Anger and destruction on the fifth sunday of easter.

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I give you a new commandment: love one another.
As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.
This is how all will know that you are my disciples,
if you have love for one another.”

It doesn’t get any simpler than that. In a couple of sentence Christianity is defined. And an army marched through the countryside until they came across a village. Then they attacked, bombarding the buildings, terrorizing its inhabitants. It was a siege of death and destruction and humiliation. After thoroughly conquering those villagers, the defeated were escorted to the general. I will grant your life, if you obey my command and recognize my authority. Even then I might put an end to you and your kinsmen. Love one another, as I, have loved you. Easy to say. “As I loved you” and he hung on a cross. The battle scene described is a Roman emperor’s army taking control of a territory. Complete defeat with a possibility of clemency? Clemency granted at the option of a conqueror, independent of any action the defeated might do. Conqueror dominates with total control. Love one another as I have loved you. The conquerors victory is unconditional, it is not s brokered surrender. It is control, total control. A life is not brokered but granted at a whim. Clemency is a dictators choice, and not an obligation. Such was ancient Rome’s control. And what of “as I have loved you?”

That love too is without condition, as strong as the mightiest empire of this world. As powerful as their marching armies. Stronger and more powerful in fact. It is granted regardless of the actions of the recipient. Love one another as I have loved you, is that extended to that army? “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” Unconditional love. It is not dependent on the action of the recipient, it is granted even to the enemy. Granted to the murderer, and the thief, and those in squalor, and those who persecute you. A Christian expresses unconditional love regardless of the recipient’s attitudes or responses. “As I have loved you, so you should love one another.” Look closely at that statement, not exactly at the statement, but what comes before it. I give you a new commandment. A commandment is not a philosophy, or a suggestion. It is an authoritative demand. Why invoke such authority, one might ask? Why? Because why the commandment might be easy to remember and recite, following it is another matter. It is not easy to love one who takes vengeance against you. It is not easy for the mentioned villagers to love those who hurled them into destruction. But they are commanded to do just that. It is not easy to love the scourer, or the executioner, but He did so just the same. It is a command because it must be obeyed in the most difficult of circumstances. Not when it is pleasantly welcomed, but when it is cursed and opposed. It is a love not given in romance, but in battle. It is given when one cares not to part with it, it is given when one would rather give a bullet or a fist. It is a command given when one is under the emotion of hatred, or vengeance, or when philosophies and opinions create a divide. Love one another as “I have”, as Christ has, as God does, is not the typical way of man. And that is why He commanded us to do so differently.

Acts 14:21-27

Rev 21:1-5a

Jn 13:31-33a, 34-35

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