"...love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." John 13: 34b-35
I should not have to repeat myself! How many times have we heard this irritated and frustrated response from a parent, grandparent, sister, brother, teacher, coach...you name it, we have all heard it directed at us. And likely we have or will at some point in our lives say it to someone else! When I read the passage from John's gospel today, in light of Holy Week & Maundy Thursday, I notice how repetitive Jesus is when he tells his disciples to love each other. And that doesn't count the numerous "love one another" references throughout the rest of the Gospel. Feel how you want about those lovable, well-meaning, maybe a bit confused disciples that Jesus called friends - I think we all need Jesus to repeat himself. I think today -in 21st century social media America - we need Jesus to repeat himself over and over and over again. It's saddening and hopeful in the same breath.
This past week Facebook & Twitter exploded in colors of red as people shared and posted a red version of the Human Rights Campaign symbol to support gay marriage and rights. There were also plenty of posts and shared pictures of men's and women's wedding rings, stating a belief that marriage is for a man and woman only, and that the Bible tells us so. Spanning the entire spectrum of the conversation were agitated remarks, inspirational quotations, pictures, scriptures, frustrations, celebrations, hopes and dreams. There were people so passionate about this decision that they were essentially saying, "I should not have to repeat myself!"
In John's Gospel, before Jesus repeated the whole love mantra to his disciples, he kneeled down on the ground and washed their feet. In those days, only the lowliest of the low did such an act. It was the work of a servant for someone with a higher social, religious, or economic status. And yet Jesus, of all people, took a cloth and some water, and gently cleaned the tired feet of his friends. He told them he did this as an example to them...and that they should go and do the same.
I think, when we modern readers and disciples hear this story - and the similar story in the other Gospels of the Last Supper - we forget how tense it probably was in that room. We know what the disciples didn't know. And we don't understand how confused and frustrated they probably felt - why is Jesus doing all of this? Why doesn't he just use his divine power to overthrow Rome? The night ended in the betrayal and denial of close friends (I imagine they were a lot tighter than Facebook "friends"). And Jesus was the one who took the heat.
When we see heated conversations, arguments, and Bible beating going back and forth and back and forth between people who vehemently disagree with one another, I imagine Jesus saying..."love one another, just as I have loved you."
This whole judgement game is not ours to play. We don't and never will have all the answers. And the more we act like we do...the more we pull random passages from scripture with the sole purpose to prove our self-righteous right-ness over those we disagree with, the further and further we are from that image of Jesus kneeling on the floor and washing those dirty feet of the friends who eventually let him down. The more we think we know...the less we truly learn from our scriptures and from each other. Our differences are what make us stronger, our differences can unite us without making us the same.
I don't care what side of what coin you are on. The love of God surpasses it all. And the justice of God will overcome the wrongs we commit in this lifetime. There are some days I have to repeat that belief to myself over and over again. "Love one another...everyone will know you are my disciples if you have love for one another." We cannot truly love when we refuse to recognize the humanity and personhood of another.
On this Holy Week, I pray that God holds us all and reminds us - because we always need to be reminded - that we are loved. And that this whole discipleship journey requires some things from each of us...not judgement, not passive love, and not self-righteous love. Rather, I pray that we can humble ourselves to receive and share the kind of love that causes us to stop what we are doing, get down on our knees, and wash the feet of another....Whoever they are, whatever they believe, whom ever they love...However that might look in 2013.
O God, keep repeating it until we finally get it..."love one another...."
(on a side-note, this blog post is more for me than for anyone else. It's hard for me to truly love the people with whom I disagree. It's hard for me to find [my interpretation of] the Gospel message in people who deny the human rights of another. And it's hard for me to respect someone who bashes others on their Facebook page in the name of God; when they could be putting that energy and passion into doing something kind for someone else. We are all guilty of this - and this kind of love is something that I struggle with every day. Faith and religion are more than talking points and disagreements. I wore red the last 2 days because I think that God's love trumps everything...and I cannot understand a God who doesn't support & celebrate people loving one another...You can call me weak, but I would hope you try to get to know me first.)