"What Manner of Love?"
6 June 1999
Text: John 13:21-35
Last week we learned in our search for purpose that we should our personal challenge is to remain precious lambs in our Savior’s arms and to make our sheep pen the best, most attractive and loving pen it can be to the glory of God. This week we will take a close look at the behavior of the sheep in the pen, we will explore the manner of love to which we are called by Jesus so that our light may shine!
Our text for today follows the foot washing, an action that symbolizes Christ’s calling among us as a servant. Jesus came in the flesh to serve His Father in heaven. He came as Redeemer and as Savior—both of which roles are expressed in the Good Shepherd metaphor. Jesus washed His disciples’ feet as an example to them—as I have served you, so you should serve each other. This is the first characteristic of the love we are to bear one another! It is self-sacrificial. It is free and ready, laborious and expensive.
Secondly, the term tough love has crept into our vocabulary. Tough love is one that holds the loved one accountable, establishes and maintains boundaries. Tough love builds upon basic Christian love, love that already moved beyond self-love, retaliation and revenge in concern for the other. It has already transcended warmth and affection, it has moved beyond inclusion to the highest levels of loving: transformative love. Love that changes persons! There is a level of love beyond that of tough love, however, which we shall call toughest love. This is what Jesus has in mind when He commands us to love our enemies, and to do good to those who spitefully use us, those who hate us whether with cause, or without cause—it no longer matters.
The love Jesus commands us to have for each other builds upon a foundation of basic love. It even builds upon, to borrow a term from the building trade, the deck of tough love. The deck consists of the floor joists and flooring. The whole superstructure rests upon the deck which spans the foundation walls and may be further supported by columns, or jack posts in the basement. Toughest love is love in the face of betrayal, abandonment and rejection. Toughest love is what held Judas in the twelve as long as it could—until Judas’ own hard-heartedness led him to apostasy.
It is timely that we should look at this condition, the condition of the apostate heart, because we are, perhaps, too accustomed to the end of the story to properly resonate with horror at Judas’ betrayal. Jesus was horrified, appalled. The seriousness of tone here can hardly be emphasized enough. That is why Jesus says, "Verily, Verily." That is why He testifies because what He is about to expose is unthinkable and hardly speakable. We read that Jesus became vexed, troubled in His spirit man, or soul. He is beset with deep, deep horror over the lawlessness, the spitefulness, the malice of that apostate Judas. Did he eat with Jesus? Did he keep company with Jesus? Did he witness miracles, healings and deliverances? Yes, a thousand times yes. And yet under all that Judas remained unchanged, he remained a base traitor, treacherous of heart, choosing, in the end, to lift up the heel against the Lord. To lift up the heel is to shake the dust off your feet in someone’s face—it is clearly a statement of contempt and despising. Judas forsook Him, despised Him, became an enemy to Him. So, we are not talking about a little sin here, a touch of rebellion, some human failing, or weakness—we are all weak, we all sin, but we are not all apostate. The apostate is in settled, defiant rebellion against God; he, or she, has gone over to the side of the overthrower.
How is this possible? Frankly, this is possible because we lack discernment. It is our condition to have the good and the bad mixed in the best of societies. Jesus described this as the what and the tares growing up in the field together—only to be separated out in the time of harvest. Or at the end of this age, if you wish to consider the matter finally. Eventually God will expose the apostate by their fruits, and by their spirits. . . He will reveal their extreme wickedness in its proper season. Then, and only then, are we to act and to cast the monster out! Just as Jesus gave a sop to Judas, the Lord God gives sops to the traitors today—say, worldly riches, fame, honor and pleasures. This "sops" are thrown to them in order to bring them opportunity to either turn to God, or to hasten their exposure and destruction. In the meantime, like Jesus, we should love them and show kindness to them until it is revealed what they truly are! Those who have already enthroned Satan in their hearts will finally grow from sin, to evil and on to the utter depravity of purpose which defines an apostate. Such persons will lose, over time, whatever they had of the spirit. The light of reason will fade, and right feeling, too. Truth and truthfulness soon become the victims of spiritual regress—the opposite of spiritual progress. It may begin as simple hurt, then anger with God and increasing hostility until finally, that person comes to be surrendered over to Satanic rage, judgment and destruction. Our kindness often achieves the very thing that we thought only punishment could effect and like Judas, such a person resolves to ruin and to expel himself. Our love, which makes it difficult to believe the evil manifest in the apostate person, keeps us to this side of judgmentalism and finger pointing until it is very clear that we are dealing with apostasy.
The next thing that happens in our text is very instructive: once Judas is gone, Jesus makes it very clear that we must focus on the majors. Judas’ apostasy, although important, is not where our chief focus should be. Rather we are to focus on the glorification of God that comes through the sufferings of Christ for our sakes! God intends for the Son to be glorified through what He endures. It displays His high rank and office, His amazing love for lost sinners, His infinite righteousness, His wonderful power in subduing Satan and conquering death. . . in opening heaven to and for the saints! Hell and earth set themselves to dishonor and vilify Him BUT God resolves to glorify Him. He did so with signs and wonders in heaven and on earth, by extracting from His crucifiers a good confession, by raising Him from the dead and by creating through Him new creatures fitted by grace for eternal life. However, the surest evidence that we are fitted for heaven is that we love one another—basically, yes, and with tough love. However, we are to love with toughest love. . . we are to love each other as, or like He has loved us! That kind of loving will change the world! But first it changes me, then you and finally it even changes those who formerly were outside the covenant of promise. Loving our neighbor is the old, and timeless way of worshipping God—Satan would have us do anything rather than that! The motto of the church must be: everyone for his neighbor! Even the world can see the difference between that and everyone for himself! And if our neighbor is troublesome, nettlesome and difficult, well, then, greater still the wonder that we have so overcome the world, the flesh and the devil as to love such a one. And who knows, we may appear to be just such a neighbor to someone else!
Love God and do as you please. Love works. Apostasy is lack of love, faithfulness is love. Let us love one another!