John, the disciple whom Jesus loved, gives us an account of how Christians are to love one another—a lesson taught by Jesus himself through his sacrifice for humanity. It’s as if John understands our contemporary notion that “talk is cheap.” And yet words do have their place. What we say to one another impacts our relationships. However, words pale in comparison to the action or deeds they represent. The love of Christ (an agape love) seeks not self-fulfillment or self-satisfaction; instead this type of love is made complete in the sacrificial giving for the other. This could take the form of caring for another person when it’s not convenient to do so, or even the response to a missionary call in a developing country without the securities or familiar accommodations in place. Agape love challenges us and the church to act when needed—an action reminiscent of the caring shepherd tending the flock.
If we are to love as Christ loves us then we must be willing and ready to listen for his voice. John reminds the early Christian church that the sheep know the voice of the shepherd, and only then will they follow. If the voice calling is a stranger’s voice, the sheep resist and run away. In other words, Christian love is not merely our efforts to do good. Instead, Christian love is the very presence of the living Christ actively transforming us as we attempt to offer Christ's transforming agape love to others.
For most of us, loving a brother or sister in Christian love seems straightforward. But as we take a closer look not only at the passage but also at our heart’s intentions, we may notice a blemish or two. Regardless, we have opportunities to emulate the good shepherd every day. Who in your life’s circle especially needs Christ’s love?
Jesus, open my heart to the opportunities to practice Christian love. Amen.
This week’s readings open with a confrontation in Acts between Peter and John and some of the religious leaders. Peter speaks in harsh terms to the leaders, stating that they had killed Jesus; yet by the power of Jesus’ name, a man who could not walk has been healed. By that same name spiritual healing happens as well. The other three passages employ the metaphor of the Good Shepherd. “The Lord is my shepherd,” the psalmist declares, and the shepherd cares for all our needs. In John’s Gospel, Jesus declares that he is the Good Shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep. First John repeats this imagery. Jesus proved his love when he lay down his life for us. If we truly love one another, we also ought to sacrifice in tangible ways
Read Acts 4:5-12. When have you gotten into difficulty for exercising your Christian faith and values? If never, why not?
Read Psalm 23. What is your first memory of hearing or reading this psalm? Has it had a significant role in your life of faith? If so, what has its role been?
Read 1 John 3:16-24. How do your actions reflect your love for God and for your fellow children of God?
Read John 10:11-18. What “wolves” have you faced in your life? How have you experienced the presence of the Good Shepherd with you as you faced these threats?
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