Jesus calls us to an utterly simple life. “Love one another,” Jesus says repeatedly in the Gospel of John. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy. This love isn’t an emotion we muster up. Rather, it’s a reality we enter into. Jesus isn’t commanding us to find a way to love, as if loving is something difficult for us, something foreign to our species. Although, when we look around ourselves so much of what we see makes it look like anger and bitterness, brokenness and violence are the more natural to us than love. But Jesus tells us that our enmity toward one another and toward creation is because we’ve grown so foreign to ourselves, so distant from God and our our God-breathed nature. Sin is that condition, that inner dissociation, from not only God and others, but from our truest selves.
In the Gospel of John, Jesus tells us that when the Spirit comes (John 14.15-21) we will become what and who we were made to be. “On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you” (14.20). We will come home in the truest sense of the world—home to God, home to ourselves, home to our relationships with others (14.23). No more of that distance between us that is haunted by sin and enmity. Instead, unity, oneness, and harmony are the natural condition of our existence, the reality we’re all yearning for (Acts 17.26-27).
All this was given, as promised (John 14.20), on the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit was poured out (Acts 2). While it’s true that much of the world is dull and blind to this outpouring, or rejects it entirely, doesn’t mean it hasn’t come—that the Spirit is not at work. Sometimes the Spirit moves like a mighty wind; other times, the Spirit’s secretive, like breath—a presence that is making life possible whether we acknowledge that life-giving Force or not.
The earliest disciples struggled with this slow-moving awakening. “How is it that you will reveal yourself to us, and not to the world?” (14.22). Why don’t you just make it clear and easy, Jesus? Why all this stealth? Why not use a trumpet, like Caesar does, for goodness’ sake?
Because, according to Jesus, that’s not the way God works. Jesus reveals the truth of God in the most ordinary way. Nothing spectacular. Nothing sensational. Just the ordinary love shared between ordinary people in ordinary ways. When we love we are living in God and God is living in us. We don’t have to go anywhere to find God. We don’t need a new book, a conference, a pastor or priest, a guru or imam. To know God, we simply need to do what Jesus commanded, “Love one another.” For when we love, we lack nothing. All we truly need is given to us. We come home (John 14.23), truly home—to ourselves, to our relationships, to God. And when we do the world changes, bit by bit, turn by turn, toward the wholeness of God.
This Pentecost (June 8th) we’ll remember all this. We’ll hear again the invitation of Jesus to embrace the Spirit, the Advocate, the Comforter . . . to enter more fully into this utterly simple way of Jesus: the way of love.
So, here’s my invitation to you this summer:
1. Pray. Practice a simpler form of daily prayer this summer. Enter into a few minutes of silence and stillness. Invite the Holy Spirit to draw you into the love of God. Then simply and reverently pray the words: “I love you.” At first these will be your words toward God, and then you may find that they seem to become God’s own words toward you. Pray and listen. Then rest in this experience of simple and deep affection—yours for God and God’s for you.
2. Look. Take regular notice of those who are different from you, and nurture your love for others. The opportunity to do this will come to you every day . . . several times each day. The clerk at the store. A neighbor. Folks walking or driving beside you. Someone in the media. Your teenager or parent. A voice . . . a body type . . . an opinion . . . a behavior. Look for ways these differences show evidence of God’s amazing diversity and the way that diversity represents the grandeur of God.
3. Do. Love is an act. Do something this summer that regularly moves you to live out the simply way of Jesus, “Love one another.” Of course you might do something for another that’s out of the ordinary. Help a homeless person. Care for an elderly neighbor. Become an advocate against some injustice that casts an ugly shadow upon a person, a creature, or some part of God's larger creation. But don’t ignore loving those right around you—in your family, friendships, and workplace.
The way of Jesus is utterly simple and do-able: “Love one another.”
It’s a way that has immense power to change the world.