Last year I attended an Artist Retreat at Laity Lodge. Most of the participants were believers and, during one of the sessions, a discussion started about favorite gospels. It soon became apparent that John is the beloved gospel of artists. Who knew?
Since then I have read John differently. The unique introduction that starts “in the beginning”, the literary symbolism in Jesus’s prayer, John’s emotionally charged descriptions- there is a passion of expression that separates John somewhat from the other gospels.
John 14 and 15 are so beautifully written; the love of Jesus vivid and powerful.
Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you…All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid…As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love…My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.
There are so many words from Jesus in the gospel of John; so much assurance and love. There is an entire chapter (17) where we get to be privy to His prayer for us; again we hear His love for us. In John we also see Peter reinstated. Jesus allows Peter the gift of saying “Yes, Lord, You know that I love You.”
Now is a fitting time (it’s probably always a fitting time actually) to meditate on the radical LOVE of our Savior. It should transform and humble us. How can we not love when we are loved so? More than we are set apart, we are divided- from each other, from the world, sometimes from the very people He has put in our lives so that we may be His hands and feet to them. Jesus said, “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” Perhaps in this verse He was speaking to how his followers should love one another (and the body of Christ struggles here), but in both Matthew (5:44) and Luke (6:27), Jesus speaks very specifically about loving those outside of the body of Christ.
This kind of love is hard to see in our communities. Too frequently when I hear or read about people using the name of Jesus, it’s not in love. His love is seldom found in headlines, or on Facebook, not in scathing Christian blogs, and often not in grand, public acts. We see it in John. Jesus forgiving a disciple and friend (21), comforting mourners (11), healing (4, 5, 9, 11), saving an adulterous woman from being stoned to death (8), spending time with a Samaritan woman in the midst of sin (4), feeding multitudes (6), and washing His disciples feet because He wanted them to understand He came to serve (13). He spent time and love on those who loved Him, but also on those who didn’t know Him yet but desperately needed Him. He talked with them, face to face; He extended mercy to them.
It’s so much easier to judge, to blame, to fear, to separate ourselves- than to love. I often wonder- how frequently does our “love” look like telling people they are wrong and we are right? How often do we model the Gospel of Grace to others? Can we patiently and lovingly listen to differing opinions, struggles, questions? Can we answer with kindness and true humility? I became a believer as an adult and I THANK GOD that He sent me amazing people who were not frightened by my honesty and differences, who showed me His love in tangible ways that humbled and blessed me.
We don’t have to agree with people we love, but I pray that we LOVE EACH OTHER; that we lay down our comfortable lives and instead extend comfort, service, conversation, prayer and forgiveness. I pray we enter into the mess of togetherness, and in doing so, show the world the face of our Father.