Let Jesus Love You and Get Off the Couch
FEBRUARY 22, 2022
It may surprise you, but we’re here for them, for the world.
That’s why, when we first become Christians, we don’t immediately go to heaven. Jesus said in John 20:21, “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” That’s the commission. We fulfill that by proclaiming Gospel truth, having compassion, and praying for them.
But the main way we’re here for them is in being here for one another. If you care about the world, love me. (I know it’s hard.) And if I care about the world, I love you. (That’s not easy either.)
That’s crazy, I know. But then I didn’t say it; Jesus did. “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me” (John 17:20-21). “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35).
The words of John 13 are among the last words Jesus spoke before going to the cross. It is, as it were, a deathbed communication. These are the words that would be remembered long after the blood dried on the cross and cobwebs filled the empty tomb.
And Jesus talked about love.
“Just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” It’s the picture of love.
One of the interesting things about love is that it is hardly ever (if ever) defined in the Bible . . . but it is shown and felt a lot.
It’s been said so often that it’s almost become a cliché. There are (at least) four Greek words for “love”: Eros for sex. Philia for affectionate love (as in Philadelphia, “the city of brotherly love”). Storge for kind of the way I love my pipe. And Agape for selfless love. While that’s all helpful, it doesn’t actually define love. Instead, it only tells us its color.
That is also true of Paul’s “hymn of love” in 1 Corinthians 13. It begins with “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal . . .” and then Paul talks about what love looks like, but he never says exactly what it is. I can go through that list (patient, kind, not arrogant or rude, etc.) and fake every bit of it. If I can fake it, then it can’t be love.
What is love then?
Everybody says that love isn’t feelings. Love is a fact. Love is actions. That sounds good and spiritual, but it isn’t true. As the late Supreme Court justice said about obscenity, “I can’t define it, but I know it when I see it,” even if you can’t define love, you know it when you feel it.
Love is not what you say about loving me. It is how I feel when you say it.
Love is not my action of feeding you when you’re hungry and giving you water when you’re thirsty. It is how you feel when you eat the food and drink the water.
Love is not the words we speak or the things we do. It is, at least somewhat, how you and I feel in response to the words and actions.
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another . . .” It’s the simplicity of love. We can love. It’s that simple.
I’m not sure what love is, but I know it when I see and feel it. You experience love in the same way you experience the aroma of a flower. You know it when you smell it even if you can’t define it.
The desire to be heard is so close to the desire to be loved that it’s hard to tell the difference. Maybe that’s the smell of love. I can do that. I can listen.
Someone said that the difference between a friend and real friend is that a friend will forgive you if you kill someone, but a real friend will help you bury the body. Maybe that’s the smell of love. I can do that (figuratively speaking). I can help.
It’s when you’ve made a fool of yourself, sinned so big that you can’t fix it, or gone off the deep end, and someone hugs you and assures you that you didn’t do a permanent job of it. Maybe that’s the smell of love. I can do that. I can support.
When my best friend died, another friend flew in from another state just to be with me. He never said a thing, but just put his arm around me and kept it there. Maybe that’s the smell of love. I can do that too.
Loving isn’t for brain surgeons, saints, or spiritual giants. Religion may be complicated, but love isn’t. Love is simple. You can’t love until you’ve been loved, and then only to the degree to which you’ve been loved. So the more you allow yourself to be loved the more you will love in return. That’s how it works.
Love is simple. Let Jesus love you and get off the couch. You can do that.
“By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” It’s the attraction of love.
Have you noticed that it’s easier to love unbelievers than it is to love believers? Why is that? Maybe some of it is that Christians are more of a pain than non-Christians. But at its heart it is harder because we can’t get away from Christians. You didn’t choose them and they didn’t choose you. And not only do you have to go to church with them, you will have to spend eternity with them. Jesus didn’t say here that we are to love unbelievers. That’s easy and no big deal. Jesus said that we are to love one another. And that’s hard. How do you love me? You get loved. How do I love you? I get loved.
Here’s the important thing. Jesus said that the love we have for one another is what attracts the world to him.
Jesus finds us and says, “I love you. Is that okay?”
If you’re having trouble loving me, just say “yes.” If you want the world to know him, just say “yes.” If you want to be more like Jesus, just say “yes.” If you care about them, just say “yes.”
“Jesus answered, ‘Will you lay down your life for me? Truly, truly, I say to you, the rooster will not crow till you have denied me three times’” (John 13:38). It’s the surprise of love.
It is interesting that the incident with Peter is recorded as a part of this text. It is because Jesus wanted to demonstrate that love and goodness are not bound together at the hip.
Maybe you’re thinking, I’m not good enough to do this love thing. Bingo.
In fact (and this isn’t a brief for disobedience) maybe the lack of goodness and an awareness of it make love possible.
Do you remember the story of the prostitute who crashed the Pharisee’s dinner party? One of the amazing things Jesus said on that occasion was, “Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little” (Luke 7:47).
Are you sinful, needy, and weak? Me too.
Maybe you can give me your hand and we can walk together.