Tuesday, March 13, 2012

further observations on John 13:21ff

Jesus calls us to love "as I have loved you..."  Some additional thoughts...

Take a realistic view of the Christian life.  People may seriously betray you, and even close friends, exemplary Christians, may cause you great disappointment and hurt.  D. A. Carson writes, "If Christians are to be kind and not to pay back evil for evil, and to exercise this love and compassion first of all to Christians, what is presupposed is that some of the attacks and pain that any Christian will experience will come from others in the church. As wonderful as Christian fellowship and Christian love may be—and at their best they are beyond price, beyond words—both experience and Scripture tell us in frank terms that  sometimes Christians face the worst pain from others within the family of faith."  (From Love in Hard Places, p. 52)

Acknowledge the hurt.  Don't deny the painfulness of betrayal-- Jesus didn't.  "Jesus was troubled in his spirit, and testified..." (John 13:21)  Whether through betrayal, denial, disappointment, or finally death, all loves in this life experience pain.  In the movie Shadowlands, the character playing C. S. Lewis was asked (after losing his mother as a child, and his wife to cancer), "Why love if losing hurts so much?"  He answers, 
"Twice in life I've been given that choice, as a boy and as a man. The boy chooses safety, the man chooses suffering. The pain now is part of the happiness then. That's the deal".  

Do not take your own revenge, or pay back evil for evil.  "When he had dipped the morsel, he gave it to Judas..." (13:26) Jesus traveled with and shared hundreds of meals with Judas over three years.  He even washed Judas's feet to demonstrate his own willingness to bring cleansing to the betrayer's life.  Miroslav Volf writes, "For Christians, forgiving, like giving in general, always takes place in a triangle, involving the wrongdoer, the wronged person, and God. Take God away, and the foundations of forgiveness become unsteady and may even crumble."  (Miroslav Volf, from Free of Charge

Remember the a spiritual dimension to those who oppose Jesus: "Satan entered into him."  (13:27)  Such broken relationships are never strictly intellectual or emotional in their cause.  Prayer is so important!

To love as Jesus did doesn't mean being a wimp or doormat.  "What you are going to do, do quickly..." (13:27)  Jesus did not run after Judas, nor did he prevent Peter’s failure which would bring humility to Peter’s life. (13:38) 

Rest upon God's sovereign ability to bring glory out of shame. "Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him... (13:31)  If he can bring glory and good from the most unjust, tragic, evil situation (Acts 2:23), then he can bring glory and good from yours. "God works against evil and suffering. But God, in immense divine power and inscrutable divine wisdom, also works through evil and suffering."  (Miroslav Volf, Free of Charge

Be aware that fellow believers in their self-confidence will promise more than they can deliver: "I will lay down my life for you." (13:37)  

Take the initiative in reconciliation.  Jesus warned Peter, and prayed for his success (Luke 22:32). After the resurrection Peter was summoned by name to meet Jesus in Galilee (Mark 16:7).  There our resurrected Lord prepared breakfast for the disciples and led Peter to re-affirm his love three times, and then put him back to work in ministry.  (John 21) 

The painting above, "Christ Washing the Apostles Feet", by Dirck van Baburen (c. 1616) captures the shocking nature of Christ's action in washing the disciples' feet.      

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