It’s the end of the year and like most, I’m doing some reflecting. And 2020… well, let’s just all collectively say it together one more time – “it was an unprecedented year.”
Plans canceled. Homes became 24/7 places of refuge. Masks were donned. Toilet paper was eliminated (like… why?). Voices protested. Pollsters challenged. People hurt. Hearts are heavy.
How did you experience the love God has for you over the past 12 months? Did you experience the love God has for you in 2020?
Maybe you’re like me – a follower of Christ who believes that God loves humanity individually and collectively AND whose understanding of love was definitely stretched this year because you can’t define it as obviously as you have in the past. Or maybe you don’t believe in God and to be honest, after this year, you don’t how you could even say “God” and “love” in the same sentence.
From wherever you find yourself, I really do invite you to take a moment to think about did you receive or experience love in 2020, and if so, how?
My desire is to write about love embodied but I think here, at the end of 2020, we may need to first reflect on what did we understand and experience of love over the last 365(ish) days. The greatest commandment is to love our neighbor as ourselves and we can’t embody or give something that we do not possess, right? So, let’s pause and think of, number them, all of the ways we received the embodiment of love.
Now, take this sharp U-turn with me – I wonder if in 2020, in some weird way we saw the end, or at least the limitations of the old law to love others as we love ourselves. Bear with me. This is known as the greatest commandment and it very well should be, as Jesus Himself publicly confirmed it to be so (Matthew 22:35-40, Mark 12:28-31, Luke 10:25-28). But in 2020, how did this go for us? Did you actually love your neighbor? Could we? Because more often than not, I honestly was trying to just love myself. Like more self-care, boundaries (non-quarantine related), and focus on me and mine was needed to help me get through this year. How could I love my neighbor when loving myself was consuming?
I recently finished listening through the first four books of the New Testament (shout-out to the Streetlights app; it’s dope and you should definitely download it) which tell of how Jesus, sturdied with bones He shaped, walked on this planet for 33 years, putting God’s plan of redemption and fulfillment of the old law into action. During some of His last teachings to His disciples – numbered at 11 when these words were spoken as Judas Iscariot had left the upper room to betray Jesus – Jesus gave a new commandment, His commandment. Twice! The first time in John 13:34 – I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. The second time in John 15:12 – This is My commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you.*
As my ears heard Jesus give this new commandment of love, my mind started whirling. I know I’m supposed to love. I want to love, Jesus commanded that I do so. But (and maybe it was just me) loving my neighbor as I love myself, which puts my standard of love in the driver’s seat, seemed nearly impossible this year. I needed so much love inwardly that I never quite had it in me to pour outwardly.
But this new commandment, although it sets the standard way higher, was like an experience of rubber bands being cut from around my chest. This refocus helped me breathe. Instead of looking inward to get cues on how to love, look up. Look at Jesus (bless Him). And loving as Jesus has loved me? That I can do!
No, I’m not claiming to be perfect or do this perfectly. It’s just that as I chewed on this new commandment, His commandment, the question of how did Jesus love was right around the corner… and to the left, there was the answer–
- Obediently – Jesus left His glory and entered into humanity as a baby. 100% human. All out of obedience to the Father (see John 8-10, specifically 8:42, and Philippians 2:3-8).
- Sacrificially – As He breathed with lungs He designed, Jesus’ only agenda was to embody the Father, speak the Father’s words, and show the Father’s love. That’s it. Jesus was a servant to humanity (Mark 10:45) but of the Father (Isaiah 42:1).
- Dependently – it’s this one for me! This is how I know I can follow Jesus in this whole new commandment, His commandment. Jesus depended on Holy Spirit (Matthew 12:18, Acts 10:38) and the Father (Matthew 26:39, John 5:19) to live and love obediently and sacrificially. He did it perfectly, as He was fully man and fully God, but it’s Him being fully human that gives me hope. I can embody His love for me in how I love others because through Him, I have access to the same Father (John 14:6, Hebrews 10:19-22) and am indwelt by the same Spirit (Romans 8:10-11).
I’m not sure where this rates on the “Christmas-themed blog” scale but I have been thinking about how Jesus flipped everything upside down and turned it inside out when He, God, took on flesh wrapped in skin He pigmented and hair He texturized. I mean how could that one act not alter everything that has and will ever be? He fulfilled the law of love – love others as you love yourself – and also gave His disciples (read: Christians. Unbelievers, you’re off the hook here) HIS commandment – to love as He has loved us. And bless His name, He also gave us the formula for how to do that – with Him.
To love as Jesus loved without Jesus, without surrendering to the same Holy Spirit He did, and without looking to the same Father is a non-starter. I believe Jesus knew that when He gave us this new commandment. So along with the highest calling I’ve ever received – to love as Jesus loved – I hear an invitation. “Come, beloved. Yes, in 2020 with all of your needs and worries and questions and hurts… Look at Me. Let us do this together.”
Emmanuel, God with us – it takes on a whole new meaning, doesn’t it?
*All quoted Scripture comes from the New Living Translation