I have been reading the book of John lately. And something struck me about the commands of Jesus, about the instructions he left his disciples with.
In several places, Jesus referred to the “commandments” which we can assume are the commandments given to Moses. Those who came in contact with him were told that it was good, and even necessary for eternal life, to keep the commandments. Jesus also did much of his teachings through parables and stories, and we can agree that commandments came out of those – although not explicitly stated as commands, they were lessons that the disciples were to take to heart and teach to others.
But what I find fascinating is that the only command Jesus gave, spoke, or deemed necessary to repeat and be explicit about in the book of John was the command to love one another. That’s it.
John 13:34: A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.
John 15:12: My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.
John 15:17: This is my command: Love each other.
Those times that Jesus explicitly said, “this is my command” were the times he simply said, “love one another.”
Often, thinking about being a disciple of Christ can be overwhelming. So many commandments. So many rules. Are you supposed to agree with the conservatives or the liberals? Are you supposed to think charismatics are weird or really tapping into the power of the Spirit? Are you supposed to bad mouth the Westboro Baptists (you know, so people don’t associate YOU with them) or pray for them?
With so many varying opinions about what it means to truly be a “Christian,” it is difficult to discern what actions you should take and beliefs you should have to be the “right” kind of Christ-follower. But when you step back and look at the big picture, being a disciple of Christ does not seem as overwhelming or unattainable. Maybe that is because I have made it too simple, but I don’t think so. When broken down to its most basic level, the call to discipleship involves one major thing. As Jesus taught his followers, “by this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” There is no greater mark by which others will know that you are a follower of Christ than by how you love those around you. Christ is seen in how you love and treat those you come in contact with on a daily basis.
It matters less what one does or how they do it, what matter most is living life as an act of worship to God, a love letter from Him to those you find yourself surrounded by. With this in mind, discipleship becomes much more accessible –something everyone can do no matter where they find themselves in the journey of life and faith. We are not all called to one specific form of Christianity, but we are all called to love. And we can follow the example of Jesus as we learn what it looks like to love others and have God’s heart for his Church and his people.
I know we all feel strongly about causes we want to champion. We have strong opinions about homosexuality, abortion, Obama, gun laws, immigration, terrorism, war, unemployment, environmental laws, and the list could go on and on. Those logs in other people’s eyes we want to remove. Sins we see that we feel called to confront. And, perhaps, all of that can be forms of love. But we have to ask ourselves where our motivation comes from.
God can and will bring change through us. Every act we take on behalf of God in a call to discipleship is a call to bring humanity closer to reconciliation with God. No amount of eloquent rhetoric regarding stances on abortion, just war, gay marriage or racism will achieve this, only love will. Christianity is not a stance or a position, it is an action, a call to love and a charge to consider the other more important than yourself. It is a call to see the divine in them, believe in their potential and fight on their behalf to bring reconciliation with an all-loving God.