When I first started by Bethany, I was hired to replace the office manager, Audrey. She was good at managing the office and facilities staff, and loved and respected by those who worked for her. On the wall of her office was a framed poster that read, “Love is Why We are Here.” Coming from the business world where products and service were the end game, and systems and processes the means, I was intrigued and a bit skeptical by that statement.
And then I began leading the staff at Bethany as the administrator. And I learned that to do my job well, I needed to manage the work of my staff and incorporate systems to keep things running smoothly. But even more than that, I needed to love those I worked with. I learned that each person who worked at Bethany was unique, with their own dreams, quirks, and struggles, and it was only through taking the time to see all of who they were that I could lead them in a way that affirmed and empowered them. And in the end, work got done, but even more, the office was a place where love was felt.
Jesus says to his followers in John 13:35 – “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” And when John writes his letter, he echoes those words over and over again to his readers. This week, we will spend time in the sometimes uncomfortable exhortation to love one another.
Read 1 John 2:7-11
In John’s words we hear references to light, just as he used light to describe Christ in the first chapter of his gospel. The light that was Jesus – the light that darkness could not overcome – is now found in His followers when they love one another.
- What is the command that John is reminding us of?
- Why do you think love is so important?
- Why do you think John spends so much time bringing this command home?
- Who do you love? How do you experience clarity and freedom from stumbling in their presence?
- Who are the people that stir up darkness in you? Where is love in those relationships?
- How have loveless relationships caused you to stumble?
- As you think of the people in your life who are difficult to love, what makes it difficult?
Read John 1:35-47
In these verses, we read about the first disciples who joined Jesus, and I would suggest out of love, brought others with them. The kingdom was richer because of these disciples’ acts of love.
- In verse 38, Jesus asks the disciples following him, “What are you looking for?”
Imagine Jesus asking you that question. How would you answer?
- Rather than Jesus answering their question, he invites them to come and see.
What questions are in the process of being answered as you follow Jesus? How is it for you to live between the question and the answer?
- In vs. 40, Andrew goes and finds his brother, Simon, and when Jesus meets him, he speaks a unique vision over him, even renaming him Cephas, or Peter. When Andrew brought Simon to Jesus, he had no idea this would happen. When have you experienced someone close to you being called to a significant purpose? What emotions might Andrew experience? What emotions do you experience as you watch others around you grow and develop in their faith and purpose?
- In vs. 43, we read of another discipleship candidate, Philip, finding Nathaniel and inviting him to follow Christ. Interestingly, Nathaniel is skeptical, but rather than dismissing him or defending Jesus, he also replies, “Come and see.” Who do you have in your life who is skeptical? How do you stay in relationship with them without either dismissing them or being defensive? How can you continue to invite them to Jesus?
- As you look back over this passage, where do you see love?
- How does this passage cast light on what it means to love one another?
- Who is one person you can love well this week? How will you do this?
Read Psalm 7:1-5
This is a dramatic plea from David for protection from his enemies. But in the midst of the passage, there is a moment of self-reflection, where before God, he examines his own heart, and acknowledges that he is worthy of punishment for his own treatment, not just of his allies, but of his enemies as well. I’m reminded of Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:44, to love our enemies, and I imagine myself treating those with whom I am at odds in such a way that those around me don’t know the difference between my friends and foes. We all have people with whom we struggle to get along with. This is where the rubber meets the road of discipleship, when we can choose love over hate, forgiveness over bitterness, relationship over the right to be right.
- When you search your heart, are there friends or family members whom you need to love well this week? What actions can you take to love them well?
- Is there someone that you are at odds with? Do the people around you know it? What would love look like in this situation?