Day 97: April 7, 2014

Today's Reading(s)

John 13:31-35
When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man is glorified, and God is glorified in Him. If God is glorified in Him, God will also glorify Him in Himself and will glorify Him at once. “Children, I am with you a little while longer. You will look for Me, and just as I told the Jews, ‘Where I am going you cannot come,’ so now I tell you. “I give you a new command: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you must also love one another. By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Holman CSB®, and HCSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.



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"As I have loved you, you must love one another"
by Steve Layton, Discipleship Minister, Brentwood Campus

Today’s passage follows the betrayal of Jesus by Judas. Once Judas had left the room, Jesus could speak to the remaining eleven disciples about his glorification. The horror of Roman execution glorified the Son of God and the Father.

Having been glorified, the Father glorified the Son with resurrection and ascension. That’s why Jesus could pray in chapter John 17:1, “Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you.”

God glories in what we often see as tragedy. Five times in verses 31–32 John recorded Jesus’ use of the words “glorify” and “glorified” as he directed the disciples’ thinking toward the cross.

Like us, the disciples lived in a society that had rebelled against God. Like us, they learned more quickly from modeling and demonstration than by being told what was right. So on that final night before his death, Jesus exemplified love, explained it, and then exhorted his disciples to follow his example. How patient he was with Judas, how humble with these proud disciples! [1]

Jesus made clear that His time with the disciples was short (13:33). The heart of this passage is found in verses 34–35: “‘A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.’” Here Jesus was saying that love among Christians must be in the forefront of all that we are about.

Further, if we fail in this endeavor, then the world will be given the right to deny that we are disciples of Christ. Our love for one another will be the distinguishing mark of authenticity that we truly follow Christ.[2]

Spiritual Formation is rooted in relationship with God and one another. Communities of Grace and trust help us discover and define who we are and how we shall live in trust, love, grace, humility, dignity and justice. Communities of grace and trust open the door to gaining permission to share truth among fellow believers and the unbelieving world.

Those who receive this invitation will incorporate into their relationships with God and others the principles of grace that characterize the love of the Trinity. Safe communities of grace will be both the by-product of those who experience and live out these principles and the invitation for others to experience and live them out. The process of experiencing grace with God and others validates who I am, matures who I’m becoming, and therefore is defining the way I should live. [3]

In the 1960s, when Christian folk music was becoming popular, we often sang a song that repeated the phrase “and they’ll know we are Christians by our love.” Not by the size of our buildings. Not by the frequency of our attendance. Not by the multiplicity of religious duties we observe. Not by the display of our public worship. They’ll know us by our love.

Yet many struggle with this commandment. They exhibit little capacity for love, trust, and grace. They live double lives—evangelizing, teaching, studying, serving, leading and so forth—while living in isolation and maintaining vacant relationships and unresolved life issues.

They often desire, yet lack, real community. At the root of this struggle for many is the unhealthy condition where Christians learn only to give love rather than receive love. Yet it is absolutely essential for freedom from sin, healing from wounds, and spiritual and emotional health.

Jesus promised, “By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (13:35) Think about that for a moment.

If you thought this means “I must love you more” then you are right. But if you thought, “I need to learn how I can receive more love from you”, you were also right. If you missed “I need to learn to receive love from you” then you missed the foundation of how to love more and better. The promise cannot function until we learn to both receive and give love. [4]

I have personally lived the double life. As a minister I often find myself in situations of loving others. This love is demonstrated in many tangible and intangible ways. Yet early in my ministry I found it particularly difficult receive love from others in times of personal crisis. 

One particular time in my life I found myself in a difficult financial challenge. A man of wealth and member of my church family (community of grace) came to my aid and with a large financial gift. My pride got in the way and I told him that I could not accept the gift.

He replied, “God told me to give this money to you, so please don’t stand in the way of me doing what I am supposed to do. I love Him and I love you. Accept the gift and know that I am giving it out of obedience to Him and love for you.” 

This man truly did love me. He not only supported my family by providing financial gifts throughout my ministry, he provided daily prayer support, notes of encouragement, and words of support. We shared meals and did life together. He taught me how to give and receive love. According to our passage, Mr. Henry Willis was a true disciple of Christ. Through his obedience, his legacy remains.

Through many years of giving and receiving love, I’ve learned much—particularly trust, grace, transparency, and humility. I’m thankful for the individuals and communities of grace that have and invested in my life by teaching me how to love.


[1] Gangel, K. O. (2000). John (Vol. 4, pp. 254–256). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[2] Dockery, D. S., Butler, T. C., Church, C. L., Scott, L. L., Ellis Smith, M. A., White, J. E., & Holman Bible Publishers (Nashville, T. . (1992). Holman Bible Handbook (pp. 623–624). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.

[3] Alan Andrews, Bill Thrall and Bruce McNichol, The Kingdom Life: A Practical Theology of Discipleship and Spiritual Formation (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2010), 59. 

[4] Alan Andrews, Bill Thrall and Bruce McNichol, The Kingdom Life: A Practical Theology of Discipleship and Spiritual Formation (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2010), 62.  

Praxis

  1. A LIFE Group (small group in a local church) is a great place to practice giving and receiving love. A foundational principle of LIFE Groups is to “Love one another.” In LIFE Groups, this is done by praying for and ministering to others in the group. This is also dome by allowing others to pray for and minister to us in our times of celebration and crisis.  One way to practice this promise and grow as a disciple of Christ is to join and actively participate in a community of grace or LIFE Group. 
  2. We are instructed in God’s Word to teach the words and ways of the Lord to our children. Another practical way to apply today’s passage to life is to demonstrate love for others by providing for their needs. Serve together at a homeless shelter or room in the inn ministry, meet the needs of the elderly by providing yard services or painting, provide free babysitting for a young couple to attend a Bible Study or go on a well-deserved date night, take a young family to a community event and pick up the check for their expenses. You get the idea; demonstrate love to others and to your family by meeting needs and serving together. Your legacy will be strong and passed on for generations. 

About JourneyOn Today

Today's devotional series accompanies the Spiritual Practices Foundations Curriculum which deals with 24 different spiritual disciplines. We will break for an Advent series in December and continue the second half of Spiritual Practices during the first quarter of 2015.