John 13:35 – By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.
Several years before I met Bill Gaines, I had a pretty good friend named Martin. Martin was divorced from his former wife, Jenny, and he had confided in me many stories about their old relationship. I felt really unhappy about the way my friend had been treated by this woman, and even though I had never met her, I was fairly convinced that Jenny and I would never be friends.
My friends didn’t treat one another badly, and I knew Martin well enough to know that Jenny had hurt his heart. Even though some time had passed since their divorce, Martin still struggled with the memory of what he had hoped for his marriage.
So my friends and I often found Martin standing at the front door of our homes just looking for some company, and one evening around suppertime I heard that familiar knock. I knew it would be Martin so I opened the door, and there he was – but this time he wasn’t alone. This time he had brought someone with him. He looked so happy to be in the company of this new woman, and I found myself smiling and welcoming them in as he introduced me to… Jenny.
Oh, how I hoped my face didn’t betray my heart. How could Martin have brought Jenny to my home? He knew I wouldn’t have wanted to meet her. And how could he look so happy? During their marriage, this woman had thrown insults, thrown foul language, thrown accusations, and sometimes had even thrown punches. That’s not who I wanted in my home, and Martin knew that about me. Surely he knew this wasn’t ok. But there he was, smiling and comfortable, and a little giggly.
I put on my bravest, Southern hospitality face and asked if they had eaten. Martin was always prepared to eat so I began to plan a meal for us. Martin and his Jenny, sat at my table and chatted happily as I prepared our salads, baked some potatoes, and placed three lovely steaks on the grill.
Now, I have to admit, Jenny seemed to be an absolutely lovely girl. That didn’t make sense to me having heard Martin’s stories, but I focused in on the role of good hostess. Obviously, I was in a position where I was going to have to share my table with this woman.
Now just as the meal was about to come together, Martin made a silly, unkind comment about his ex-wife… as if she wasn’t sitting right there. Was this about to be a stinking mess? If that’s how he really felt, what was she doing in my house? Why was I being nice to her and grilling her a t-bone?
“Marty,” I started as I pointed across the table. “Who is this woman?”
Martin’s eyes opened wide. “Oh no, this isn’t THAT Jenny! You thought I brought THAT Jenny HERE?!”
“Yes, Martin, that’s exactly what I thought. I didn’t understand it, didn’t like it, didn’t know how to handle it – and now I’m exhausted because it took everything I had to welcome her. But I love you and I see this person is important to you… so I have to love her, too.”
New Jenny got up from the table and hugged me. I really did like her.
Jesus models love for us as he washes his disciples’ feet. As he kneels to engage in their stinky mess, he puts aside his comfort and attends to their needs. Then, he shares his Table with them. He displays the kind of love that can only come from our Father God and is deep within us. Jesus is commanding us to share that kind of love – the kind that grills steaks for the unlovable – the kind that exhausts us because we are focused on offering our best. “I have a new commandment for you. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. That’s how everyone will know that you are my disciples. They will see you love one another.”
Jesus didn’t request love from us; Jesus commanded. All people are important to Jesus, and because I love Jesus… well, I have to love other people too. As followers of Jesus the Christ, the Messiah, the Savior of our World, we are marked by love and marked for love.
On this final day of Lent (and the last day of sharing my daily thoughts through this Lenten blog), I realize that I want to show love so that others recognize Jesus.
PRAYER FROM JOHN 13
Holy and Loving God, thank you for teaching me to love. Throughout this whole season of Lent, I have thought of you and shared my thoughts with your people. Now I ask you to move me from writing to action – from paper to the world – and use me as your instrument to bring hospitable love to everyone I meet. Amen.