ? What might be the reason you would be willing to die for them if you were asked to choose?

‘This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.  No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.’ John 15:12-13

The love Jesus describes, is not a psychological state, nor is it anywhere described as an internal experience or quality, nor is it only personal and inward looking.  Love in this instance in John’s Gospel 15:9-17, is an action – a really difficult action – out there, with others, not simply with your own self and with God.  The definition of love here, is the radical willingness to die – not just for your partner or children which would generally be understood – but for a fellow follower of Christ.  For someone you may not like very much, even someone who drives you nuts and so you sit on the other side of the church to avoid them.

John’s gospel focuses on Jesus’ invitation to love our neighbours, not simply our enemies, or the distant ‘other’ whom we don’t know, or the one who fits into a culturally rejected category of people, race, nation, faith or gender, easy to compartmentalise and then ignore.  

Jesus died for his friends and also for his enemies to show us violence is not the winner, the threat of death need not have power over us or control us, and in fact, love conquers and wipes out the determination of the ‘other’, to have power and control over our life and death.  We can love as God loves.  We are resurrection people after all.

Last week I reflected on the impact of war as we paused on ANZAC Day to remember those who have died in wars.  We remembered those who have died, so others may live, in past and present wars and conflicts.  Wars demand an impossible accounting: wars where only the victor gets to tell the story and the conquered suffer and die; of wars unacknowledged such as our frontier wars; of uncounted lives lost whether it was in the holocaust or buried under destroyed buildings by deniable anonymous bombs dropped from great heights; of those who have gone unwillingly, conscripted and yet have done their duty; on those left behind to cope and grieve, stitching together lives forever changed by the memories of violence; or those who are forgotten on their return and struggle to live a civilian life; of those injured and wounded for the rest of their lives, emotionally, spiritually and physically.  We always ask too much of our sisters and brothers in the demands made on them through conflict and we don’t always want to see the cost, the price others have paid for our decision to choose violence as the solution or as resistance, or as an assertion of power. 

In the last few weeks, we have also been reckoning the cost of the war going on in our own homes, the cost of our refusal to change the way we look at one another, see and hear each other and love each other.  The violence, seemingly unending and which is escalating in ways appearing unimaginable as families are broken, people are traumatised and the love that brought them together has become toxic, violent, controlling and deadly.   Jesus said, ‘love one another as I have loved you’.

Jesus challenged his disciples to see the world differently just as he did, as he revealed God’s love, shared it and lived it, in ways that bring violence to an end; and in ways that give us the courage to be disturbers of the peace in the world we made.  God does not offer violence for violence, or exercise power through fear.  God never demands control over others, or vengeance and hate to achieve what God wants. God does not see a hierarchy of worthiness in humanity, there are not some more worthy or blessed than others; we are all equal in the sight of God.

We must ask the uncomfortable questions and seek to live the way Jesus showed us in the face of unbearable, appalling violence.  Love, as Jesus shows us, is seen in its fruits; it creates, it redeems, it bears fruit such as hope, justice and peace, and love lays down its life.

Simply sharing a psychological love and friendship allows us to remain disengaged from one another; to identify as a community of Christ solely by professing faith or being together in a church building.  If we believe we have to focus on our internal state of being first, in order to show God’s love, we may never get to the business of bearing fruit. We can always put off the next active steps to show the world what God’s love means in practice. Avoidance and delaying tactics are all around us, we never have to look Jesus in the eye and deny him. 

Let me also be clear, however, requiring death as the way to show love is extremely problematic.  So what remains for us?  The good news is we do not have to feel in a particular way in order to get on with the actual, active practice of loving friendship.  This is good news, because if I was to take a quick straw poll of your feelings in this congregation, I wonder if there would be sufficient warmth and excitement to answer my opening question!  I suspect morning tea will be very polite!

The bad news is we can get on with the business of friendship without any particular sense of love or awareness of Jesus’ imperative, and simply not realise or recognise the connection with God. Yet Jesus’ statement remains: by following Christ, we recognise we are ready to suffer and to die for him, for the body of Christ, just as Christ died for us. 

God’s love seen in, through and with Jesus, shows how life-giving is God’s love, reconciling us both to God and to one another.  God’s love consistently creates something new, restores what has been broken, completes what is unfinished, heals what has been hurt, and gives itself to the point of death. 

When we accept the radical grace of God’s love it means we can experience well-being, gratitude and love, but these only come to fullness when we share God’s love with others, actively with other people.  We give thanks for God’s radical action of restoration and healing by becoming one of us, suffering and dying, and rising again. In response, we show our thankfulness and gratitude to God in our loving actions with others. 

Loving one another is not the easiest command, but it matters the most.  Others will know us and the God we believe in, by our love shown for those around us.    May we love one another as God loves us.     The Lord be with you.

Bibliography

  1. Jarvis, C.A., Johnson, E.E.  2015.  Feasting on the Gospels John, Vol. 2, Chs 10-21.  Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville, Kentucky, USA.
Lucy Morris
Lucy Morris
Anglican Priest, International Speaker, Published Author, Social Justice Advocate and Activist.

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