A Voice in the
"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I love you, that you also love one another. By this everyone will know that you are My disciples, if you have love mutually with one another." (vs34-35)
Since the 60s and 70s the world has been singing, "What the world - needs now - is love - sweet love..." Around that same time the hippy off-shoot of the organized "church" was popularizing these two verses just quoted. There was even a so-called "christian" rock group called "Love Song" as they would sing, "What can you say to a love song...oooo a love song...if you can feel it in your heart."
And then, on the so-called "other side" of the -spectrum- were the "judgmental" folk. The ones promoting this so-called "love" of theirs, while condemning "judgmentalism", would, themselves, -judge- these they had judged as being "judgmental". And along with being "judgmental"; likely the 'cause' (in their minds) for judgmentalism; the judgment was that there was a lack of love. The way I experienced the label as being (myself) "judgmental, was when I would interject the share-all so-called Bible studies with, "the Bible says..." with chapter-n-verse. If people were sitting around "lovingly" sharing their opinions, if a Bible-believer dared to quote Scripture, and suggest that the Bible actually -proclaimed- something 'definite' (black-n-white), rather than all the "gray areas" they were awash in, such a Bible-believer was -judged- by them as being "unloving" and "judgmental".
For adhering to God's 'absolutes'. For repudiating the immorality of the day, when everybody else was -lovingly- promoting "live and let live". Do your own thing. Try it, you'll like it. Don't be square, man! If somebody was caught up in sin, the so-called "loving" thing to do was to display "tolerance" for it. To not impose one's -own- 'values' upon them. And if a person were to suggest that the values were Scriptural values: well, that's just "your -opinion-" of what the Bible says. When the Bible says, "you shall not commit adultery", if a Believer would label such behavior as "adultery", the person was accused of "judging"; judge not lest you be judged; don't poke at the twig in your brother's eye when you've got a beam in your own; if you point a finger at someone else, always remember you have three fingers pointing back at yourself; etc,etc...it went. The "loving" thing to do was to NOT call adultery, "adultery". This is just one example.
Even today, this ministry receives accusations from some quarters that it is too "unloving". Too harsh! And I know that I'm not alone in this. Any of you who love the Lord, and stick-to-your-guns with God's Word, the Scriptures... you, too, are also often derided as being "unloving".
And yet, Jesus says that the world will know we are His disciples by our love. So, what gives? What is the context of this command?
First of all, 'who' is Jesus addressing? He is no longer with the crowds. Ch13 begins a new section in John. Up through ch12 most of Jesus' words and teachings have been with the crowds and religious leaders. Now, ch13 begins His journey to the cross. A little later in the evening, in a couple hours, in context, He is going to be arrested, put on trial, and the next day be crucified. Ch13 is the upper room. The Last Supper. It is just Jesus and the disciples. The next five chapters will be His final words of teaching, exhortation and encouragement to them, before He is crucified.
Is the Believer to love (and be loving to) the world? While we are exhorted "if it is possible" to be "at peace with all men" (Rom12:18), the exhortation to us is "Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him." (1Jn2:15)
To whom is this love directed? He is talking to the disciples, and says, "if you have love mutually with one another". (vs35) This is the "sincere love of the brethren" (1Pt1:22) This is one of the tests that a person is a Believer, "..because we love the brethren". (1Jn3:14)
What sort of love is this? That which Love Song used to sing? ..that which Oprah proclaims? That which one "-FEELS- in the heart"?
Jesus says, "..AS I LOVE YOU.." (vs34)
How does/did Jesus love? "By this we know the love of God, because He laid down His life for us." (1Jn3:16a)
And so, how do we love the brethren? "And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren." (1Jn3:16b)
How did Jesus show His love while He was alive? In this same context we have an example of Peter. Poor Peter...! He gets picked on so much! But there is much we can learn here.
Jesus is explaining how He is going away, and is leaving them behind. And as usual, Peter jumps in, Well, why can't I follow You now?? What are You talking about? And Peter starts to proclaim his never-ending love for Jesus by saying, I will even die for You! (vs36-37) Jesus, You don't have to undergo Your troubles 'alone'. I'm with You here, right alongside You! As he will later pull out his sword and start whacking about, and chop off somebody's ear. (18:10)
Oh, Peter... I'm so overcome with emotion! ...thank you so much! That means so much to Me to hear you say this. It makes Me -feel- 'loved', and cared for. Now, with such a friendship, I know I can face anything that comes along, knowing you're right there with Me. We'll do this thing together. ???
Is that what Jesus said? That's pretty much what people today would say.
Oh, REALLY, Peter!!?? You're going to be this macho brave guy? "Truly, truly, I say to you..." (vs38) (Have love mutually with one another..as I love you) Here is "TRUTH". Peter, here's the 'truth'. Before the rooster crows tomorrow morning, you're going to wimp out, and "..deny Me three times."
Oh, but, Jesus... You're so 'harsh' to him! That wasn't very 'loving'. How do you think that made Peter -feel-?? He was trying to show his support for You, and You rebuff him like that?! Don't you see him over there sulking, and embarrassed now? You've just put him down and shamed him in front of his buddies. That wasn't very nice!! Shame on You!!
Well, we know the account. The -truth- was that Peter denied the Lord. And then, after the resurrection He will ask Peter, "Peter, do you love Me?" (21:15~) (We'll touch that when we get there.)
What is love? To "keep His commandments". "By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments." (1Jn5:2) What is one of the primary commandments of God? "..that we should be holy and without blemish before Him in love.." (Eph1:4)
Notice both "holiness" and "love" lumped together into the same context. But this is the primary point where the unbelievers -judge- Believers as being 'judgmental'... when a Believer tries to live a holy life, and also proclaim it to others. Such holiness (being set apart and distinct from the world's corruption), to them, is 'unloving'. But to God, it is part of the very definition, if you will, of love to God.
When a couple are married, if they do the traditional thing of walking up to the pagan altar to be blessed before the gods by the priest or preacher, the vows include the words "forsaking all others". Such a "forsaking" is the very definition of "holy". The newly married couple are "holy" to each other. They are separate and distinct from everybody else, and are -only- 'to' each other. Would anybody suggest that a refusal on the part of either one of them to go lusting after somebody else, should be considered "unloving"? No! Their love for each other is so strong that they WOULDN'T EVEN DREAM OF going after somebody else! That would be called "infidelity"! And yet, this is precisely what the world wishes from the Believer, and if the Believer does not comply, the Believer is "unloving"! That's just like someone trying to entice a married person away from their spouse, and when rebuffed, whining that they are so "unloving" ...to them!
This was just reiterated again recently. And perhaps, when somebody who claims to you, to be a Christian, but they whine at you that you are too harsh and unloving... perhaps that's a clear sign to you that they are not a -real- "[C]hristian"? We say this often, but it bears repeating: The world is full of pretend [c]hristians. Remember: they look, for everything, like "ministers of righteousness". (2Cor11:15) They know how to spin-a-yarn. They know the terminology. They know Scripture, and can often quote it to you better than you can quote it back. But like it was manifest recently, somebody initially seeming to be a Christian, but whining at VW's unlovingness... when "truly, truly" is spoken to them, they separate themselves, with anger and self-righteous vindictiveness and indignation.
Well this chapter begins... The Footwashing...
What is the footwashing about? Is it a ritual, like the "Lord's Supper", to be practiced when Believers meet together? There are some groups that think so. What is the lesson Jesus teaches through it?
First of all, Peter was told that: if he didn't receive it from Jesus, that "you have no part with Me". (vs8b) Footwashing (what it represents) is part of belonging to Jesus.
And then, Jesus also says that we are to "wash one another's feet". (vs14)
Now usually, we latch onto the parts where Jesus speaks of the "servant" and "master" relationships. (vs14-16) Jesus, the Creator of the universe and Savior of sinners, stooped to the position as a servant (Php2:5-7); that, just as Jesus humbled Himself to do the menial servant's job, so should we humble ourselves before each other: "whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant" (Mt20:26). And, indeed, this is one of the lessons of this passage... which we will not dwell on this time-around.
But let us see Jesus' explanation of the -feet-.
When Peter learns that he cannot be part of Jesus unless he receives this washing, he then says, Well, give me the whole treatment then, "..also my hands and my head!" (vs9) But notice Jesus says, You don't need all that. You're already clean. You just need your feet washed. And then... this has been (if you will) an object lessson; an "example, that you should do as I have done to you." (vs15)
When they came for this supper, being it was one of Israel's prime annual Feasts, they would have bathed and put on clean clothes. They were "clean". But the path they walked to get there was dirty and dusty. The dust would have clung to their feet. So, in order to be totally clean, all they needed was to wash their feet of the temporary dust-of-travel.
Jesus says, "..you are clean, but not everyone.." (vs10b) At the moment, Judas was still in the room. Otherwise, the rest were "clean". They were Jesus' disciples. They were "saved".
At home they were cleaned up. They travelled along to be with Jesus. And 'now' they were with Jesus. This represents, in object-lesson form, the path of the Believer to God's presence in Heaven.
We are on this earth and come to God in repentance and receive the cleansing of Jesus' blood of the "washing of regeneration". (Rev1:5, Tit3:5) We are, thus, "clean". We are saved.
But we are not yet with Jesus. We need, yet, to -get- there. Paul spoke that we have not yet "attained" (Php3:12), we have not yet "laid hold" (vs13), but are stretching for the prize (vs14); but it is like running in a race. (1Cor9:24, Heb12:1) While we may be clean from Jesus' salvation, our 'feet' get the world's dirt on them. We need to periodically "confess" our sins and be cleansed by His blood. (1Jn1:7,9)
So, if it is Jesus' blood that cleanses us; how, then, do we wash "one another's feet"? (vs14) After all, doesn't Paul also speak of not "judging another's servant"? (Rom14:4) And Jesus certainly did teach about the twig and beam in the eyes.
Well, notice that Jesus did not say to -NOT- point out the twig in the other's eye. But rather, to make sure one's own eye is clear, first, before doing so (Mt7:5); in helping to restore someone overtaken in a trespass, "..considering yourself that you not also be tempted" (Gal6:1)
So, how do we do this?
Let's go back to that married couple. They are deeply in love with each other, they are walking along, hand-in-hand; she's got her arm through his; arms around each other, etc., as people-in-love do. As they are walking along, this sweet-young-thing comes into view walking by, and his eyes go meandering over, and his head turns as he follows her movements. What does young bride do? Perhaps an extra "squeeze" of the hand, tugging a bit; maybe a punch in the arm or poke in the ribs, to get his "attention", as to say: "What do you think you're looking at??" Is that "unloving" or "harsh"? No. They love each other; and she is getting his attention; pointing out to him what he is doing (because, after all, it is in the nature of a male to look at females, yes?). Or like when I was younger, women used to wear full skirt-length slips, and sometimes the slip might hang below the skirt's hem; so, another woman might say to her, "your slip is showing". Again, is that "unloving"? No. The one woman does not wish the embarrassment upon the other woman.
Perhaps a lesson from animals will further-help us understand: Many species of monkeys will groom each other. Basically, they sit there picking bugs off each other; bugs that annoy, bite and itch. Doing this "picking" relieves the annoyance. Horses will often stand next to each other, head-to-tail. Their tails flopping into each other's faces, to get rid of pesky flies. Is that terribly "harsh" that one horse is "slapping" the other in the face? No. It is a mutually beneficial act by which they are (if you will) "serving" each other.
We who know the Lord are called by God to be -HOLY-. Set apart, distinct from the world and its sin. As we anticipate Christ's return for us, what is the resultant behavior of the Christian? Winning as many souls as possible? No! "And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure." (1Jn3:3)
Our #1 responsibility as Believers, above all else, is to be holy. And the greatest demonstration of love "mutually with one another" (vs35) is to help and support each other to that end. Help tuck up that slip, straighten the tie, swat that mosquito the other can't see, brush off that piece of lint... help wash the dirt off the feet. That we might be presented to Christ "..a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing.." but that we "..should be holy and without blemish." (Eph5:27)
"If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them." (vs17)