John 13:34 NRSV

I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. (John 13:34 NRSV)

Love is not optional for the followers of Jesus Christ. Jesus says, "A new commandment I give to you..." Not a suggestion, not a recommendation. A commandment.

Why is it a commandment? Because there is a part of every one of us that rebels against the idea of pure, unconditional love. There is a part of us that says such love is out of place in the world in which we live. Sure, love is great up to a point, but we want to be sure that we still have some room for some of the baser emotions like anger, resentment and even hate.

We are like a woman who came to Ibn Saud, the man who ruled Saudi Arabia from 1932-1953. This woman had come to him to demand the death of a man who had killed her husband. This man had been picking dates from a palm tree when he accidentally fell, hitting the woman's husband and fatally injuring him. Although the king tried to persuade the woman not to pursue her rights, she insisted. Finally, the king said, "It is your right to ask for this man's life, but it is my right to decree how he shall die. You shall take this man with you immediately, and he shall be tied to the foot of a palm tree. Then you yourself shall climb to the top of the tree and cast yourself down upon him from that height. In that way you will take his life as he took your husband's." The woman quickly changed her mind, realizing that in satisfying her need for revenge, she would also be risking her life.

Do we try to make certain that everybody gets what they deserve? How about trying the commandment of love. It makes more sense.

God of love, show me the way of love, instead of the way of revenge. In Jesus' name, Amen.
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