In John 13:34-35, Jesus tells his disciples “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.” What does loving one another look like? Perhaps an immediate answer is what Jesus had just done earlier in John 13 – Jesus took on the role of the lowliest servant in the household and washed his disciples’ dirty and dusty feet, a job that is unpleasant at best and seen to be beneath Jesus… and definitely not what anyone would have included as part of his job scope. But Jesus saw the need and went to fulfil it without being asked, not considering whether or not that’s “officially” part of his role or whether this is befitting to his status as their teacher. If anything, Jesus had the right to be served but he put no importance on that fact. Love puts the needs of others before our own considerations of ourselves. We know this, and perhaps we think we practice it, but do we?
Think about your past week. In our daily lives there are many ways in which we can demonstrate Christ-like love: on public transport, giving up our seat to someone who looks like they need it, even if you’re not seated on the priority seat, even if he or she is not elderly, is not pregnant, and looks fully able to stand. In public, picking up trash (that originates from someone else!) so that everyone around can have a nice clean environment, even though no one asked you to, even though you’re not on a volunteer project with Habitat for Humanity, and even though it’s definitely not your job. At work or at school, volunteering your help to a friend or a colleague who needs it, even though it’s not your responsibility and will lead to more work for you, so that your colleague is better able to cope or has a bit more breathing space to pick up kids or care for family members. (Note to students: this does not include doing your friend’s homework since that defeats the purpose of homework.) At others’ homes, it means asking if you can help clear the table or to clean up the area. At church, it means helping the cleaners arrange the chairs for Sunday service even though it’s not your job and they didn’t ask you to, it means making the effort to report building faults even though you might think it’s someone else’s job to inspect and find them, it means looking out for new people and welcoming them, even inviting them for lunch or dinner after service even though you’re not an usher, you’re not a deacon, you’re not an elder, and you’re not staff.
Love means looking and seeing the needs that are around us and stepping into the gap when you can to say “let me do this for you” even though you don’t have to. It doesn’t mean not having boundaries, it doesn’t mean always saying “yes” and never saying “no”. It does mean not bothering about what you’re entitled to and not having to stay strictly within the limit of your roles and responsibilities. Love comes with actions, and the actions prove the love. Think about your past week again. Do we love each other?