THE ELEVENTH COMMANDMENT[1]

JOHN 13:34-35

 

APRIL 2, 2015

 

Rev. Dr. Richard C. Meyer

 

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            Former President Reagan told a story during the last days of his administration. It was about Alexander Dumas, author of The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo.

            It seems that Dumas and a friend had a severe argument. The matter got so out of hand that one challenged the other to a duel. Both Dumas and his friend were superb marksmen. Fearing that both men might fall in such a duel they resolved to draw straws instead. Whoever drew the shorter straw would then be pledged to shoot himself.

            Dumas was the unlucky one. He drew the short straw. With a heavy sigh, he picked up his pistol and trudged into the library and closed the door, leaving the company of friends who had gathered to witness the non-duel outside. In a few moments a solitary shot was fired. All the curious pressed into the library. They found Dumas standing with his pistol still smoking. "An amazing thing just happened," said Dumas. "I missed."

            I am amazed how many of us have been in the church the majority of our lives and we have missed putting into practice, on a consistent basis, what Jesus said to his disciples this night.  Lets look at it one more time. Gathered in the upper room with his disciples he says, I give you a new commandment, ( I suppose thats the eleventh one) that you love one another.  Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.

            Two things to keep in mind from Jesus words.  First, and foremost, what Jesus desires most out of us is that we love one another. We may tithe. We may teach Sunday School. We may sing in the choir, serve on the session, even make visits on behalf of our church. All of these are wonderful. But if we do not love, we have missed the primary marching order of the gospel.

            Once again I turn to theologian of the comic strips, Charles Schulz. Lucy stands with her arms folded and a resolute expression on her face, while Charlie Brown pleads, "Lucy, you MUST be more loving. This world really needs love. You have to let yourself love to make this world a better place in which to live!"

            Lucy whirls around angrily causing Charlie Brown to do a backwards flip and screams at him: "Look, block-head, the WORLD I love. It's PEOPLE I can't stand."

            Sometimes we may resemble that remark.

            Love whom? Love everybody. Nothing could be clearer from the Gospels than that. If a Jew could love a Palestinian--I believe if Jesus were telling the story today it would be the story of the Good Palestinian rather than the Good Samaritan - if a Jew can love a Palestinian, then there is no limit on love. We are to love not only our immediate family and church family but also the cashier who checks our groceries and the police officer who stops us on the expressway as well as the obnoxious people who cross our paths every day.  Jesus wants us to act in a loving manner to all.

 

            Someone put it this way.  He said, "We are judged by our actions, not our intentions. We may have a heart of gold, but so does a hard-boiled egg."

            Comedian Jerry Clower tells a story about Christian love in action. Two Christian businessmen were having lunch in a downtown restaurant. The waitress serving their table dumped a bowl of hot soup right over one of these businessmen.

            Everybody gasped and stared. As Clower tells it, "They just couldn't wait for the manager to run out and fire this lady. They just couldn't wait for this man, standing there, dripping, with his suit ruined, to cuss this waitress out, but the fellow looked at that waitress and said, 'Young lady, I'm so sorry this happened to you. I know it embarrasses you.'"[2]

            Love one another as I have loved you.  Note that last part as I have loved you. 

This brings us to our second point. The source of our love for others is Jesus Christ love for us. In fact, if we dont love others, we have yet to have experience Christs love in our lives.  If we have experienced Christs love in our lives, our knee jerk reaction in our relationships with others, be it a waiter or waitress or a co-worker or a family member will be love.  

            I titled this message The Eleventh Commandment.  Most of us are familiar with the Ten Commandments.  Im not one to critique God or Moses, but a problem with the Ten Commandments is the emphasis on the negative. Just look at the ten commandments.  Eight of the ten tell us what we should not do, not what we should do. They begin with the words, Thou shalt.  Do you remember the two commandments stated positively?  Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy Honor your parents.            

            Pondering the negative manner in which the Ten Commandments are written, one little girl said of them, "They don't tell you what you ought to do. They just put ideas into your head."

            We can take that a number of ways, but she is right. The Old Testament includes the commandments to love God and to love one's neighbor, however, we did not see a loving God walking, talking and helping people until there was Jesus. He showed us the content and the character of love. Then he went where no one has ever gone before. He gave up his own life to show us just how far the Father will go to win back His lost children. When we understand that love and make it our own, then we are able to love as Christ calls us to love.

            Let us come his table.  Amen.



[1] Borrowed from a message of the same title by King Duncan.

[2]Jerry Clower, Life Ever Laughter (Nashville, Tennessee: Rutledge Hill Press, 1988).