Difficult situations are sometimes put into our lives to help us climb the spiritual ladders toward being conformed to Christ's image. The bad thing is these are never easy climbs...hence the "difficult" part.
Ironically, I'm studying John 13:31-35 for this week's lesson in Sunday school, specifically John 13:34. And, honestly, it's kicking my rear end.
Love...sounds easy doesn't it?...especially at this time of year. But, it's certainly not that simple. When Jesus says, "Love one another...", it definitely gets complicated. It's easy for me to love myself...it's easy for me to love those who treat me the way I want to be treated. But, to love one another... even when they're unlovable, or for them to love me when I'm unlovable...this command takes something supernatural in order to fulfill it
The scenario goes something like this: 2 parties...both were offended. One party admits their wrong, apologizes, and seeks forgiveness. The other party accepts their apology but fails to recognize their own guilt in the matter. So, what is the first party to do?
This is a tough situation and it's compounded when it's someone close to you such as friends or family.
So, we have to ask, "What is the Christian thing to do?" I hear the old cliche "what would Jesus do?" ringing in my ears.
Let's look at John 13 for some answers. John 13:34 says:
"A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another."Notice the bold part...when we examine its immediate context, we see that He gave us an example in the beginning of the chapter...the washing of the disciples' feet, John 13:1-20. Jesus, Lord and Master, humbles Himself to the place of a slave by performing a "low status" task. If anyone shouldv'e had their feet washed, we, of course know, Jesus would've been the One qualified. Yet, He is the very one who removes His outer garments, and lowers Himself to wash those who were, in every way, beneath Him.
Our reaction is usually one of, "Ohhhh...look at the humble Jesus. Isn't He amazing!" But, the real kicker here is that He expects the same from us. If that's not a high expectation, it only gets worse...Guess who was in the midst of these disciples and got his feet washed? Judas Iscariot. Yikes...now it does get sticky.
Can you imagine washing the feet of one you knew would betray you to die? Man, that is hardcore. That is hardcore humility. That is hardcore love. My flesh detests this teaching. My carnal nature wants to spit some beechnut in Judas' eye, like Hank Williams Jr. in the Country Boy can Survive song. But, Jesus, in His perfect love, loved those who were unlovable and loved and served those who He knew would never return the favor...in fact, He loved and ministered to those who boldly hated Him.
Notice John 13:17,
"If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them."This verse tells us that our blessedness...our most complete joy...stems not from the knowledge of this humiliating service...but from doing it.
Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:43-48,
"Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more [than others]? do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect."Again, it's easy to love those who reciprocate the love...but anyone can do this...even the publicans. But, the greater reward is found in loving those and doing for those who you know will never pay you back.
Easy preaching, but hard living. I know...I've been there and still go there. I've had a person in my past who I loved dearly, hurt me badly. Being falsely accused of plagiarism, not only to yourself, but to your peers as well is a hurtful thing for me. The person who did this probably has no idea of the pain it's caused me. I have forgiven this person and there is no bitterness between either of us...however, I never received an apology, and probably never will...in this person's eyes, I'm sure they truly believe they were right. So, I often have to practice Jesus' words to forgive 7 times 70...every time the root of bitterness starts to spring up, I have to deal with it. Forgiving others is not for their benefit, but for ours.
I'm learning that this love that Christ commands us to do is supernatural and certainly doesn't stem from ourselves. This fruit of the Spirit comes from us abiding in the Vine...abiding in Christ, and Him in us..."for without me ye can do nothing" John 15:5.
Being conformed to Christ's image is not an easy task...and it surely isn't always fun. But, it certainly will be rewarding. May God give us grace in loving and serving others even when we know it won't be reciprocated.