By Captain Susan Cassin
Anacortes, WA Corps – Northwest Division
When it comes to shopping there are two prevailing mindsets around this activity. There are those who love it and those who only endure it out of necessity; hoping to get in and out of the store as quickly as possible and with as little impact to their bank account as possible. If I were to look at my life as a teenager and in my early adult years, I definitely fell into the later category where shopping was just a chore to get through.
To this day, I can’t say I love shopping but my attitude towards this activity was altered after a shopping trip with friends over 8 years ago. Now, I can’t remember what occasioned this shopping adventure, but here we were, just three college students on a budget, probably running errands, who on a whim, stopped in at some department store to do some window shopping.
What began as an opportunity to browse that racks, somehow morphed into us grabbing a bunch of dresses to take turns trying on. In that moment as I joined in with picking out dresses, what normally been a chore, became a memory of fun and laughter to cherish. As we grabbed dresses to try out, seemingly by unspoken agreement, we selected outfits that we viewed as dowdy, garish, and so out of our regular realm of style that we would’ve never had looked twice at them if we were actually on the hunt for something to buy.
As I reflect back on this memory, I experience great joy in recalling how we each took turns trying on the dresses, posing in front of the dressing room mirror, and taking silly group photos. Added to the feeling of joy was the amazement that somehow each of us, different in body shape and size, were able to fit into these dresses. Of course, as you all know from your own experience, the ability to fit into a clothing item doesn’t mean that it works for your body type, coloring, style, occasion, etc.
God created us individually and uniquely. For this reason, the things that might be a good fit for one person, might not work for you or for someone else. In the case of this fashion experiment, some dresses looked way better on me than on my friends and vice a versus. The reality of our uniqueness extends beyond the realm of fashion and our physical appearance to encompass all aspects of our lives. One of these aspects that I’d like to spend our time looking at today is the connection between our individuality and the command we’ve been given to love.
In John chapter 13, Jesus who knows that He is just hours away from being arrested, going through a sham of a trial, and will be crucified amongst two criminals, is sharing one last meal with his disciples. During this meal that we call the Last Supper, Jesus doesn’t waste these last moments of intimate fellowship with his friends and students. Jesus attempts to prepare them that he is soon leaving them, and Jesus continues to teach. In John’s account of the Last Supper, in John 13:34-35, Jesus says, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
Now, if you’ve read any of the other gospels, you may recall that in Mark 12:28-32, that Jesus summarizes the Ten Commandments given to the Israelites in Exodus by saying that the first and greatest commandment that we have been given, is to love God with all that we are, and the second greatest commandment is to love our neighbors as ourselves.
Knowing that this commandment to love was already established as part of the Mosaic Law found in the Old Testament, makes us question, how is this a new commandment? Well when Jesus refers to this new commandment in John 13:34, the Greek word kainos that is used, is a word that conveys freshness. This tells us that Jesus isn’t introducing a new commandment, but he is instead, giving our perspective or understanding on what it means to live out this commandment, a makeover. Let’s breakdown what this love makeover looked like.
- Jesus says, “love one another.” In other portions of Scripture there is a call to love one’s neighbor. The use of the word neighbor though seems to have created ambiguity because it gave people an excuse to define for themselves who counted as their “neighbor.” We see Jesus encounter this very issue in Luke 10:25-37, when an expert of the law who wanted to “justify himself” asks, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus’s answer is to share the Parable of the Good Samaritan and by the end of the telling, the message is clear, your neighbor is everyone you encounter whether they are friend, stranger, or enemy.
- Next, we see that Jesus tells his disciples, “As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (John 13:34). In the Old Covenant way of love, we were to love as we love ourselves. What we see then, is Jesus is redefining the measuring stick of how we love by saying you are love to the same extent that I have loved you.
Jesus’ love was of a sacrificial nature and not just because Jesus died for our sins on the cross. There are other examples in Scripture, even within the same chapter of John 13, when Jesus who should’ve been the one being served, chose to instead serve His disciples by washing their feet. This task was normally done by the lowest slave within a household.
Jesus’ way of love was to disregarded position and pride; even His own and instead display love in action through serving others. Another example of Jesus’ sacrificial love is when He shows compassion to the people who followed after Him by feeding them even though he Himself was hungry and just needed a rest.
Time and again, we see Jesus acting outside of societal expectations to show love. Jesus, listened, spoke, instructed, comforted, prayed with and for others. He also claimed His disciples as His own, calling them his family. Jesus corrected and identified areas of growth for those who followed Him. Jesus loved sacrificially, and the way His love was shown was adapted to meet people where they were at.
At the heart of this new commandment is this idea of loving everyone, even those who think, look, speak, act differently than us in a sacrificial way as Jesus did. Jesus offered no caveat to this commandment, he simply said love everyone, including people we know, people we don’t know, and even the people we don’t like. We are called to love all people.
In Matthew 5:43-48, Jesus addresses the issue of loving our enemies. He talks about how if we only love those who love us, or those who we can stand, that this doesn’t set us apart from non-believers because they do that too. Jesus also indicates that in loving everyone we show ourselves to be God’s children since the Father shows loves by sending both sun and rain to the righteous and unrighteous alike.
So if we are to live out the command to love others, what does this look like?
As I began I shared that during my shopping adventure, that while my friends and I were all able to wear the dresses we picked out, that that the fit of those outfits worked better for some than they did for others within our trio. If we think of love, in the same way that we do when trying on an outfit, we come to recognize that the style of love that works for me won’t necessarily work for you. Each of us receives and gives love in different ways. Some feel loved when given things while others might feel loved when a friend spends quality time with them.
You might then be wondering about how we come determine what love is in style for yourself and for the others around us? Well outside for observing and noticing your own behavior, there was a book published years ago called The 5 Love Languages (by Gary Chapman) that talks about how people give/receive love. As a result of this book’s popularity, there are now online surveys that one can take to identify both how you receive love and how you give love. [Check it out: https://www.5lovelanguages.com/quizzes]
The results from such a survey, if shared will give you and others a better understanding of self and those around you who have also shared. The results may also bring you out of your comfort zone as you seek to show love according to someone’s style. For instance, if you normally give love by acts of service but you learn that someone in your life receives love through quality time, you will need to change things up in order to love someone according to the style that fits them best. It’s important to note that while this survey is a helpful tool, that if one were to spend time reflecting on moments when they felt most loved, they’d be about to pin down their own love style.
Additionally if we’re talking about loving everyone, we’re not going to be able to have every acquaintance take a survey before you interact with them. This means that learning what love is in style for an individual, becomes about listening, observing, and noticing those around you. It becomes about trying something new and seeing what happens. If what you try doesn’t work, it means trying something different.
Loving one another as Jesus loves us, means loving sacrificially but also individually. It requires that we become willing to personalize love in the same way that we personalize fashion to fit what works for the individual.
Today as you consider this concept ask yourself
- How do I receive love?
- How do I show love?
- Can I identify what love kind of love is in style for my friends around me?
- What can I do to be more observant of others around me?
- What is one way this week that I can show someone love in a different style than is my norm?
Lord, we are so grateful that while you love us all equally, that you also recognize the individuality within us. We are thankful that you meet us where we are and love us as we are. Help us to sacrificially love others even when this means getting out of our comfort zone or giving up time doing something else that we enjoy. Today as we consider the many styles or expressions of love that are before us, let us be willing to try to love people in a more personal way that recognizes our uniqueness. Help us to love everyone, no matter who they are. We recognize that this isn’t something we can do in our own strength but in your strength, we’ll be able to succeed. Amen.