Mandatum: a mandate, an order, a new commandment; one we have heard hundreds of times; Love one another. Given by Jesus, he says,” 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.”
Do we really need another rule? Do we really need another should or ought in our being?
My first job out of college was to work in a day program for those who were chronically mentally ill and had at least one other diagnosis …usually chemical dependency. Every day, we came together for 7 ½ hours and learned about coping mechanisms for their diagnosis, we studied what those actual diagnosis’ were about…symptoms, relief, hot buttons…and every Friday, we had a ‘socialization day!’ that meant that myself and my one assistant would take up to 22 dually diagnosed adults in current remission of their symptoms and load them in a van and head to a public place for fun, life skills, practice being in the world…when I became the lead therapist, I recognized that most of the clients dreaded this Friday event and did not attend it well, even though that meant a loss in their funding and living arrangements. They dreaded this Friday excursion. So I came up with a slogan…a campaign…”participation and enjoyment are mandatory!”
Can participation be mandatory and there still be mandatory enjoyment? Yes indeed! You see, when the rules become a part of who you are, how you live: when the rules become your norm instead of that which you fight against, they become freeing, enjoyable, fun, and they create a space where you can actively find new ways to live them out. There is freedom in the rules that is found nowhere in the chaos of anarchy. Rules give us permission to act in such a manner; they can restrict us when we fight them, but when we embrace them, they become boundaries, not barriers; they become a way to bless, not a matter to curse. When there are no rules, you can trust no one, there are not parameters by which to stop and turn, there are no places safe from harm, evil, discord, or pain.
To live with no rules is to live totally in sin, away from the rules of God’s creation, the commandments of relationship, apart from the blessing and love of a Creator who made all things with purpose and design. God instituted and founded a world made through the Word, through words that have rhythm and syncopation and expression that has It’s boundary in love alone. If what you are doing is not loving, if your acitons are not lifting up the perfectly created being, the forgiven life, the blessed creation, if what you are doing is imposing your fear, your mistrust, your desire to judge, then what you are doing is not of God…for God is love.
Without love, there is no forgiveness. Without love, there is no hope for something better. Without love there is no place for grace. Without love there is no image of perfection. Without love, there is no stopping pain, or displeasure, or abuse or anger or fear or greed or malice. LOVE alone is the rule of God. The first commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, your soul, your mind, then we are commanded to love our neighbor as much as we love ourselves. Today, the commandment, the new commandment, according to Jesus, is to love one another.
Perhaps living in the human, fallen world, Jesus recognized how difficult it is to love ourselves, that it would be simpler to just tell us to love our neighbor…to focus on that more than loving ourselves…? Perhaps he wanted this emphasis away from self-love because he discovered that in a fallen world, loving one’s neighbor is by far more difficult than defining God and loving God; it is far more difficult to truly, unconditionally love one’s neighbor than to discover one’s self and love that being…no this new commandment, this final reflection from Jesus is to show the world our faith by loving one another…
Jesus modeled this love as he broke bread with the one who would betray him to beatings—and still Jesus spoke not at all or with simple statements of fact—there was no condemnation; Jesus was betrayed into ridicule and abandonment: yet he asked for a drink and took the sour wine offered him without comment. Jesus was betrayed into cruelty and suffering. Jesus loved through those painful nails and festering whip lashes to ask God to forgive his tormentors, allowing the properly accused hanging with him to ‘be with him in paradise.’ Love one another through all things, in all times, in all places.
Jesus humbled himself to his unwitting disciples. He took the towel and washed their feet. Peter was aghast…”OH NO! you’ll not wash MY feet!”
Jesus responded, “unless I wash you, you have no share with me.” This line is out of tune to my ear…but when you sit with this line, “unless I wash you, you have no share with me.” We hear, “unless you receive what I offer, you cannot be my disciple.” You see, Jesus wanted more than anything, to offer love, to wash clean our sins, to grow us in faith toward God, to gift us with the Spirit, to love us without parameters, above all else, that we might hear this call to love, this command to love, this permission to love…in Romans 10:14-17, Paul writes, “But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him? And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” But not all have obeyed the good news; for Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our message?” So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ.”
The word of Christ for us, Jesus’ permission given to us, is this, love one another, by this everyone will know that you are Christ’s disciples if you have love for one another.
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