Time to revisit command to love one another
Updated: Jun 4, 2020
John 13: 34-35
“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.”
Amidst chaos look inside yourself on how you can make a difference
Alabama became a safer-at-home state and opened its beaches earlier than many others.
My wife and I ventured to the beach the week prior to the expected massive crowds for Memorial Day weekend.
The beach was crowded enough with many of the license plates in the parking lots from Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas and Florida that had not yet completely opened its beaches.
We witnessed something disturbing. Several families near our beach umbrella made it a continual habit of picking up jellyfish in a net and dropping them in the sand behind the fence to die. Purple flags were flying – meaning dangerous marine life was in the area – so people were aware of the concern, seeing many jellyfish along the shore that week.
There are lots of jellyfish in the Gulf of Mexico, so it would be completely impossible to rid the area of them. There are too many.
At first, I thought that it was just these families. But during the week, I went for walks on the beach for two miles in both directions and saw the same behavior over and over.
It started me thinking, is that the way people treat any inconvenience?
If there is something you don’t like or understand, just eradicate it?
Two days after we came home, George Floyd was tragically killed in Minneapolis. I can’t comprehend how anyone – particularly a police officer – could kneel on the neck of someone until they died. I can’t comprehend how the three police officers with him didn’t stop it.
I can comprehend numerous, loud protests that keep going until it finally forces concrete changes in our country to eliminate racism.
I can’t comprehend going against God's commands to hurt innocent people and destroy their property and businesses.
In John 8, Jesus is in the temple courts when the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They told him, because of the law, they were commanded to stone to her. They were trying to trap Him – to get him to say something where they could charge him with later.
But Jesus bends down to write on the ground with his finger and says: “Any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”
Those who heard him began to leave – it says the older ones first – until Jesus was the only one left standing with woman who was accused.
Jesus then asked her: “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
“No one, sir,” she said.
“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”
We’re all sinners. We need to recognize that. No one is free.
Two years ago, the Legacy Museum and Lynching Memorial opened in downtown Montgomery. While golfing in a tournament at a local country club, I was asked numerous questions why the newspaper I was working for provided such extensive coverage of its opening. I said because it’s important. My answers were met with consternation.
A doctor, who lived in Montgomery 50 years before retiring and moving out of state, heard the conversations and invited me to sit with him at dinner.
He told me that he and his wife earlier that week visited both the museum and memorial (that represented the 4,400 African-American men, women and children who were hanged, burned alive, shot, drowned, and beaten to death by white mobs between 1877 and 1950).
He leaned into me and said: “I didn’t realize we did that to them.”
Each human being is a brother and sister in Christ. Genesis says that everyone is made in God’s image.
If you have acted in a racist manner in the past. Repent.
If you have treated other people poorly and acted as if you were better than someone else. Repent. Then stop it and go and sin no more. Break that chain right now.
You can’t do anything about what happened in this country in the past 200 years. You can’t do anything about what’s happening 1,500 miles away from where you live. But there is one thing you can do.
You can control yourself. What you do. What you say to others. How you help others. How you defend others. How you love others.
The coronavirus is contagious. That has been drummed into our heads the last several months. But kindness and giving is contagious, too.
When you wake up each morning, ask yourself: "What can I do today to help someone – maybe someone with a different background, race or social class?"
It’s not hard. Ask God for help and you can be creative.
For six years, I wrote Eric Wynn, whom I met on a Kairos prison ministry weekend in 2010. While still incarcerated, he founded the WAR Foundation – with WAR standing for We’re All Related.
Since his release from prison in 2016, Wynn spends every waking moment spreading the message of love, respect and that we are all in this together selling T-shirts and speaking to children at schools throughout Birmingham.
My father served as a letter-writing mentor to two inmates from Staton Correctional that were in the Resolution for Men class I teach there. My Mom has written them a letter each week for the last three years. Twice a year she sends packages of food for these two men who have no contact with their own families. They call my parents Mama and Papa Z.
When I told my mother that guys from the class said having your birthday while incarcerated is hard because it’s either just another day or if the other inmates find out it’s your birthday, you are harassed.
So, my mom asked the two inmates their birthdays. On that day, she tells them to go outside and see the sun or the moon and says: "I’m going to go outside and look at that same sun and that same moon and sing Happy Birthday to you."
You can make a difference. Everyone can make a difference in someone’s life.
Have you ever heard the story about the starfish? Well, maybe for my purposes, I’ll change it to the one about jellyfish.
There was an old man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach every morning before he began to write. One day, walking along the shore after a big storm he found the beach littered with jellyfish, stretching in both directions.
Off in the distance, the old man noticed a small boy approaching. As the boy walked, he paused every so often and as he grew closer, the man could see that he was occasionally bending down to pick up an object and throw it into the sea. The boy came closer still and the man called out, “Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?”
The young boy paused, looked up, and replied: “Throwing jellyfish into the ocean. The tide has washed them up onto the beach and they can’t return to the sea by themselves. When the sun gets high, they will die, unless I throw them back into the water.”
The old man said: “But there must be thousands of jellyfish. I’m afraid you won’t really be able to make much of a difference.”
The boy bent down, picked up yet another jellyfish and threw it into the ocean. Then smiled and said: “It made a difference to that one!”
That's the way it works with kindness. It matters to that person.
Before Jesus gives the disciples the new command to love another, he washes the disciples’ feet. When he got done, he asks them: “Do you understand what I have done for you?”
Then he says, “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet.
“I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.”
Being kind may lead a person to be kind to someone else.
On Father’s Day in 2017, a customer at a McDonald’s in Scottsboro, Indiana, paid for the meal of the vehicle behind him in the drive thru window.
For the next 167 cars, each customer paid for the next customer. The only reason the streak ended was because the store closed for the night.
Start spreading that virus of loving one another in Christ’s name.
That’s what Jesus intended from the very beginning.
Brad Zimanek is the Associate Pastor at Mulder Church in Wetumpka, Alabama. He worked in sports journalism for 32 years prior to answering the call to full-time ministry.