On November 19, 1977, I stood before a beautiful young woman in front of a crowded church and made a vow to God that I would love her as long as we both lived. It was an easy promise to make. I knew that I already loved her and I was eagerly looking forward to the years to come. But I had no idea just how hard that promise would be to keep. Standing at that altar, love seemed so easy. In real life it wasn’t. By the end of our first year of marriage things were pretty stormy. We were so young and we were both deeply disappointed that our self-centered desires for marriage were not being met. It would have been easy for either one of us to walk away, but we didn’t. A few years later a crisis hit our marriage with such force that even our family and friends could not understand why we stayed together. Frankly, I’m not sure how we stayed together either. The thin thread that held us together was not anything that we brought to the table. It was an unshakable conviction that God had brought us together and that He must have a purpose in all of this. And He did. He was teaching us how to love. He was teaching us that love is not about how we feel or having our needs met. Love is an unshakable commitment to die to ourselves for the sake of others; even when we don’t feel like it. Even when it hurts us and our needs aren’t being met.
This truth doesn’t apply only to marriage. Sunday’s text is John 13:31-35 in which Jesus commands His followers to love one another. When we receive the grace of salvation and stand up to join the body of Christ, it seems so easy. We love Jesus and the new life He has given us; we love the new family He has given us; it seems so easy. But it doesn’t take long to discover that loving one another can be a painful and difficult command to keep.
To prepare for Sunday, I would like you to read this passage, and then read I Corinthians 13. Look at the context of I Corinthians 13. It might surprise you that this chapter is not written about marriage. It is given to teach us how we are to love each other. As you read each statement regarding what love is and/or does, ask the Holy Spirit within you to give you an honest assessment of how well it describes you. Then ask God to open your heart to truly loving others.