John 15:9-17 – Love each other
Do you know this song?
Jesus loves me. This I know. For the Bible tells me so. …
Psychologists wanted to know how people learned to love. So, they took some baby monkeys. They put them into a cage with artificial mothers. One artificial mother was made of cold, steel wire. But she had a bottle with food. The other mother was made of soft terry cloth – good to cuddle with – but she had no food.
The baby monkeys preferred the soft mother. Even though she had no food, they spent more time with her. Something about the terry cloth triggered something in their animal brains.
The few babies that hung out more with the wire mother did not snuggle with her. They took their food and moved on. When they grew up, the scientists noticed, they were detached parents. They did not nurture their own babies. They did not care for them much at all.
It may not be accurate to say they did not know how to love. Monkeys may not love at all. But it is clear that they missed something crucial.
Loving in not something that comes automatically. We have to learn how to love.
Which is bad news for us. Few words are harder to pin down that “love.” You hear it used in so many curious ways.
“I love chocolate.”
“I love my truck.”
“I love it when the New England Patriots lose a game.”
I did a Google search for the word “love” and among the top searches was a web site where you can put in your name and the name of another person and the web site will tell you your chances of having a sustained and lasting relationship.
Lisa and I scored a 93%, according to Dr. Love. So there is some hope there.
The bad news for me. Lisa and Harrison Ford scored an 87% love match. I’m not sure my six percentage points make up for fame, wealth, and good looks. But I can hope.
Even worse news, though, when I put in my name and Jim Campbell, it came back 91%. I’m just going to leave that be.
We get a lot of confusing messages about love, don’t we.
Jesus loves me, this I know …
In the Scripture I just read, Jesus helps us out.
Here he is with his disciples. In a very short time, he will be taken away. He is giving out his last advice. And here is what he says:
“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”
Anne Lamott tells this story about a boy and his sick sister. The girl had leukemia and needed a blood transfusion to live. There were other possible blood donors, but the little boy would be the best possible match. So, the doctors and the parents talked to the small boy. They explained that she needed his blood if she were to survive. And they asked him to consider it.
The boy thought long and hard, but finally agreed.
They laid the boy on a table next to his sister. In each child’s little arm they ran a line with a needle. The boy watched as his blood passed through the tube and up and then was run down into his sister’s arm. He watched very quietly – intense.
Finally, he turned to his parents and asked, “When do I start to die?”
Greater love has no one than this … that he lay down his life for his sister.
The world gives us many, many ways to talk about love. It gives us many words. It teaches us that we fall in love and we often fall out of love. It tells us love is a warm and fuzzy feeling we get behind our ribcage when that person looks at us the right way. It tells us that loving is something we do in the dark with our clothes off.
Jesus showed us his way. At that place they call Golgotha – the place of the skull – he showed us what he means when he says “love each other.”
A woman I know has been suffering at her job lately. Her boss is uncaring and rude. She insults and belittles her. She makes work a trial and made this woman consider quitting. It was all she could bear.
But then she thought about forgiveness. A Jew, she considered the command to love and the command to forgive found in what we call the Old Testament. And she resolved to be kind and to forgive. She resolved to not pay back hurt for hurt, but to pay back injury with kindness.
She resolved to love her enemy rather than seek her own ease.
Greater love has no one than this … to lay down her life for her boss.
The firefighters of Engine company 24 were on the 35th floor of tower 1 at the World Trade Center on September 11 when the call came out. Get down. Get out. The building was rumbling.
Firefighter Marcel Claes was at the back of line as they scrambled down the stairs. Somewhere in the confusion he got separated. On the 27th floor there was a woman in wheel chair. The rest of his company ran off to help her down the stairs. Claes did not see them run down the hallway on the 27th floor. When he got to the bottom, he could not find any of his buddies.
They were still in the stairwell when Tower 1 came crashing down.
Greater love has no one than this … to lay down their lives for a stranger in a wheel chair.
When Lisa and I got married, we wrote our own wedding vows.
Oh my Lord. That should be illegal. I read them not to long ago. How humiliating. What does a 20-year-old know about love? What does a 20-year-old know about what it means to love someone for a lifetime.
What does a 17-year-old?
James Cantelon – a Canadian pastor who works to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS in Africa – tells the story of a 17-year-old orphan named Precious.
Precious comes from a village full of orphans. Like so many villages in Africa, all the adults are dead – wiped out by AIDS. When she was 12, her father got sick. They buried him two years later. By then, her mother was also sick. She died when Precious was 16, leaving her alone to raise her brother and sister.
She was able to find work as a domestic servant. Every morning she rises at 3 a.m. to walk 2.5 hours to her job. And she walks 2.5 hours back at the end of the day. She is treated like a slave by her employers – who yell and beat her. On her walks back and forth she is in danger of being attacked and gang raped by teen-age boys. For all of this, she is paid $60 a year.
She uses that money to buy three outfits of clothing for herself and two for her brother and sister. They eat two meals of ground corn a day. And she makes enough to pay for school for her siblings.
Precious says she has a dream. She wants her brother and sister to become school teachers, so they one day will have respect and be able to take care of themselves.
They have no money for medicine. They have no father to defend them when drunken men come bursting into their little hut. They have almost nothing at all.
When Cantelon’s wife asked Precious if she goes to church, the young woman brightened.
“Oh, yes ma’am. Every Sunday. We love Jesus. He cares for us.”
Greater love has no one than this … to lay down her life for her brother and sister.
Jesus loves me this I know … for the Bible tells me so. Little ones to him belong. They are weak but he is strong.
Does that word – “love” – sound any different to us when we think of these stories? When we think of what Jesus told us and what he showed us?
He loved us first. He came to us. He showed us love. He laid down his life for us. For me. For you.
Jesus has shown us what love is.
And these are his words to us: “Love each other.”