by Rev. John Howard Farmer
Learning to love one another
Let’s look at a topic of extreme importance to contemporary believers. It hails from a harvest of New Testament truths. Here’s the list of texts from which we will launch our thoughts; our first level of remembrance perhaps should be: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another,” John 13:34-35.
Now, let’s move on in our study, picking it up at John 15:12, 15:17; Romans 12:10, 13:8; 1 Thessalonians. 4:9; 1 Peter 1:22; 1 John 3:11, 3:14, 3:23, 4:7, 4:11-12, and 2 John 5. Don’t trust me to do your homework. Make the time this week to read the collection for yourself. Ask of each text, how does this affect me? How should I respond to this text? In light of this passage, how does Christ expect me to live? After all, it is how each individual responds to Christ, not how you relate to any preacher/teacher.
There is perhaps no collection of Biblical mandates as hard to keep as this one thought: Loving one another. Some people are just not lovable, or at least it seems that way. A deeper look into the truth foretold and we process the word more maturely.
Keep this in mind: you do not have to like a person, to love them. Further, we must separate actions from personhood. How, you might ask can we stand the test? Ask yourself one simple question. Was I lovable when Christ reached out to me? Try another: Do you suppose he liked me at the time?
Friends, we are the inheritors of grace. That is the unmerited favor of God, despite our circumstances, lifestyle or behavior. In his innocence, he found enough love to see in us that which we might have been and that which we still can be, to pardon our transgressions.
You see, it is about what Christ did, by dying for our sin, not what we did or did not do. We align ourselves under the shadow of his cross. His vicarious death, for the punishment of sin, enables us to stand beneath a blanket of love. Should we do less in our daily relationships with other human beings?
One of the first lessons I learned in ministry, though called by God, is that not everyone with whom I try to minister was going to like me, much less love me. The second might have been, that there was nothing I could do about it. I have found that when dealing with difficult people I can relate better if I focus on who that person is to Christ; not just to me. The orneriest scoundrel I know, that meanest family member, an overly stern teacher, that unappreciative boss, that nasty co-worker, that gossipy neighbor, all have one thing in common. Jesus loves them. In fact, he loves them just as much as he loves you or me. He loves us without reservation. How we respond to that love makes all the difference.
Read and reread the collection of texts. Applying them is yet another chore. It is, however, not beyond our capacity.
I know of no other more beneficial task for the coming week than to tackle the concept of loving one another. Christ will be honored and you will be blessed. It may make no difference at all how that other person relates to you. No matter. You will be found obedient.
Say, how about changing the pronouns in an old favorite hymn to get the point across? This hymn has been trying to teach us to love since the 1800s. Try this: Jesus loves her! This I know, for the Bible tells me so. Little ones to him belong; they are weak, but he is strong. Yes, Jesus loves him! Yes, Jesus loves her! Yes, Jesus loves them! The Bible tells me so.
Oh, sing it again and notice how the amended hymn stresses others, not just self…
We might also reflect on another author from the late 1800s, Charles D. Meigs (1792-1869):
“Lord help me live from day to day in such a self-forgetful way that even when I kneel to pray my prayer shall be for—others.
“Help me in all the work I do to ever be sincere and true and know that all I do for you must needs be done for—others. Let ‘self’ be crucified and slain and buried deep; and all in vain my efforts be to rise again unless to live for—others. And when my work on earth is done and my new work in heaven’s begun may I forget the crown I’ve won while thinking still of —others. Others, Lord, yes others let this my motto be help me to live for others that I may live like thee.”
This poem was always ripe to fall from the lips of the late Rev. Herbert Pollard Hall (1922-2010, an Irvington chap). Herbert was an exceptional young man, whose education and training was influenced and sponsored by the late Rubenette Lee Fleet, of the Irvington United Methodist Church.
Mrs. Fleet and daughters Jo Lee (Edwards) and Leah (Waller) were members of the Methodist church, across the road from Irvington Baptist Church where her husband Robert and sons Alex and Bob (present deacons) maintained their memberships.