Love Is Active, Not Passive. Jesus Showed Us This On The Cross!
This passage may be one of the most famous in the New Testament, and one of the most challenging. Love is the nature of God. By looking at Jesus and what he does, how he treats and responds to people, how, in the end, he sacrifices everything in order to save us from the slavery of sin and death, you get a real sense of what love is, and what it is that he is asking us to do with our lives.
Jesus shows us what real love is about. It is about being attentive to the suffering and the needs of the other. It is about being willing to sacrifice your desires, even your needs, when you are confronted by the greater needs of another. This is true for our personal relationships, in our marriages, in our parenting, in our dealings with our neighbors, our co-workers, even those we do not know, who we encounter in various situations during our day, and, yes, even our enemies. The love that Jesus models is unconditional and merciful. At the same time, it is challenging and encouraging. It hates the sin, but loves the sinner.
This love is active, not passive. One who loves in the manner of Jesus, “turns the cheek” when insulted or injured by the other. It is patient and kind, it is never sickened with jealousy, nor is it self centered. It is slow to anger, does not hold a grudge, and it bears the difficult things with patience. It never fails. (1 Corinthians 13:4-8) It does things like feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked. It does not give up on those in prison, and is attentive to those who are sick. (Matthew 25: 34-36) This love honors the other, sees the image and likeness of God in the other, even if it is hidden behind a mask of fear, or hate, even if it is disguised by pain, hunger, or homelessness.
To prove that love is our highest calling, Jesus gives us this commandment at the Last Supper, when he knows that his time has come and what he is about to do for us, for all of humanity. He is about to show us what real love looks like and what its costs may be. Because we are made in God’s image and likeness, he knows that we can love in this manner too. This is why he can “command” us to imitate him. He is commanding us to live in accord with our God given nature. He does not tell us to love without showing us the quality and action of that love, and the demands that it will place on us. As we see, living the real love that Jesus commands of us in a world that does not understand it, or that defies it openly, means that those who really love as Jesus did will suffer. And here is the divine irony of that; this suffering is not empty, or meaningless. Indeed, its meaning transcends the moment and is eternal. It is what saves everything. This is the love that Jesus commands us to participate in willingly and humbly in our daily lives, in our homes and in the world.
Lord, because of your unconditional love for us you came into the world to show us what real love looks like and what it does. Give us the graces of wisdom and courage so that we might learn to love one another in the way that you have commanded us to love. We believe that it is in this love that we were saved and that it is in this love that we will find the happiness our hearts yearn for so dearly. We pray this in your name, Jesus. Amen!
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