The Word this Weekend - May 19, 2019

The Word This Weekend – May 19, 2019

“The Jesus Rule: ‘As I Have Loved You’”

The Rev. Dr. William L. Hurst
FLCS Senior Pastor

I give you a new command: that you love one another as I have loved you – that is how you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples: if you practice such love for one another.” (John 13:34-35)

Dear Companions,

Around here we talk a lot about “The Rule.” At school chapels, congregation meetings, sermons and classes, the issue of what rule of living should guide our interactions with others and with God is never far from our thoughts. And, reflecting on the words from Jesus to his disciples, spoken in the moments just prior to his arrest and suffering, we are forced to confront the rules we so often adopt, and the Rule he would press upon any of us who dare to claim his Name and ethics in our daily lives and relationships. 

Practically speaking, there are several “Rules” that I see us adopting and practicing in our dealings with each other, as we struggle to grasp the Lord’s distinctive guiding principle of Agapé (that is, love that offers itself unconditionally to others).

Because, let’s face it – this is a pretty loveless world we find ourselves in. Underneath all the current events that buffet us each day -- splashed across headlines, etched onto social media postings, and incessantly crawling along the bottom of news channels – is the deeper question of how we should view and treat our neighbors, how we should define and practice love for one another. And that question -- as old as Eden and as contemporary as borders, barriers and bridges – ought to be undergirded by a Rule by which we judge our thoughts, words and actions toward any of God’s children we confront and engage.  

I tend to breaks these rules into several categories, which I list in this way:

1. “The Golden Rule” – do unto others as you would have them do unto you. This approach to dealing with others is familiar to most of us, and at the same time an elusive rule by which to live. It’s not particularly unique to Christians, or even to the Judeo-Christian tradition of which we’re a part. Faith traditions across the human spectrum have similar codes of reciprocal behavior. What you’d want others to do toward you, do toward them. And what a lovely world it would be if we followed this simple yet stirring approach to our various interactions with others.

 

2. “The Leaden Rule” – do unto others as they have most recently done unto you. By this measure, we behave toward others in the way and to the degree that they have behaved toward us in the past. You know, “eye for eye, tooth for tooth.” As Mohandis Gandhi, the Mahatma, once famously quipped, “An eye for an eye leaves everyone blind.” This sort of reactive score-keeping is the way most of us really conduct our affairs, tallying up the hurts and slights of others, and giving back as we judge we have gotten. This rule of lead never leads us to virtue or joy, unfortunately, but instead creates a really toxic environment of getting even and getting over. Such a rule leads inevitably to competition and anger, to a spirit of getting even rather than seeking peace, reconciliation and true community.

 

3. “The Pre-emptive Rule” – do unto others before they get the chance to do unto you. This harsh application of the Leaden Rule is even more destructive to our souls and our relationships, because by this code of conduct we first imagine what the other might have in store for us, given half a chance, so that we feel justified in getting in our digs before they may have the chance to injure or invade themselves upon us. Such a rule has found a neat place in contemporary statecraft, and too often finds a place in our hearts as well. By this rule we contemplate the evils that the other may visit upon us in advance, and take steps to pre-emptively attack or wound before the other can wound or attack us.

 

4. “The Jesus Rule” – “love one another as I have loved you.” Finally we get to the rule our Lord places before his followers, on the night when one of his friends will hand him over to jealous and destructive enemies, and the rest will abandon and deny him as he is subjected to the trial, the conviction, the abuse, and the Cross.

 

This rule, by Jesus’ reckoning, surpasses the pre-emptive rule for sure. Otherwise I suppose Judas would be lying dead on the floor, Peter would be felled and ejected at the rooster’s crow, and the frail and falling disciples would be discarded as unworthy and unreliable failures they will prove to be in the grim hours to come.

And the Leaden Rule is surpassed as well. Because if Christ is to be led by retributive rules, if he is to give as cruelly as he will receive, then we’re all lost. By this measure, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do” would be replaced by “Father, curse them, for they know damned well what they’re up to!”

Even the Golden Rule falls to the wayside in the code of the Jesus Rule. For our model of response and life is not to be measured solely by what we would have others do toward us, but rather by what Jesus has done for us. We betray; he befriends. We deny; he reclaims. We fail and fall and falter; he forgives and renews, serves and saves and reconstitutes. We wash our hands in vain to clear the bloody smudges of our sins and wrongs; he washes us clean and pure in the baptismal flood of his loving and redeeming grace.

So, friends, this weekend any every weekend, we of the Jesus Community are given the opportunity to trade our oh so human rules of retribution and fear for his diamond-pure rule of self-giving love and virtue -- whatever others may do to us, take from us, or tempt us to substitute for his shining rule of life and peace. “Love one another as I have loved you.” In the water, word and table, we meet a new way of living, a new rule for loving, forgiving and overcoming. We meet the New and everlasting Testament in his blood, given and shed for us and for all humankind. The Jesus Rule: in our ears, on our lips, and in our hearts.

See you at worship this weekend, that we may be the people of this surpassingly beautiful and liberating Rule for our lives and in his name and by his example.   

With You in God’s Good Work,

Bill Hurst