I hope this day finds you and your family well. I invite you to take a few moments with me to read and reflect upon today’s scripture selection — and to carry these thoughts with you into your day.
Today’s Scripture: John 13:31-35
31 When Judas was gone, Jesus said, “Now the Human One[a] has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. 32 If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify the Human One[b] in himself and will glorify him immediately. 33 Little children, I’m with you for a little while longer. You will look for me—but, just as I told the Jewish leaders, I also tell you now—‘Where I’m going, you can’t come.’
34 “I give you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, so you also must love each other. 35 This is how everyone will know that you are my disciples, when you love each other.”
Tim’s Devotional Reflection for Today
When I read today’s scripture reading, I think of the advice from Steven Covey in his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Perhaps his best-known sentence is “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.”
For Jesus, what was the Main Thing? Maybe it is so simple that it can be easy to miss — it can be summed up in just one word: Love.
When asked what the greatest commandment is, Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:29-31)
When Jesus gathered his disciples for their last meal together, he was preparing his disciples for the time when he would no longer be with them. He spoke these words to them: “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.” (John 13:34)
This is just one of many times that Jesus emphasized that our relationship with others is the most important thing, and whatever stands in the way or distracts us away from loving others needs to be set aside.
For Jesus, it’s clear that love is the main thing: “Love one another… just as I have loved you.”
It is also love that is the primary mark of discipleship. Jesus went on to say, “by this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35)
The Guinness Book of World Records lists the shortest sermon ever preached, given by John Albrecht, an Episcopal priest in Michigan. He stood in his pulpit to preach, paused, and then said, “Love!” He then sat down. Some of Albrecht’s members said it was also the best sermon he ever preached. Is there any other one-word sermon Albrecht could have preached that would capture the Main Thing?
Paul, in 1 Corinthians 13 talks about the spiritual gifts God has given everyone and he talks about the nature of the Church as the Body of Christ. Paul says, in essence, that without love the greatest gift in the world is nothing. He says that without love, anything we do is without meaning and significance.
Paul was clear about the Main Thing: “So faith, hope, love abide, these three, but the greatest of these is love.” When the Apostle Paul describes what a life well lived — the Christian life — looks like, he uses the image of a tree bearing fruit, or “The Fruit of the Spirit,” as he called it in his letter to the Galatians. He lists the nine aspects of that fruit and the very first one is love: “By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, . . . “ (Galatians 5:22)
If we are living as disciples of Jesus, striving to live our lives in the way Jesus calls us to live, then love will be evident in our lives. Think about Jesus’ new commandment he gave to his followers and all who would be his followers down to the present.
In your life, are you striving to love as Jesus loved?
Are you keeping the main thing the main thing?
It’s a good spiritual inventory question and answering this question can help us determine some important things about our own faith and the way we are living it out in our lives.
You may also remember that one of Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Successful People is, “Begin with the end in mind.” Covey advises visualizing yourself at your own funeral and listening in your imagination to what people say about you.
It matters little what your net worth was. It matters little how many times your name was in the headlines. These things will not last. Only two things will endure: Is the world a better place because you’ve been here? Did you leave behind a legacy of love?
These two pieces of advice from productivity thought leader Stephen Covey’s are really good: “Keep the main thing the main thing.” and “Begin with the end in mind.”
I also invite you to pray with me a lesser-known prayer of St. Francis of Assisi (1181-1226):
Our Father, each day is a little life, each night a tiny death; help us to live with faith and hope and love.
Lift our duty above drudgery; let not our strength fail, or the vision fade in the heat and burden of the day.
O God, make us patient and pitiful one with another in the fret and jar of life, remembering that each fights a hard fight and walks a lonely way.
Forgive us, Lord, if we hurt our fellow souls; teach us a gentler tone, a sweeter charity of words, and a more healing touch.
Sustain us, O God, when we must face sorrow; give us courage for the day and hope for the morrow.
Day unto day may we lay hold of thy hand and look up into thy face, whatever befall, until our work is finished, and the day is done. Amen.”
Thank you for sharing this early moment of your day with me, with God, and with the words and reflections I hope you will carry with you throughout the coming day and night.
Grace and Peace,
Dr. Tim Bruster