what’s new? – a Maundy Thursday meditation

“I give you a new commandment, that you love one another.”

What’s new about Jesus talking about love? Earlier in his ministry, he answered a question about the greatest commandment: “You shall love the Lord your God will all your heart, soul, mind, and strength and your neighbor as yourself.”

Jesus always talked about love. So, again, what’s new?

The newness, I think, is the nowness of the moment Jesus utters this word. Knowing he is about to die, he shares his last will and testament with his friends: “Love one another as I have loved you.” Love, Jesus says, no longer only to the extent you love yourself, but rather with the totality, the finality I will demonstrate in my dying. What’s new about this love is its unconditionality; without qualification or quantification.

As I think about loving this way, I know that I can and will fall short. No matter how accurately I perceive your desire or need, no matter how faithfully I respond, you may want or need more. And my love isn’t something I can increase on demand by doing more, much less, being more.

Nevertheless, in that instant moment, what I have to give is all I can give. And it is in the how of my giving, as I choose to give in the totality of my self, that demonstrates that I love you as Jesus loves me.

Now, although the newness of Jesus’ love is related to his dying, demonstrating the total and final extent to which this love goes, Jesus issues this command to his followers. “By this, all will know that you are my disciples.” Jesus isn’t calling his followers to die for one another. If so, there would be no community. What Jesus does command is that his followers live for one another unconditionally, without qualification or quantification.

This, I dare to believe, is the love the world needs. Not folk dying for one another or, worse, killing one another. But living for one another. This is infinitely harder than dying for one another. Living for one another takes longer and lacks glamour. It means enduring the difficulty of our human differences and, when becoming familiar, dealing with those moments of mutual contempt when we don’t like one another.

Yet this, I believe, was, is what Jesus is about. Love. Unconditional. Unqualified. Unquantified.

We humans, whatever our culture or creed, ethnicity or nationality, gender or age may not have opportunity to die for one another. Yet each of us, in each and every instant, has a life to live for one another. And if we actually attempted to do that, that would be what’s new!

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2 thoughts on “what’s new? – a Maundy Thursday meditation

  1. Paul,

    I saw this post late last night but am just now able to fully digest it….. Living for one another! And Loving in a way that’s Unconditional, Unqualified and Unquantified. There are a few people I would die for, but living for them is so much better, as is living for people I don’t even know yet. I didn’t even realize until the start of my book tour how many people I believe I was supposed to meet. I don’t remember many people’s names…. But I remember their faces, and most importantly, I remember their stories.

    I believe I am living for others, those I haven’t met yet. I have a love for them that is unconditional, and not based on anything other than where they are on their journey in life. If I can inspire, encourage, and comfort, I feel I’ve done what I’m called to do.

    I’m most intrigued by your point that you can’t love more or give more “on demand”. I’m not sure I buy that because I believe when your flock needed you the most, in times of serious situations and deaths, you did rise up “on demand” and love them in whatever way they needed. I know that you’ve done that for me, particularly in the deaths of my sister and my aunts. We were far away from each other on each of those occasions, yet your love and care for me “on demand” was unconditional, unquantified and unqualified.

    I know that I can love more. Typically in public settings I pour myself into what I’m doing and “leave it all on the floor” as the sports saying goes. Yet I know that I can do a much better job of loving and living for others, particularly those who are vastly different from me. When I can consistently accomplish that, it most certainly will be NEW! I love this MT piece and applaud you for writing it.

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  2. Loretta, as I read your reply, before I reached your words, “I didn’t even realize…how many people I believe I was supposed to meet” (and, therefore, for whom to live and give your life!), I KNEW that’s what you had discovered! What a glorious thing your book writing and sharing on the road has been and is! I also take your point about loving “on demand”. I thank you for your kind words to me in this regard. Still, I think, I believe that no matter how well intentioned I am, I cannot be assured that my efforts at loving match the desire and need of the one I seek to love. At another deeply inherent level, I also believe that I strive to love without condition, but, as human, it is impossible for me to give without some measure of desire to receive. All this said, the call of Jesus remains, summoning us, I believe, to love without condition, qualification, or quantification. I suppose if this was easy to do, what would be the point or necessity of Jesus’ constant call?

    Liked by 1 person

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