Usually, when we speak of Jesus’ love for us, we think of his sacrifice on the Cross. For Christians, this is the ultimate act of love. Nothing beats that! But what if when Jesus told his disciples to love one another “as He loved them,” he was not only referring to the Cross since he had not yet been crucified? What if the symbol of Christ’s love for the disciples at that moment was the way Jesus cared for them during the three years he spent with them until his arrest? How exactly did Jesus love and care for them while with them? Here are three examples of how he did it and what we can learn from it:
He chose them!
As Jesus was starting his ministry, he recruited disciples to be with him. “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men,” he said (Matthew 4:19). Do those words sound familiar? The Bible doesn’t say much about these men other than the occupation of some of them. And they didn’t seem to have anything special. As we read the Gospels, there is not much to be impressed with about them. They were regular dudes, just like us! What if Jesus choosing them was simply an act of love?
By choosing them, Jesus was committing to invest in their spiritual development. Jesus wanted to reveal the Father to them, put His Spirit in them, and trust them with the most incredible mission ever given to man. Moreover, Jesus did not choose them to have a superficial relationship and occasionally hang out; they became the best of friends, and Jesus was even willing to die for them. Even Peter was ready to die for Jesus. Well, so he thought at first.
Compared to Jesus and his chosen disciples, today’s relationships tend to be superficial, even in the Church. We hang out with each other, but we do not know each other in-depth because we don’t open up to each other as Jesus opened up to his friends.
Although, as believers, we’re part of the same spiritual family and share the same Spirit, we still keep each other at a distance to protect ourselves from getting hurt. And as far as us being willing to die for each other… Well, it looks like we’re not there yet. What if relationships in the Church were modeled on Jesus’ relationship with his disciples? What if we courageously chose to love our brothers and sisters and invest in them, not out of self-interest but simply out of love?
He disciplined them
One day, Jesus told his disciples: “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over” (Matthew 18:15). In some Christian circles, when people are caught in a sin, whether they repent or not, the outcome will be the same: they may be put aside for a while or even expelled from their ministry in the Church.
But Jesus seemed to have a different approach to dealing with his disciples’ sins. I would bet my last dollar that none of the twelve were perfect. They certainly must have sinned in many ways during the three years with Jesus. They each must have had their moments of weakness, but Jesus never exposed or condemned them. Even Judas, who is known to have been stealing money from the group, was not rebuked and kicked out, as would have been the case in many circles today. Jesus’ goal was not to expose but to win disciples over. That’s love!
When a person is caught in sin in your circle, are they exposed, or is there an effort to win them over as Jesus instructed? When a church community makes it a habit to expose or expel people who are caught in the wrong, the message it sends out is that “whatever sin you’ve committed, you better keep it a secret, or else they’ll end up in the announcements, and we’ll make you look bad!”. But when we deal with sin the way Jesus dealt with his disciples’ sins, the message it sends out is “your secret is safe with us, and we’ll help you through it!
Here, I only talked about Jesus’ approach to those who admit and repent from their sin. There is another approach for those who don’t, but I might cover that in another article. In the meantime, as you are reading this, if you are struggling with sin, know that God wants to win you over and help you grow through loving discipline. Do you have Christian friends and elders you can trust with your ‘secrets’?
He served them
At their last supper, Jesus washed his disciples’ feet (John 13). In biblical times, the washing of the feet was proof of hospitality and servanthood. When people came into a house after walking in the dusty streets of their city, their feet were dirty. So, water and towels had to be prepared before the guests could sit down and eat. The priests also practiced the washing of the feet before they could minister to God (Ex 30:19).
The disciples were astonished, and the Bible says that what Jesus did was an act of love. By washing his disciples’ feet, he showed them hospitality as he welcomed them into a relationship with Him and the Father. He also made them ready to minister to God, as the Old Testament priests did. And he also taught them the humility expected of those who call themselves children of God. To love is to serve others, and that’s what Jesus did. As you look to follow Jesus’ example, who will you humbly serve this week?