Sermon 15th May


A new command I give you. Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples if you love one another.

John 13, verse 34, our reading this morning.

It’s something that comes up rather frequently in my sermons, and, I have heard it said, that some people don’t like that. Or don’t want to listen to it being repeated

But Jesus was pretty persistent in telling his disciples, the crowds around him, and the persistently critical Pharisees, this simple truth. He redefined the ten commandments into an all-encompassing two; “Love God and love one another as yourselves”, as we repeat weekly in our liturgy. If you obey those two, all the other commandments will automatically be obeyed, that same liturgy says, in so many words. But here, in this passage, Jesus re-emphasises the second commandment with this new one. In complete simplicity.


“I give you a new commandment. Love one another”.


Yet not quite so simple, because he adds “as I have loved you, so you must love one another”. As a text to follow Easter, where we have just remembered Jesus crucified for all we have wronged God and others, crucified for all the world, then raised to bring hope, such a self-sacrificial, all-encompassing love that is willing to absorb any and everyone’s wrongdoing and hatefulness, then the full extent of Jesus’ love is unimaginable, overwhelming.

It's the love that has brough millions of Christians to a true and personal faith in their Saviour.


“As I have loved you, so you must love one another”.

 If we truly know Christ’s love, if we truly recognise the depth of love and sacrifice that we come in remembrance to the Lord’s table for, then what does that say about the love he commanded us to have for each other?


Totally selfless, totally giving, all encompassing, without prejudice, inclusive of all, self-sacrificial, non-judgemental, loving even, those who betray us, those who deny us, those who are against us, just as Jesus did. And, as if we need reminding, encompassing all the qualities of love Paul writes of in 1 Corinthians 13


Of course, even the very best amongst Christians are never going to reach the perfection Jesus showed us, but do we even attempt to? Do we even recognise that he asked, commanded us, to love as he loved?

Of course, it’s not easy. We’re all human. But it’s also too easy to make excuses. Or be unwilling to change attitudes, beliefs we’ve clung onto that diminish the potential of love, or insistence on carrying on in ways that might hurt or harm others, or at least fail to help them thrive.


We’re not alone in that. Acts chapter 11 gives us a clear example in Peter. Brought up a Jew, with clear beliefs, and laws, rules and doctrines compiled over centuries, many designed to retain the purity of the people of Judea and Israel, the chosen people. Many designed to avoid diluting their faith by contamination with other faiths from other tribes. For good reason, and in perfectly good faith.

 And Peter had faithfully lived by those rules, he continued to live by those rules, but they were getting in the way of God’s mission, getting in the way of the role Jesus had assigned him to, when he asked him to feed his sheep, getting in the way of his ability to love as Jesus loved.


But Jesus came to show that the time was right for all the world to know of God’s love. And the context for some of these rules and doctrines, after the death and resurrection of Jesus, had changed. Peter’s dream, God’s Spirit speaking to him in some mysterious way, suddenly revealed to him that God was so much greater than the rules and doctrines the Priests and Levites had vainly created to try and protect the faith. Refraining from certain foods, or being circumcised were just physical, they had nothing to do with the spiritual, the work of the Holy Spirit in people’s lives.


 Suddenly Peter realised all the depth of what Jesus had been preaching, that God’s love was for all, Jews and Gentiles, and what was in the heart, in the spirit was what God saw as important.


And key to that, essential to that understanding, was the ability to love as Jesus loved, without judgement, inclusive of all, self-sacrificial being willing to give up things for other people’s benefit and spiritual growth, loving those who have different views, come from different backgrounds, of a different race, or are strangers to our own protected human circles or tribes.


It didn’t mean the Jews had to stop following their doctrines and rules, but it did mean that others who had not been brought up in that tradition, of that tribe were equally valued before God, and neither group should demean the other for obeying or not obeying those rules if they had been baptised by the Holy Spirit.

Galatians 3, v 28 says “In Christ there is no Jew or Gentile, no slave or free, no male or female, for we are all one in Christ.”

If Paul had been writing for our generation perhaps these verses might be rephrased and expanded “In Christ there is no denomination, no race, no age, no gender, no sexuality, no citizenship, no nationality, no differently abled, for we are all one in Christ”

Or maybe more simply “In Christ there is no us and them, there is only we”


Individual Christians, the church as a whole, you and I, are always going to find living that out difficult, because we are all different, and have different backgrounds, beliefs, education, cultures, ages- the list could go on. And we are all far from perfect. But that’s why Christ realised his disciples needed the insight, courage, and strength of the Holy Spirit to live out his mission. And why he continues to baptise new believers and continually bless all believers with that precious gift. Because in our humanity we are imperfect, but in Christ all things are possible.


Because only with the power and strength of His Holy Spirit can we even begin to love as he loved us.

And maybe we might even dare to add to our expanded definition; “In Christ there is no believer or non-believer”, for Jesus loved the whole world and therefore so should we, and seek to bring those who have yet to realise the depth of his love to know a love which far outreaches the depths of human understanding and allows everyone to become the complete person God intended.  To love all the world, as Jesus loved all the world.

And here, at his table, as we come in remembrance of his love, we have the opportunity to be renewed in him, refreshed by his Spirit and empowered to love as he loved.

And to him be the glory. Amen.