Friday, March 10, 2006

The Journey Of Love

There are three episodes in the Gospels where the apostle John gives us evidence that it takes a lifetime to learn to love others.

Luke 9:49-50
John said to Jesus, "Master, we saw someone using your name to cast out demons. We tried to stop him because he isn't in our group." But Jesus said, "Don't stop him! Anyone who is not against you is for you."

Matthew 20:20-28
Then the mother of James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Jesus with her sons. She knelt respectfully to ask a favor. "What is your request?" he asked.

She replied, "In your Kingdom, will you let my two sons sit in places of honor next to you, one at your right and the other at your left?"

But Jesus told them, "You don't know what you are asking! Are you able to drink from the bitter cup of sorrow I am about to drink?"

"Oh yes," they replied, "We are able!"

"You will indeed drink from it," he told them. "But I have no right to say who will sit on the thrones next to mine. My Father has prepared those places for the ones he has chosen."

When the ten other disciples heard what James and John had asked, they were indignant. But Jesus called them together and said, "You know that in this world kings are tyrants, and officials lord it over the people beneath them. But among you it should be quite different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must become your slave. For even I, the Son of Man, came here not to be served but to serve others, and to give my life as a ransom for many."

Luke 9:51-56
As the time drew near for his return to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. He sent messengers ahead to a Samaritan village to prepare for his arrival. But they were turned away. The people of the village refused to have anything to do with Jesus because he had resolved to go to Jerusalem. When James and John heard about it, they said to Jesus, "Lord, should we order down fire from heaven to burn them up?" But Jesus turned and rebuked them. So they went on to another village.

Sounds like John was a very fiery and judgmental kind of guy, doesn't it?

When we finally get to John's first letter in the Bible, 1 John, we read the thoughts of a very different person. John's words on love are penned by a very mature, battle-tested Christ follower. These words also occur many years after the earlier episodes mentioned in the Gospels.

John had spent many a day, year in and year out, working out his faith and ultimately distilling life with Jesus to his now famous words on love in 1 John 4:7-11,

Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is born of God and knows God. But anyone who does not love does not know God--for God is love. God showed how much he loved us by sending his only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love. It is not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other.

The world is general. Your relative is specific. The world is vague. Your relative has character...Whom will you love today? ... It won't be easy. Love is never an option. Jim Smoke


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