I know I am not the first person to come to the conclusion that people in general, and maybe my generation specifically, has a hard time with commitment. Divorce is consistently on the rise and even cell phone contracts make us shudder sometimes…really 2 whole years….with one cell phone service provider? Oh man.
We live in a world that easily allows us to shirk our commitments. And yet, the life that Jesus repeatedly calls us to live flies in the face of all that comes naturally when it comes to commitment. I was recently reading in John and came upon this passage:
Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. (John 13:1 NIV)
Here is the context: Jesus is sitting at, what He knows to be His last Passover Feast, with his all time favorite people, His disciples. I picture it in my head like this; it’s like that clip from your favorite TV drama where one of the lead characters is about to make his exit but no one else knows. So he is sitting in a room with his besties, looking at each face and reliving memories while Sarah MacLaughlin’s “I Will Remember You” is playing softly in the background. I’m sure it was EXACTLY like that.
So Jesus is reminiscing to Himself and thinking about the not so far away future and His impending death and the Bible frames the whole situation with this verse about how Jesus loved these people to the end. And I can’t stop thinking about what that means for me in my life.
Those who know my family and me know that there is a very blurry line for us between friends and family. I love my friends fiercely and, I think, I am pretty committed to them. But this verse called me out. Do I really love my friends “to the end”? Now, maybe I do because I decide what is “the end”. Maybe I decide “the end” is when someone moves away. Or maybe its when too much life change occurs and we just don’t have the time anymore. Or, maybe it’s when I decide we no longer have anything in common and our friendship has reached the end of its “season”. (PS: I think assigning seasons to friendships is about as lame as the girl who always said she had cramps in gym class so she could get out of running that day. But that’s another post.) Regardless, I am pretty confident that while I might find those as suitable endings, Jesus clearly defined “the end” as death.
And I know for a fact that I am guilty of no longer loving my friends when I have determined our friendship to have ended for one of the above reasons (other than death). And that is where God poked and prodded me this morning. Yes, people move away. Yes, there is never enough time. And yes, people grow and evolve and sometimes that means that we don’t have as much in common as we used to. But, NO, none of those are good enough reasons to withdraw my love from someone that I used to hold tight. My commitment to love the people I have committed to love needs to extend beyond ease and convenience.
Let me give you an example I recently saw play out from one of my husband’s friends continuing to love him to the end. Our friend, Ian, is a sales rep for a huge national surf company. He travels endlessly. He and his family moved from Orlando to a beach town an hour and a half away a few years ago and we miss them terribly. But life is busy. And an hour and a half seems a lot longer when you have kids in tow and as a result we don’t see them or talk to them nearly as often as we would like.
Ian was recently traveling home from one of his marathon sales trips around the Southeast. On this same night, Greg and I were sitting on our couch, watching TV and eating junk food when there is a knock on our front door. Its 9:30 on a school night so I immediately decide it’s someone coming to rob us (because thieves always knock on the door before they rob you). So I stay firmly planted on the couch while Greg walks to the front door. And for a second all I see from my view is a box of beer being held into the doorway. It turns out it was Ian, traveling by on his long journey home, and he has bought Greg some of his favorite beer that he can’t get in Orlando, or Florida for that matter. Ian walks in, hugs Greg, hugs me, says he loves us and is back out the door to his still running car waiting to take him the last hour and a half back home to where his family is sitting on the couch waiting for him. Oh, and did I mention that it was raining? Because it was.
Greg is visibly stunned. And in that moment I thought, “Ian loves Greg.” Not because he bought him beer, although that helps, but because Ian had gone way out of his way to show Greg how much he valued his friendship. And despite the fact that he lives far away, that we both have kids demanding constant attention and we don’t ever get to hang out as often as we like, Ian and his wife are committed to loving us TO THE END.
And that is refreshing and challenging and convicting all at the same time. How would my friendships look differently if I committed to loving people to the end? What if I grabbed hold of these friends in my life and said, “No matter where you live or how many kids you have or if you decide to only eat pork for the rest of your life (or something I deem equally as crazy), I will love you to the very end.” I guarantee you these relationships would look a little more like heaven and would probably speak volumes to an earth that is groaning to see a little bit of heaven. Don’t you think?