The Barrel by John H. Pavelko

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Love One Another 

John 15:9-17

In today's Scripture lesson our Lord, gives his disciples a rather simple commandment-Love one another. Sometimes when we read the teachings of Jesus his words seem obtuse and difficult to understand. Sometimes he hints and suggestion that we consider a new perspective or outlook on life without ever really saying it. So we are left with a sense of confusing and uncertainty. Sometimes we have difficulty knowing how to apply his teaching in a given situation. Christian ethics may suggest a number of possibilities. There does not appear to be a clear right and wrong. But his words that we have read today are very clear and concise. They are very straightforward. There is no gray. There are no conflicting responses. His command is unmistakable.

However, even when we know what is expected of us, it is not always easy to do. John Dominic Crossan, the author of one of the more provocative new books on the life of Jesus illustrates not only the difficulty of obedience but how we try to worm are way out of the obligation through a conversation that he has with God. 

"I've read your book, Dominic," Jesus begins," and it's quite good. So you're now ready to live by my vision and join me in my program?" 

"I don't think I have the courage, Jesus, but I did describe it quite well, didn't I, and the method was especially good, wasn't it?" 

"Thank you, Dominic, for not falsifying the message to suite your own incapacity. That at least is something." 

"Is it enough, Jesus?" 

"No, Dominic, it is not." 1

One characteristic that marks a person who claims to be a disciple of Christ is that no matter what the situation, he or she attempts to respond to other people as Jesus would respond. At that level the WWDJ movement has accurately identified the crux of the Christian life. Our response is not based upon whether the action "Makes sense," or "Feels Good," or is "what everyone else is doing" or will enable us to accomplish are goals in life. Certain situations require certain responds. Period. A Christian is someone who through baptism has signed on by publicly committing themselves to obeying the teachings of Jesus
Whether our obedience to this command will make the world a better place, or lead to deeper human understanding, or help to win friends and influence people, we know not. We only know,...what Jesus commands us to do.2
The challenge then becomes how to live this out. I believe there are at least two components of obeying this commandment. First we must develop a proper perspective on love.


John Lennon and Paul MaCartney once sang that all of life's problems could be solved if we just had love. "All you need is love, love, love is all you need." Their message illustrates the distorted view of love in our society. Love is not a commodity to possess or an emotion to feel. Love does not control a person but is express by a person through demonstrative actions of kindness, compassion, generosity, graciousness and helpfulness, to name a few . Love is the activity, the action, the verb. It is never the noun or adjective. It goes beyond physical attraction and emotional affinity. It can be show toward someone we like are someone we dislike.

Ray Stedman asks in a sermon if we have ever considered how difficult it was, at times, for Jesus to love the disciples? He points out that those men "...could be stubborn, quarrelsome, selfish, ambitious, often presumptuous men. They insulted him, ignored, and disobeyed him at times. He did not always automatically feel love for them."3

Jesus was able to love this men for one reason only-the father had loved him. This is the key to love. Love does not come from will power or by a determined spirit. Love flows from a heart that has been loved. When Peter's impetuous spirit drove him to frustration, Jesus remembered how much the Father cherished him. When the lying and scheming of Judas gnawed at his heart, he calmed himself by remembering the compassion of his Father. I wonder how often our Lord retreated to the solitude of the hillsides to pray to renew himself in the Father's love so that he could endure with patience the frailties of his followers. And he tells us that we are to love one another just as he has loved us.
When we struggle to show kindness to someone who is irritating us we are to renew our memory of Christ's love for us. We should seek the solitude of isolated location so that we can remind ourselves of how he cares for us, supports us and tenderly encourages us.


Once we develop a proper perspective on the real meaning of love we are ready to move to the actual act of love. Unfortunately sometimes it is easier to talk about then to do. But if we are to be known by our love than some how or another we must learn to translate the message that we have heard into deeds of action.
The congregation was singing the last stanza of the song as Pastor Oriiz walked to the pulpit. The first part of the worship service had been very uplifting. The voices of the congregation rang with an enthusiastic energy that so is characteristic of Pentecostal churches. The prayers were issued with a tone of charismatic fervor. The name of Jesus Christ had truly been exalted and the people felt bless by the Holy Spirit as their pastor approached the pulpit.

The text for the week was the same one as today's lectionary passage. During the week Pastor Juan Carlos Oritz had prepared a sermon to remind people of the importance loving one another. He had spent a great deal of time praying over the message, studying and carefully recording his thoughts. He believed that God had truly guided him as he prepared each point and carefully selected each illustration, so he approached the pulpit with confidence and a certain boldness. But something happened about halfway from his seat to the pulpit. He heard a voice.


"Yes, Lord"

"How, many times have you preached on this passage in this church?"

"I don't know, may be a dozen."

Then just as Pastor Ortiz stepped into the pulpit and he was about to speak, he heard the same voice ask: 
"Did any of those sermons do any good?'
Most ministers could empathizes with Pastor Ortiz dilemma; when a minister stands before his or her congregation and suddenly realize that they have the wrong message. In that moment they know that what appeared to be inspirational words on Tuesday is going to sound like clanging of gongs on Sunday.

Pastor Oritz stood frozen. He looked over the congregation and saw the people who he had led to Christ. People who he had counseled during times of emotional turmoil. People who he had visited in the hospital at 2:00 AM as their loved one clung to life. He saw people who had heard the Christian message taught over and over again, in SS lessons, small group Bible studies and his own sermons. They knew the words but still struggled to live out the message. All thoughts evaporated from his mind. He stood frozen in time as the congregation waited to hear his words of inspiration. Finally, he said, "Love one another." Then he walked back to his seat and he sat down.

The people sat in motionless silence. That Pentecostal congregation could handle fiery preaching but they did not know what to do with utter stillness. Then Pastor Oritz stood up and walked to the pulpit one more time and again said, "Love one another." And one more time he returned to his seat. This time heads began to turn from side to side. People looked at one another with a questioned look in their eyes. They appeared to be silently asking one another, "What should we do now?" Shoulders were shrugged. Eyebrows were raised. Bewilderment was on everyone's face. After waiting a few minutes Pastor Oritz again walked to the pulpit. Positioned himself and very deliberatly said, "Love one another." And once again returned to his chair.

After a few moments a man stood up and said, "Brothers and sisters, I think that I understand what Pastor Ortiz is taking about. He is asking me to love you," as he said this he pointed to a family seated next to him., "But  how can I love you when I do not even know your name?" The man proceeded to introduce himself and then asked the family next to him questions in hopes of discovering ways in which he could express his love. Another man stood up and said, "I also understand what Pastor Ortiz is saying. He wants me to love Carlo (who was seating three pews in front of him) but  how can I love Carlos when I still hold a grudge against him." The first men left his pew and approached Carlos to apologize and the two were reconciled. Well, with this the flood gates were opened. People got out of their pews and began to circulate. They began to ask each other what they could do for one another. That Sunday incredible things happened. A husband and wife had come to the city seeking medical treatment for their little girl. They did not have enough money to return home. Someone purchased a bus ticket for them. Another young man who was looking for a job was introduced to a man who owned a business and needed an extra person.4

While all this was going on Pastor Ortiz sat in his chair praying and allowed the congregation to preach through their own deeds one of the most powerful sermons ever delivered in that church. The church was never the same after that worship service. 

"Love One Another"

1.  Online: William H. Willimon, "Commanded to Love," quoting from uncited author "The Historical Jesus: An Interview with John Dominic Crossan," The Christian Century, 108 (December 18-25, 1991), 1204.
2.  Online: William H. Willimon, "Commanded to Love,"
3.  Online: Ray Stedman, "Loving Amidst Hate,"
4. Sermon by Juan Carlos Oritiz delivered at the St. Paul's Presbyterian Church, Mentor OH.

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