After washing their feet, he put on his robe again and sat down and asked, “Do you understand what I was doing? You call me Teacher and Lord, and your are right because that is what I am. And since I, your Lord and Teacher have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet.” – John 13: 12-13
I have read this passage over and over for the last few months. Just before it, Jesus tells us that he has loved, and loves, his Disciples, even Judas. That means us as well. The last third of the Gospel of John is from the night before his death, a night Jesus spent with those he loved telling them and reminding them all that was important. It starts with these few phrases on love here.
We have been wrestling a great deal of late with what it means to be community, and in Unity with each other, under Christ. For anyone who has tried that outside of ‘church’, you will realise the difficulty of the task. Yet it is so important that Jesus announced that our love for each other, would be the thing that would identify us as disciples. More than the miraculous, more than the teaching, the doctrine, more than anything, this would separate us from the world.
What is it that seems to prevent us from achieving all that he wants us to be?
Just before Christmas, we opened a box of books that we had stored for over 2 years, and had nearly forgotten about. In it, was an unexpected treasure trove a heavenly gift straight from God. There were dozens of pamphlets and books, written by a small Christ-centred community who were living out what we longed for and had been doing so for decades. God sent us precious rain, and we have soaked it up.
Let me highlight just three things, that in our view, seem to make a successful Christian community;
- Jesus is Lord. He is Lord of the community and Lord of everyone’s lives within that community. There is no leader but him, and he alone runs the agenda. Our lives are devoted to him, and all our materialism, beliefs, idols, even our families are shattered before him. When we love him enough, when we singularly devote ourselves to him, then we will devote ourselves to each other correctly, and everything falls into place.
This of course, means that some may be excluded. That doesn’t mean that we stop doing the work of reconciling everyone back to God through Christ, but it means that for those who bring other agendas, our community may not be for them. If you think that seems harsh, then watch a ‘little unleaven, destroy the whole batch.’
- Positional truths don’t save anyone, and God will have none of it. The traditions of man, with our edifices, our services, sermons, programmes, self-appointed leaders (since when did Christ give anyone permission to run His kingdom?) will not suffice. Christ must be Lord. I am so sick of hearing the different doctrines of man, that this truth is vital, or that is essential to our salvation; that baptism saves, or the gifts of the Spirit no longer exist, or being saved by tongues is true or that we can say a simple prayer and be reconciled to God without having anything further to do with His Son in our lives. All this creates division, and Jesus I am convinced, is having none of it. He will simply ignore you, or worse, admonish us for our unbelief. Let us be warned, each of us (including me) of the only truth that matters; He is Lord, and God has appointed him as the only means of Salvation.
- If we truly love Jesus, if we have accepted that we are saved by him alone and that God wants us to relate to Him, back through his Son, then we will be obedient. We will listen to what his Spirit tells us, moment by moment; we will get baptized as he commands, we will continually tell the world of His love (without being silent and ashamed of him) we will submit all to him, we will love one another as he has loved us, we will pray, give and sacrifice all in our lives that would hinder his work. We will work for him, not out of obligation, but because of what he has done for us. Then, we will know the joy that is the Lord.
If we are not living out the last one, then we have never grasped the first, and are still probably fighting with the second.
A few weeks ago, we dropped in by the beach for a swim. When we came out, a family next to us on the beach whom we had never met, were very distressed. Everything they had brought with them to the beach had been stolen – phones, glasses, car keys, wallets, clothes, children’s Christmas presents, all of it gone. Each of them were in tears, and they lived over 2 hrs drive away but now couldn’t drive. All they had were the swimmers they were wearing. We walked them to the police station, and along the way prayed, offered them a bed for the night (they didn’t stay) and gave them all the money we had.
Some days later, the mother rang my wife and said it was miraculous (her words and the police) all of their stuff had been returned the next day; she said that their 2 teenage children made mention of the contrast between the unspeakable evil that they felt in being so violated, compared to the acts of kindness from us. My wife was able to explain, albeit briefly that we do what we do because of Him, that is all. Take Him away, and we are the same as the rest.
It all starts as a community of Believers who seek nothing else but to love him, and live him out in the world. It is so easy to say, but so difficult to live out. There is much more to tell, but that is enough here.
I wasn’t going to write this week, but this morning I heard his voice. Come, let us worship Him with all of our lives, for he alone is worthy of our worship. Come Lord Jesus, come.