John 13:34-35 is the lectionary text this week, but since we're doing a series on Acts, I won't get a chance to expand on this very valuable analogy.
I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.
If this short teaching from Jesus could be summed up in an image it would be the basin and towel with which he had just washed his disciples’ feet. He had stooped and taken their feet in his hands, cleaned the dust and dirt of the day from them and with care dried them. And then he had instructed them to go and do likewise. They are to make themselves known as followers by acts of humble service and loving care.
It is by a love like this – humble, willing to serve, possibility even willing to die – that should set the disciples of Jesus apart and make them visibly marked as his followers.
As the parent of an 8-year-old I have become very familiar with marks that set individuals apart. I’m talking about My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic and the image on the flank of everypony in Equestria: the cutie mark. Each pony is marked with an image that represents their special gift. Often the gift and the cutiemark that it represents are way each pony serves their community. The pony who’s marked with butterflies loves and cares for animals and nature. The pony marked with apples farms and feeds the town.
Cute though the marks – and the message – may be, the series’ emphasis on relationships, welcoming strangers, second chances, making friends out of enemies and discovering the way each one can contribute to the strength of the community has been a great seed for conversation about those things. There has been much speculation in my household about what each of us might have as a cutie mark if we were ponies. What one image sums up each of our special combinations of gifts and interests in a tattoo-like mark?
As Jesus’ disciples we know that we do each have gifts which we have been given by God. These are the things we’re good and the things we love. The things that work together with the gifts of others to build community and show God’s love to the world.
The love by which Jesus loved his disciples and the world is a powerful love. We are charged with bearing that love in our lives now. Jesus passes his very love onto us and we are branded. And the way we put that mark on display is through the humility, service, care, compassion and non-violent acts of just peace. Whatever each of our particular ‘cutie marks’ might be we are all marked and can be identified as Jesus’ disciples by his love.
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Finally, because the internet, these.