Wednesday, 3 March 2010

A new commandment

Originally published as a reflection in the MCC North London newsletter, 4th March 2010. The Lenten reflections were on the theme of the hymn Will You Come and Follow Me?

Will you let the blinded see if I but call your name?
Will you set the prisoners free and never be the same?
Will you kiss the leper clean and do such as this unseen,
and admit to what I mean in you and you in me?

Sometimes I think that the responsibility given to us as Christians is almost impossible to fulfil. Jesus said, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (John 13:34) That doesn’t sound so bad until you start to look at it in detail and really think about what is being said. What does he mean when he says, “as I have loved you”?

Jesus’ life and ministry was completely rooted in love. Everything he did was for the love of humanity, from enduring tests in the wilderness from Satan until the day he died in agony on the cross. The seasons of Lent and Easter are all about the raw emotion that is at the heart of our faith; love.

Jesus showed that love in many different ways, some of which are easy to follow and some of which are almost impossible for us. He spent time with the people at the lowest end of the social scale; sinners, tax collectors, women, fishermen, people who were ill or disabled, and the list goes on. He broke bread with them, he taught them the will of God and he tended to their needs. Would we dare to look after those we consider beneath us, no matter what the cost? Would we wash the feet of anyone we don’t know, let alone those we don’t like? Would we kiss a person with a deforming and debilitating highly-contagious skin condition?

Jesus healed in the name of God. He resurrected Lazarus, healed all sorts of disabilities and debilitating illnesses. He continued to travel around healing those he loved, even when he knew that Herod was looking for him, and that he was soon to be arrested and executed. Would we have the faith to heal someone in the name of God? Would we have the strength of will to carry on doing this if it would cost us our lives?

And if we did do all these things, if we fulfilled the commandment to love one another and truly showed the love of Christ to all our neighbours, would that be enough? No. Jesus says that not only should we do these things, but we should do them unseen, out of no desire but to please God. We should not seek the recognition of people, or the thanks of the healed. There should be no reward for this work but the knowledge that it is the work of God we are doing. The only thing we should be seen to proclaim loudly and without fear in the face of the public is the love of Jesus Christ. We should admit what he means to us all day, every day. We should not be too embarrassed to tell our non-Christian friends we’ll pray for them, nor too ashamed to admit we go to church. We have to come out as Christians, even if we are persecuted. And if we lose everything, even our lives, we will have lost nothing as long as we have loved the world and our God, and lived that love in every aspect of our lives.

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