So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples. [John 13:34-35 (NLT)]
The best welcome I’ve had at any church was from a man named Luther. Handing us a program, he’d greet us with a broad smile before saying, “Jesus loves you and I do, too!” For several years, Luther greeted everyone who came to that church with his irresistible smile and warm heartfelt words. When age and poor health finally caught up to the nonagenarian, he reluctantly moved away to be closer to family.
I later learned that Luther didn’t save his message of love for fellow church-goers. He spread the news of God’s love everywhere he went. From strangers to neighbors, servers to sales clerks, and nurses to bus boys, everyone he encountered was greeted with those same loving words. Moreover, when Luther said them, he meant exactly what he said and radiated God’s love as he spoke them. His weren’t the words of a dotty old man; they were the words of a disciple of Christ and they spread Jesus’s message of love and joy everywhere he went.
I hadn’t thought about Luther for years until I ran across a friend who also knew Luther. He was wearing a tee-shirt printed with these words: “Jesus loves you and I’m trying!” My friend has a wry sense of humor and, inspired by Luther’s loving words, he had the shirt specially made. His words were brutally honest because loving our neighbor (especially the ones we don’t like) is far easier said than done! Nevertheless, Jesus didn’t tell us to try to love God or our neighbor—He said to do it!
Trying and doing are not the same thing. While there were no qualifications or limitations to Jesus’ or Luther’s words, there were to my friend’s. Trying is a state of mind while doing is action. While trying allows for a multitude of excuses for failure, doing doesn’t. Trying to love is doing so when it’s easy or convenient; actually loving is when it isn’t. It is only when we commit to really doing something that we have any chance of success. We don’t have to love perfectly and we’ll make mistakes; nevertheless, we must love! As Jedi Master Yoda said to Luke Skywalker: “Do. Or do not. There is no try!”
Unlike Luther, most of us probably wouldn’t feel comfortable greeting everyone we encounter with, “Jesus loves you and I do, too!” I don’t think Jesus expects us to do so. Nevertheless, He does expect us to follow Luther’s example by sharing God’s love with all we meet. What do you suppose would happen if we silently said Luther’s words every time we encountered someone? By reminding us of God’s love and the love we are supposed to have for one another, could those simple words change us? Could they move us from trying to love to actually loving? Instead of getting upset or thinking something nasty when a driver cuts us off, a person pushes ahead of us in line, a salesclerk is rude, or we’re on the receiving end of some harsh words, what if we silently said “Jesus loves you and I do, too!”? It would be difficult to remain angry or upset with anyone when thinking about the love of Jesus and His command to love one another. Those few words, even when said only in our minds, could defuse an argument, improve our tone of voice, ease anger and resentment, bring smiles to our faces, and show us how to love!
Remember, Jesus loves you and I do, too!
Do not waste time bothering whether you ‘love’ your neighbor; act as if you did. As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him. [C.S. Lewis]