“A New Commandment I give unto you, that you love one another as I have loved you.”
Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ
You’ve got to be kidding. Surely this is demanding the impossible. Surely this “wisdom” only serves to feed weak manipulative relationships and reinforce the kind of violence that is built on a toxic cycle of attack, remorse, forgive and repeat – because at least one party is given to a mistaken application of this highest of all commandments. Believe me, I’ve been around long enough to see how misunderstood and misappropriated these words have proved to be. Instead of building and inspiring, this disembodied commandment has rather been guilt-inducing and victimising.
After all who can love how Jesus loved?
The first one to share a dish with Jesus at his final meal is the same who betrayed him to his executioners. “Go and do what you must do,” Jesus said to him.
Even as he hung on a cross in mortal and spiritual agony, Jesus uttered, “Father, forgive them, they don’t know what they are doing.”
At a beachside breakfast, the Risen Christ restored a guilt-ridden and fallen Peter to responsible leadership. He had denied even knowing Jesus, abandoning him in his time of greatest need.
Who can love like that?
Election fever currently has the country in its grip. Love is certainly not high on the agenda. I myself am part of a group that has been all but consumed in lobbying hard for justice regarding a failed and fraudulent retirement housing scheme. Twenty of our number have died in the process, stress of losing secure accommodation and life savings due to deliberate regulatory dysfunction being a major factor. Politicians and bureaucrats have led this group up the garden path with promises, false hope, lies, deception and Machiavellian manipulation. How does one “love your enemy” and “those who despitefuly use you” under such conditions?
Spiritual wisdom of the ages reveals this highest of Jesus’ summons is best understood and followed as aspiration, the summit of a peak of what it means to be most completely and fully human. In the thick of conflict, in the bloodiest part of the battle with those who sneakily or blatantly strive against us, it’s hard to see the peak through the dust and fog. We know it’s there, however!
And to love is not to forgive cheaply or to fail to call abuse and injustice to account.
To love as Jesus demonstrates can involve some very painful relationship surgery. Poison needs to be drawn so that souls may heal. To love as Jesus loves is also to build our own positive self-regard, in order to “love others as we love ourselves” (another commandment of Jesus).
So yes, we can love like that. We are serious! Read all about it in John 13:31-35, the set reading for this Sunday.