6th Sunday of Easter
This Sunday, the second reading will be from 1 Jn 4:7-10. I strongly suggest that you read the other readings for this week. It’s Lectionary # 56, if you’re reading from a hard copy. I’d also recommend reading John 3:16-21.
We hear the words so often that their impact has almost become lost on us. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his son into the world to condemn the world, that the world might be saved through him.”
Too often, we forget the stern warning that comes only two verses later: “Whoever believes in him will not be condemned, but whoever does not believe has already been condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.”
In the first reading, Peter has been sent to the Household of Cornelius, and he baptizes them.
In the Gospel, Jesus gives the disciples a very hard command: “If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. I have told you this that my joy may be in you and your joy might be complete. This is my commandment: love one another as I love you.”
This command doesn’t extend only as far as the early Christian community. If it did, Peter would not have gone to Cornelius’ house and baptized him, because he wasn’t in the club yet. No, this command goes hand-in-hand with the Great Commission: “Go, and make disciples of all nations.”
If we are to call all nations to Christ, what should be our behavior toward those who are not in Christ?
The same as anyone who is in Christ. We are to behave with every ounce of love toward them as we do toward our brothers and sisters in Christ, and them some.
We need to love those who are not in Christ even more than those who are, for one simple reason: the thing that convinces most people of the saving power of the Gospel is our behavior. In a sense, their eternity depends on our faithful testimony by our conduct. (How could they come to love and depend on Christ, if they do not know him? And how could they come to know him, if we do not reflect his face to them?)
We are members of the body of Christ, and so it is up to us to reach out to those who are not in Christ, to love them, so that they are able to see that Christ is not only someone they want to know - he is someone they simply cannot live without.
Notice that in the Gospel reading, Jesus tells us that he has given us commandments to follow so that we might share is joy, and so that in Christ, our joy may be complete. Apart from him, any happiness we have is empty and fleeting. Moreover, we know that we, as Christians have an amazing inheritance waiting for us in Heaven; and if we are following the commands of Christ, it is incumbent upon us to do what is in our power to bring as many people with us as we can.
I have friends who are not Christians, and I would like nothing better than for them to share in the joy that Christ has given me and the inheritance that I am confident in. I know that letting them see the face of Christ in my actions is the best way that I can love them, in the hope that they might recognize him, and come to trust him as I do.
Beautiful Savior, be with my relatives and friends who have not placed their trust in you. Let it be that someone they encounter might be the avenue through which you remove the scales from their eyes and change their hearts of stone.
My loving Lord, help me to understand that it may not be your will that my witness convince them alone, and let me be at peace with that. Let me be a faithful witness for them anyway. But most of all, Lord Jesus, help me to persevere in prayer for them, trusting that it is the most powerful weapon we have against the wiles of the Devil.