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(c) 2010 Christiana Lambert

(c) 2010 Christiana Lambert

During what we know as the Last Supper, Jesus spent much of his precious remaining time trying to prepare his followers for how they needed to live after he was gone. And, what was the lesson he felt most compelled to share? Just this: Love one another.

The words from the lectionary (April 24, 2016) read:

John 13:31-35

31 When he was gone, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man is glorified and God is glorified in him. 32 If God is glorified in him, God will glorify the Son in himself, and will glorify him at once. 33 “My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come. 34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

We, like the disciples before us, are so often slow to learn. When Jesus said to love one another—he meant to love everyone. But the disciples weren’t certain that the type of love shared with people who were like them should be shared with people, well, not so like them. Not just shared with people who were known as sinners, but also with people outside their faith and traditions. And, yet as those disciples and followers grew in their faith and understanding, they began to get it—Jesus had really meant for them to love everyone. Let us so grow in our own faith and understanding that, we, too, show—through our actions and our words—what it means to love everyone.

Who are we to hinder God and his plan for love for everyone?

(c) 2010 Christiana Lambert

(c) 2010 Christiana Lambert

You know when the phone rings and you don’t recognize the caller, but for some reason you answer anyway? That’s what happened to me today and maybe it was for a reason. You see, the man was calling to talk about his ministry on and around my daughter’s campus.

She goes to a secular campus populated by many groups trying to evangelize to the students. Boy, do the kids on this campus need some faith or religion. But that’s also why you can’t just approach them by scaring them to Jesus—and that’s what most of the groups there do. I don’t know if this man’s group takes this approach but I asked him if I could give some feedback and he agreed to hear what I had to say. He was a bit quiet after I spoke, but thanked me anyway—I pray he’ll prayerfully consider just a portion of what I shared.

Our faith tradition is based upon grace. We have not earned—and cannot ever earn—our way into heaven no matter how “good” we are or how many good works we do. Grace is a gift that we do not deserve—it just is. Whatever good we do we do because of love.

From what I hear, the pitches most of these groups give do not start with love. I told the man that our kids live in very difficult times for remaining faithful believers. Fewer believers out there mean that more people question just why someone would want to believe. Is a sufficient answer really going to be something guilt-related?

Yes, Jesus gave 100% to save me, but when you start asking me what percent I give back to him, what I hear is that I am not now good enough and not so likely ever to give 100%, as he did for me. Well, duh! That’s why he’s Jesus, both human and God, and I am simply human. Our tradition also asserts that we are all sinners—from birth to death. And sin is more than partying in college anyway—it’s how we don’t consider others in our actions or when we ignore God’s will, even if many of those sins don’t stand out as much as drunkenness or casual sex do.

I also don’t think this Millennial Generation is into being guilted or scared into faith. When so-called Christians yell and call students names in the campus commons, that only promotes the hypocrisy or judging natures of many who claim to follow Christ and does little to promote Christianity itself. Kids today may not expect a Christian to be a perfect person, but they won’t follow someone who publicly sins in such a way and acts as if it is a virtue. That is not loving your neighbor—any neighbor—as yourself—unless, of course, you don’t love yourself at all.

No, the message of Jesus=Love is the beginning, middle, and end. The more we love Jesus, the more we think his rules for living are valuable. But if you start your Jesus sales pitch by telling people they aren’t enough, they’ll never know that Jesus loves us especially when we’re not enough—and no human can ever be enough anyway. Jesus loves the students who sleep with random people, the ones who cheat on tests, the ones who abuse chemicals, and/or the ones who don’t believe in Him just as much as He loves those who dedicate their lives to Him and who want to do all in His name. Plus, he also loves longtime Christians whose behavior continues to fall short of what they think it should be.

His love never ends even when we disappoint Him again and again. Hatred or judging spoken in His name just turns people from His love, but once you personally know He matters and why, then you can get on with the business of loving yourself without worrying about what percentage of you is worthy (none of you and all of you at the same time!) and sharing that love with a world crying for a better way. After all, it’s His love shown through us that shows the world why He mattered.

For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son . . . for my son, your daughter, the believers, the non-believers, the questioners, and any other person walking across campus. That’s the first thing they all need to know and everything else follows from there.

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