34 I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."
Not long ago, I had a conversation with one of my parishioners who is a real estate agent. I said, “How’s the real estate business these days? Are things picking up for you?”
His response surprised me. He said, “Pastor Michael, things never really slowed down for me. Right now, I don’t have enough houses to show. I can’t keep enough inventory. Lately, I hate the thing that has been driving my business, but business is good.”
“You hate the thing that is driving business? What do you mean?”
“Well, lately I’ve had a lot of business because of divorce, because all of a sudden you have two people who need to sell their one house and buy two. That has brought me a lot of business.”
I understand why he said he hated it. It’s sad. As I said on Sunday: Sometimes divorce is inevitable, but we all know how painful it can be. Even if we haven’t been through it ourselves, we have family members who have. I don’t know of many families that have been left untouched by it in one way or another. And, it always leaves a wake of brokenness and pain. Nobody goes into marriage hoping for that. It was reflection on this real estate agent conversation that gave birth to our series Made To Last.
Yesterday, we began by looking closely at what Jesus says in John 13. Disclaimer: The context of this passage is not marriage relationships. Jesus is not speaking to married couples. He’s talking to his disciples. In fact, these were some of Jesus’ parting words to his closest friends at the Last Supper just hours before he was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane.
It was there that Jesus gave them a new commandment. As we learned on Sunday, the Greek word kainos can mean “new,” but it can also mean “unprecedented, uncommon, unheard of.” Jesus is giving his disciples a new, unprecedented commandment: Love one another.
Most of the time, when our culture talks about love, we’re talking about an emotion. Particularly, when we talk about the love between husband and wife, we talk about passion, chemistry. Love as a noun. Love as a feeling.
But, Jesus doesn’t speak of love that way. Instead, Jesus calls love a command. You can’t command feelings. But, according to Jesus, you can command love. Jesus commands us to love one another when it is easy and when it is terribly difficult. Jesus commands us to love even when we don’t feel very loving.
If Jesus demands that kind of love of us for brothers and sisters within the Body of Christ, how much more should we obey his command when the “one another” is the one with whom we have promised to spend a lifetime? We are called to, commanded to, in the words of Andy Stanley, make love a verb! That is the foundation for a relationship that is made to last.
After the sermon, someone said to me, “In your sermon, you said, ‘Sometimes divorce is inevitable.’ I don’t think divorce is ever inevitable.”
I didn’t know exactly what to say in that moment. I could see her point. After all, we believe in the Resurrection. If our God would reach into a dark tomb, after three days of death, and bring forth life, then there’s no telling what God might do with our relationships, no matter how hopeless they may appear. Especially, when we obey Jesus’ commandment to love one another in action.
And, yet there are times when one spouse seems absolutely intent on not doing that. The other might try as hard as he or she can, might give 100% toward making the marriage work, might do everything conceivable to make love a verb, but if there is no reciprocation, ever, for years, then...well...you can see some inevitability.
Or, there are times when one spouse is abusive and the abuse does nothing but spiral downward. Nobody should remain in that type of situation.
So, having had some time to reflect, if I had another shot to respond, it might be like this, “I don’t think any relationship is hopeless if both parties are willing to work, to make love a verb. The same God who breathed life into a pile of dust and vivified a valley of dry bones and wrested life from a tomb in Jerusalem is still at work in the world. Still, in the broken world in which we live where committed spouses don’t have the power to force uncommitted spouses to love against their will and where violence is often perpetrated against the ones closest to us, I will have to stand by my statement that “Sometimes divorce is inevitable.”
But, that’s no excuse to neglect Jesus’ commandment: “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.”
Trying To Make Love A Verb,