Are you my friends? This is the question that Jesus is asking in this week’s passage from the Gospel of St. John. Jesus does not really ask this question, but he does go about telling those listening and those us reading what it takes to be his friend what the criteria will be used.
For more than a year, I have been working towards membership in the Mayflower Society. If you are unfamiliar, the Mayflower Society has as its members’ direct descendants of passengers from the Mayflower. To join, one must prove their linage to one or more passengers. One does this by researching the various lines in one’s family tree and producing birth, death, and marriage records for each of those persons. After a year or more research, I am still unable to become a member because I am missing one document, a birth record from the 1700s. As frustrating as this is, to join, I have to follow the rules.
Each club or organization one wishes to be a part of has membership rules. Some, like the Mayflower Society, have stringent regulations. Thankfully, the rules to be a friend of Jesus are not so strict and are within the grasp of everyone.
“If you keep my commands you remain in my love.” Notice that Jesus says, “my commends.” Further on, Jesus comments that he has “kept my father’s commands and remain in his love.” But Jesus does not leave us hanging; he tells us exactly what his command is. “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” It really is that simple; just love everyone!
We, humans, have made all this so complicated. We have established a system designed not to build bridges but to build walls. Many, many churches focus not on what will teach the love of everyone but rather on what will separate people. Jesus told us that to be his friend; we must love everyone. Jesus never even says we must worship him; he simply states love, everyone.
The great spiritual writer Thomas Merton has this to say about loving others, “Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether they are worthy. That is not our business, and in fact, it’s nobody’s business. What we are asked to do is to love, and this love itself with render both ourselves and our neighbors worthy is anything can.” We love people for their sake, but we also love people for our own sake.
Jesus’ command to love everyone has nothing to do with acceptance of their actions or choices. My guess is they don’t really care if you accept them or not. Jesus’ command to love everyone comes from the fact that each of us contains the divine spark, the Ruach, the very breath of God. When God was creating all that we see, God created most everything by speaking it into existence. God spoke, and there was light. God spoke, and there were trees and plants. God spoke, and there were animals.
When God created humanity, God took the dust from the earth with his very hands. God fashioned humanity in God’s image, and when God had created humanity God breathed God’s breath into the nostrils of humanity and gave life to God’s creation. Humanity is the only portion of creation that God breathed life into. This is the Imago Dei, the Image of God, and we love others because, just like us, they contain the very breath of God.
I know I am a little late to the game with this, but in the last year or so, I have become acquainted with the greeting “Namaste.” Quite simply, Namaste means the divine in me greets the divine in you. It is an acknowledgment that whatever else, we all contain a bit of the divine. I believe that we can all benefit from greeting one another with Namaste.
Bishop Michael Curry, the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, says that I think summarizes this exceptionally well. Bishop Curry says, “The way of Jesus is the way of love and the way of love will change the world.”
Friends, let us spend more time loving everyone and less time worrying about what this one or that one is doing. Just love people for who they are because that is the way God loves you!