Thursday, 29 March 2018

A New Commandment

"I give you a new commandment, that you 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 13:34-35)
Not exactly a new commandment, really, that believers should love one another. "Love your neighbour" is all the way back in Leviticus. Jesus had already expanded that - told us that our neighbours include our enemies, with the story of the Good Samaritan. Told us to love our enemies, as well as our friends. Told us that even to call someone a fool was to put yourself in danger of hell.

And yet, he tells them it's a new commandment. "Love one another."

And maybe he's telling them it's a new commandment because it's so easy to forget. We slip back. We stop loving one another. We return to back-biting and complaining because we love it so much, really. And then.... Jesus tells us there's a new commandment. Love one another. As he has loved the disciples.

How does he love the disciples? By being a servant. By sharing his life with them. By being one among them. He's the Son of God, but he's not too important to give up his heavenly privileges and come to earth as a baby. He's the Word of God, but he breathes and sweats, suffers pain and dies like us. He knows all the wonders of heaven, and yet he will pick up a child to bless her. He's the First and Last, Beginning and End. And yet there he is among this band of Galileans, come to celebrate the Passover like all the others.

He bows to wash their feet. The work of a slave. But he'll be a servant, because that is why he is there. To set an example of what the work of any Christian should be - and of any Christian leader. To be a Christian leader is not to be a star - it's to be a servant.

When Church leadership forgets it's about servanthood. When it decides it's holy, unaccountable, that's when it fails. The stories of  abuse committed and covered up in the Church, now coming into daylight - that's what happens when leadership is protected, deferred to, put up on high. "Father knows best." At the Independent Enquiry into Child Sex Abuse, Rowan Williams, former Archbishop of Canterbury, said there was a "mindset in which the authority of ordained ministry was beyond criticism.” This is not the attitude of a Church whose Head, lover, and saviour was a servant. This is not the heart of Jesus Christ.

It's not just about abuse, of course, and it's not just about leaders. Jesus calls us all to be servants, of one another. A servant being one who serves, who has to put others first. Somebody whose rights are put aside. If we all did that, people really would believe that we were Christ's disciples.

And now Our Lord puts his rights to one side. The human God, the servant and saviour. The one who came from heaven will now be raised up to heaven. He will die the death of a slave; of a rebel; of a traitor.

And before he does that, he gives us a new commandment. We are to love one another.

Want a good laugh? Want to laugh at the church? Want to be secretly suspicious that the author has been sitting in your church committee meetings taking notes? Then Writes of the Church: Gripes and grumbles of people in the pews is probably the book for you.

From Amazon, Sarum Bookshop, The Bible Readers Fellowship and other good Christian bookshops. An excellent book for your churchgoing friends, relatives or vicar. By the creator of the Beaker Folk.

1 comment :

  1. Thank you. We can never be reminded of this too often.


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