The New Commandment


John 15:12-27


It has been raining here, and all the green things are thriving. Leaves are more plump, more shiny. Verdant grasses have sprung up overnight to throng lawns and green ways. The earth is pocked with the mounds of emerging flowers. As I walk in the crisp light of a new washed morning, I can smell the happy well being of my rooted relations, those brothers and sisters who send their tendrils deep into the earth as they send their stalks and leaves into the air to be touched by sunlight.


It’s a resurrection, to be sure – one that has touched everything I can see. And there’s a deep wisdom in linking the coming of new plants into the world with the coming of the Son of Man into his kingdom beyond death.


He gave us a new commandment: to love one another as he has loved us. That commandment is different from the old commandment, center of Jewish law: to love our neighbor as ourselves. How it differs is in the sacrificial element. We can’t deny it; Jesus has loved us right up to and through torture and death. He asks that we do the same with one another.


The new commandment is both very simple and very complex. To give my life for love is not for me one giant act, for instance taking a bullet for someone. There could be an occasion when that is the expression of my love, but that’s not what I aim for in following Christ. Instead there are all the little offerings I can make, for instance setting aside expectations, hurt feelings, fear, misunderstandings, and all the other ego-wounds in order to truly be present to another person for communication.


It’s complicated, because setting a personal boundary is part of this. I cannot allow myself to be railroaded or used as a doormat. But there is much I can lay aside. It takes discernment and a loving heart – toward the other person and toward myself.


Ultimately, all right action comes from the Holy Spirit moving through my heart, and through grace. The willingness to take Christ’s commandment seriously leads to the openness to consider what is the right way.


The rain falls everywhere, and all that is buried comes up in joyous color. We are happy when we are fed. Christ has come, and the world is responding. Christ has come, and so we dare to risk, to change, to grow, and to risk some more.




(Attribution for the image is Engin Asil)


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