“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35)
As God continues to conform me to the likeness of Jesus, He reveals to me the many shortcomings I have, that He would work them out of me as gold is refined from its impurities by fire.
One of the many faults I have, is that I tend to get overly defensive if I feel wrongly attacked or accused. I get defensive for myself, and I get defensive for those I love. God is teaching me that the emotion at the root of my defensiveness is a sin, and I repent of this and ask God that He would continue to transform my heart in this area.
God first started revealing this shortcoming of mine through my wife. Anytime I felt blamed for something by her, I would get really defensive. Then I noticed if my team members at work got blamed for something, I would get defensive on our behalf. Then I noticed if myself or others got blamed at church for anything, my first thought was to defend, defend, defend. This is the sin of pride.
As I read the gospel accounts of Jesus, God reminds me over and over that Jesus did not defend Himself from accusations or attacks. He knew that the persecution was a necessary part of the Father’s plan for Him. He knew that it was more important to love His enemies, than to fight back or retaliate. Likewise, God will use situations of persecution and hurt in our lives, to further refine us, purify us, and increase our faith and dependence on Him.
Something that stuck out to me in a commentary I read about verse 34, is that one of the ways we love each other as disciples of Jesus, is by “…absorbing hurts from others without complaining or fighting back.” I’ve been hurt before by the church, and I know that my wife has as well, but God is reminding me that He can even use our pain and suffering for His glory and the benefit of His church.
It is really difficult to love this way, but God is reminding me that this is what He calls us to do when He says, “you must love one another.” Love doesn’t look for faults within one another, love doesn’t look to assign blame, love doesn’t hold grudges, love doesn’t let our past hurts keep us captive from future blessings, and love doesn’t look to attack or retaliate.
Rather, love looks to humble ourselves and submit to the Lord in these situations, that God’s glory would be revealed in us (James 4:1-12). I thank you Jesus for reminding me of this and impressing this on my heart through the Holy Spirit this morning.
Does that mean we just let people walk all over us? No, of course not. Matthew 18:15-17 gives us clear instruction on how to handle conflict, disputes, and hurts among brothers and sisters in the body of Christ. It doesn’t mean that we don’t stand up for righteousness and for those who can’t defend themselves. But the point is, there is a RIGHT way to do it, and a WRONG way to do it.
We tend to miss the instruction in Matthew 18 which outlines the right way to do it, and rather we react to each other out of sheer emotion, which inevitably leads to sin (gossip, slander, attacks, passive aggressiveness, etc.), rather than speaking to each other directly out of love and for the sake of unity.
As it is with all things, we are to approach each other in love with the objective of healing and reconciliation, rather than to point fingers, blame, or accuse. Even with things like past hurts that my wife experienced because of the church and its impact on her family, God calls us to forgive and that He would renew our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Likewise, I pray that if I or my family has ever hurt anyone, that God would also lead them to forgive us and offer us grace.
In our flesh this is extremely hard to do, and I say this from personal experience. But when we rely on the Holy Spirit, it is the very nature of God. His fruit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control (Gal 5:22-23). If we approach every issue within the church and our lives with the fruit of the Spirit, then love will always prevail.
Jesus was insulted, accused, ridiculed, spit on, physically abused, and ultimately murdered. He was even denied three times by the Apostle Peter, the rock upon whom Christ built His church. Yet His prayer was, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34)
Jesus reminds me this morning, that by our love for one another, the whole world will know that we are His disciples. The world will know that nothing can stand between true brothers and sisters in Christ.
May we all walk in humble submission to God through the power of the Holy Spirit, who calls us to love one another, even when it hurts.
Note: The personal experiences of my wife and I did not put us at risk of any danger, and I’m specifically addressing church unity through Jesus’ command to love one another. In any case of danger or abuse, while we are called to love and forgive even our enemies (as Christ heals us and sets us free from within as we do so), we are ABSOLUTELY NOT called to put ourselves or our loved ones in harm’s way for no reason. Please take whatever proper, legal precautions and steps you need, to separate yourself from abusive and/or dangerous people or situations.
[From January 13, 2019]