John 13:31-35


life love

An Activity

Each person needs one sheet of paper and scissors. You can either use different colours of paper, or supply pens for people to colour their sheets.

Fold the sheet in half both ways, then unfold. Cut the sheet in half lengthways to make two tall strips, each about 30 cm x 10. Fold these in half along the crease and use the width of the other strip to mark a square starting from the fold.heartbag1

Above the square, at the open end, cut a semi-circle to round the ends. Then cut the square into strips, starting from the fold and ending just above the line. You can use 2 or 3 strips for less-able groups, 5-6 strips for the more able. The strips do not need to be the same width, and the cuts can even be wavy!

Swap one strip with someone else. Try to find someone who is different from you.heartbag2

Keep your contrasting strips folded, and overlap the strip loops so that the rounded ends make a heart shape. Then, starting with one strip nearest to the rounded ends, weave the loop inside the first opposite coloured loop, then outside the next, then inside the next, and so on all the way to the end.

Weave the next loop the opposite way so that you have a basket-weave effect on both sides with a pocket in the middle.heartbag3

The bag only works with two strips working together, and the beauty of the weave can only be seen when the strips are different, but co-operate.

A Reflection

If we can wade our way through all the ‘him’s and ‘he’s and ‘his’s of the first paragraph we come out the other side with something pretty simple – When people recognise God in Jesus, this shows God’s glory.

A few weeks ago we were thinking about Easter and there were many folks who, at that time, finally came to recognise God in Jesus: one of the two thieves, the roman centurion, the women at the tomb, two friends walking to Emmaus. All of these initially failed to see who Jesus was, but then recognised God in him. And this showed God’s glory.

We can be part of this too. We can show God’s glory. Psalm 19:1 says that ‘the heavens declare the glory of God.’ How? By being the heavens just the way God intended them to be. So how can we be ‘us’ just the way God intended us to be, and so declare the glory of God?

Tricky question, and one that sounds a bit wishy-washy to my scientist ears. Fortunately, Jesus answered it. At the end of our reading Jesus says that they (that is, people outside the church) will know that we (people inside the church) are his disciples if we … what?

Love one another.

Great. The ultimate in wishy-washy, feel-good, nebulous, it-means-whatever-you-want-it-to-mean fluff. Why don’t we just throw in a rainbow unicorn for good measure?

Except that I don’t think that’s what Jesus was talking about. Not the cute puppy, big eyes, fuzzy kind of love. I think he was talking about something a whole lot more muscular, a whole lot more gritty, a whole lot more real.

It’s easy to love a tiny baby when she is gurgling with contentment in your arms, cooing and grinning gummily, or dribbling with excitement when you pull a funny face. It’s less easy to feel the warm-and-fuzzy at 4 am when the runny yellow poo has soaked right through to the mattress and she has been sick in your hair and it’s only an hour since you last stripped and re-made the bed and rinsed out the pooy sheets and put it all in the wash … and an hour before that too, and now there aren’t any clean sheets left and you really, really could do with more than 20 minutes of sleep at a go.

Fortunately, the warm-and fuzzy has nothing to do with this. This is where real, determined, granite-like love rolls up its sleeves and just gets on with it. Real love loves even the unlovable. And if you have never experienced it, feel free to take my word for it – there is very little less lovable than runny yellow poo and sick in your hair.

So what should the church look like so that those outside say ‘see how they love one another’? (from Tertullian). It might be easier to first say what it does not look like.

We’re not talking custard cremes and smiling over coffee after church. We don’t mean ‘being nice’ to each other. We don’t mean babysitting for the young mums or giving lifts to little old ladies. We’re not even referring to nice community, bring-and-share suppers or soup runs for the homeless. All of these are good and worth doing, but they’re nothing special. They’re no different to any secular social club. And if you want to see community in action try visiting your local gurdwara!

So how can we show love in action? We can show it when we fall out with Mrs Scroggins about the flower rota. We can show it when the youth group left the kitchen looking like the Somme – again! We can show it when that family with the young lad who tears pages out of the hymn book turns up for the 10:30. We can show it when … I’m sure you have your own examples.

Conflict and disagreement are part of life with these annoying humans who inhabit our churches. Life means disagreeing. Love means disagreeing well. Whatever the ins and outs of whose turn it is to do the alter-piece on Mothering Sunday, I really don’t need to fall out with Mrs Scroggins about it.

I am allowed to disagree, even passionately. I do not have to be a doormat and disguise my irritation with a veneer of ‘after you’. I can argue (in the logical, scientific sense) my case and change things. But to love, as Jesus commanded me, I must still want the best for that person, no matter who ‘wins’. For if we can learn to disagree well, it is all of us who win. That’s what love really is. And that’s what brings glory to God.

Your Turn

Who is your Mrs Scroggins? How can you disagree well?

A Prayer

Loving Lord Father,

You show me mercy when I do not deserve it,
You love me when I am unlovely,
You show me kindness when I am not kind myself.
Lord, forgive me please
And teach me to be how you would want me to be
So that I may display your glory.


Bible Text

John 13:31-35 The Message

When he had left, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man is seen for who he is, and God seen for who he is in him. The moment God is seen in him, God’s glory will be on display. In glorifying him, he himself is glorified—glory all around!

“Children, I am with you for only a short time longer. You are going to look high and low for me. But just as I told the Jews, I’m telling you: ‘Where I go, you are not able to come.’

“Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other.”

The Message (MSG)
Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

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