Joseph Mazzella shares…I was in a local grocery store the other day when suddenly I heard the sound of breaking glass behind me. I turned around to see what had happened. A young mother had turned away from her shopping cart for a second to look in one of the freezers. That second was all it took for her growing, baby boy to test out his new found ability to grab and lift things from his seat in the cart. Unfortunately, the big jar of spaghetti sauce was more than he could handle. I smiled when I walked back to help and saw the look of utter surprise on his face. His arms were still outstretched where the jar had been a few seconds before. On the floor below the puddle of red was slowly oozing across the aisle. After making sure that both Mom and baby were alright I headed down the aisle to get help from a store employee. As I glanced back at them, though, I saw something that truly warmed my heart. The baby had finally taken his eyes off the shattered jar and looked up at his Mom. Instead of scolding him or even giving him an angry look she smiled down at him with eyes full of gentle understanding and unconditional love. Her tender gaze and kind smile never changed either not even when a friend gave her some good natured teasing about the mess. I knew then that this Mom was going to give her son a lifetime full of laughter and love. I think that God must smile down on us with that same look at times. We are His beloved Children and yet as hard as we try, we often make a mess of things too. We want to learn to love. Still, we stumble, fall, let important things slip through our fingers, and even break a few hearts along the way. God never gives up on us, however. He forgives us and fills our hearts, souls, and lives with His gentle understanding and unconditional love. May we all learn to love each other deeply…as He loves us. May we all better learn to live our lives centered joy, laughter, love, and understanding.
In the Old Testament, the command that God’s people love one another was only one of many…now, with Jesus, the old commandment is lifted out and given a place of honor. The command to love is the fulfillment of God’s law. When God’s people love one another, they treat each other with respect and kindness…and this can and should be in any relationship…parent/child, brother/sister or friend/friend. This is what is evidenced in the story shared…there is a new depth and understanding that we humans cannot “manufacture” on our own...this kind of love has to come from the Spirit of God. This “new” commandment, new kind of love, agape, is to stand at the very beginning of the Christian life and grow stronger…it is not an appendix to our Christians experience, it is at the heart of it! Jesus says, “By this shall all men know that you are my disciples…if you love one another” (John 13:35) -- without it, the Christians life really means nothing (1 Corinthians 13:1).
Jesus, Himself, is certainly the greatest example of this new commandment. In commanding Christians to love, Jesus does not ask us to do something that He has not already done. Jesus’ life was an illustration of love…His disciples hurt him again and again…and yet, He continued to love them. They, likewise, learned to love one another because of Jesus’ love. Jesus loved tax-collectors, sinners, the thousands who would sit at His feet and listen to Him, including children and babies. He never showed hatred or malice, even when He would need to admonish those listening to His message. He hated sin and disobedience, but never hated the people who committed sins…including that of the religious leaders and others who hated Him. It is easy to talk about love…it is more difficult to practice it. We can’t say that we love God or a fellow believer and yet be hateful toward them. We must be Jesus to them, so they can come to know His “new kind of love” in a meaningful way. When genuine love flows out of a believer’s heart, there is greater understanding and perception of spiritual things. It is not enough to recognize that Jesus brings a new kind of love and that God’s love is revealed in Him…it must also be revealed in our lives as well!
John, in 1 John 2, reminds us that we can’t live with hate toward a brother or sister and be in good standing with the Lord. We cannot conscientiously live a lie…God knows our hearts. Love is about living forgiveness…this is our grace calling in Christ Jesus. The new covenant is about grace and love and the more that Christians are able to come to understand this principle, the quicker they are able to be set free to love without bias or prejudice! John wants us to understand that this agape, or unconditional love, is what is going to truly make the difference in our relationships. It doesn’t expect anything in return. There is no, “I will love you if…” It is “I love you…period, exclamation point!” Unconditional, sacrificial love is above and beyond any kind of love the world has to offer...and is truly the key to relationships, the key to faithfulness, and ultimately, why we can and will be successful.