I was sitting in my office today getting ready to write my blog post for this week when I heard the woman filling in for our office manager ask, “Who was the last disciple to die?” My ears perked up because not only did I know the answer but I also have a lot of information that I was ready to share on the subject. The last of the twelve to die was John. Not only is John the author of my favorite Gospel but I have done more research on him than any of the other disciples. So I leaped out of my seat to go show off my “vast” knowledge of the subject. How are people supposed to know how smart I am if I don’t constantly remind them? (I’m joking…for the most part)
One of the questions that I was asked was, “what year did John die.” I said that I was pretty sure that it was around 100 AD. I decided to look it up just to confirm what I was saying, and I stumbled across http://www.biblepath.com/john1.html. The last paragraph of their biography on John blew me away.
There is a church tradition, which says, that when John was evidently an old man in Ephesus, he had to be carried to the church in the arms of his disciples. At these meetings, he was accustomed to say no more than, “Little children, love one another!” After a time, the disciples wearied at always hearing the same words, asked, “Master, why do you always say this?” “It is the Lord’s command,” was his reply. “And if this alone be done, it is enough!”
I immediately went to everyone else in the office and said, “You have to listen to this!” What John says literally gave me chills. “Little children, love one another… It is the Lord’s command and if this alone be done, it is enough!”
In this statement, John is summing up a couple of verses he wrote in his Gospel. Jesus was alone with His disciples at the Last Supper, this would be the last time that Jesus would share a meal with the twelve before the crucifixion. Jesus tells the Apostles in 13:34-35, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
What makes this a new commandment? Do you remember when Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was in Matthew 22:36? He replies in verses 37-40 with, “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it; ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Jesus is adding a slight amendment to the second one. He has taken it above “love others as we have loved ourselves,” and made it “Love others as I have loved you.” Why is that so different?
Jesus’ love goes immeasurably above and beyond any love that we can offer, even to ourselves. Jesus loves us with a perfect love. His love is sacrificial, even to the point of death. His love is unconditional. His love is undeserved. His love is always forgiving. His love is impartial. He loved the least and the lost. He loved the unlovable. That is the type of love that we have been commanded to share. That’s how the world will know that we are His followers.
Do you love people this way? The answer is probably yes and no. We all love the people who are easy to love. We love our significant others, our families, and our friends. How about those that aren’t quite as easy to love? How about that co-worker who is always making life more difficult? What about that friend you once had that betrayed you? What about those people that have deeply hurt or offended you? How about that family member who you wish wasn’t part of your family? These people are not on the outside of that commandment.
We must love all people, no exceptions. I’m not saying, nor did Jesus, that we have to like everybody. There’s no way in the world that you’re going to like everyone you come across, but that doesn’t mean that you’re exempt from loving them. Honestly, I’m confident that there are times when Christ doesn’t like me a whole lot. Times when I have fallen into sin or am blatantly ignoring what He is telling me to do but that doesn’t change His love for me one bit. Sometimes I need tough love, but it’s love nonetheless. Rick Warren, the pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, CA, said “God will never love you any more than he does right now. But he also will never love you any less than he does right now.” Not only is that true but that is how we are to love others as well.
The love that Christ has called us to is a dangerous one. When you love all people unconditionally, you will get hurt. Don’t forget that one of Jesus’ friends sold Him out to be murdered. We are to love people not until it hurts, but even when it hurts. We are not defined as Christ followers by how much people love us, but by how much we love others.
As he was getting closer to the end of his life, the cry of John’s heart was “Little children, love one another!” That needs to be the cry of our hearts as well. Everybody is searching for love, why would we withhold it from them? Can you imagine what the world would look like if all of Christ’s followers loved others as He has loved us? The world would never be the same. It may not seem like it would have a huge impact, but as John said, “And if this alone be done, it is enough!” My friends, Christ’s love is enough.