I Chose You.

The Holy Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ, According to John.

Jesus said to his disciples, “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.” John 15:9-17

As I Have Loved you.

In the last few weeks, the evangelist John has expounded on love. Today is no exception.   And John’s Gospel has Jesus’s words about love: ‘Love each other’. Love others as I have loved you’.The greatest way that you can show love for someone is to die for them.’

So let’s talk about love.  Or otherwise, and how it has played out during the recent past.  

In Palestine, militants attack Israel and Israel retaliates. The attacks are from a distance – rockets from the Palestinian side, and bombings from Israel.

Men women, children are killed, injured, homes destroyed.

India has many problems, not the least of which is trying to fight off Covid 19. But aside from that, it has been reported that in India, over fifty children a day are abducted. 

Here at home, some time ago, a commission spent months looking into the reason for the disappearance of over 4000 indigenous women here in Canada and was criticized for making slow progress. 

Parents who have lost their daughters complain about the lack of action by police when they report a daughter missing.

Why is this – all of this – and more – continuing to happen? 

The reasons are many. In India, hatred between different religious groups and a desire to strike at a hated group,  or maybe to cause friction between such groups, may contribute. 

In Canada’s north, grinding poverty in many communities, and the legacy of the residential schools, are cited.  

In developing countries – here in this developed country – no-one explanation can be found. 

However the objectification of people has to bear some of the blame.  

Once you see a person as an object, then you lose compassion. You lose any human feeling for that object.

During the time of Jesus, each Spring,  a Roman farmer would inspect his implements, his animals –  all the things needed for the planting season – and would discard anything that was damaged, worn out, or otherwise useless to him.  

This included his slaves. He would check out his slaves, and any who had become too old, or too lame, or too sick, would be turned out to fend for themselves.  With the same lack of passion  that he might show in throwing out a useless implement, he would throw out ‘useless’ slaves.

No matter that this slave had labored for him for years. No matter that this slave would be unable to fend for himself, or herself; out they would go. With no more thought than for any other object. The slave was merely an object, in the eyes of  the Roman farmer.  

It’s worth reminding ourselves that on this continent, slaves were also objects not too long ago. And some of their descendants are still being objectified. 

During the late nineteen thirties, Adolf Hitler began the process of getting rid of the Jews in Germany. He began to objectify them. He isolated them. Newspapers, and billboard propaganda denigrated them.  They were labeled by having to wear a yellow Star of David.

They were set apart.

They were objects.

Hitler’s objectification of the Jews was such a success that many ordinary Germans – normally ‘ good’ Germans – found it not too difficult to join him in trying to rid Germany of Jews. 

And assisted in the death camps.

Sad to say, seeing people as objects happens here, in our world, in our country.   And it causes much pain.

The city wants to turn a house into a halfway residence for people with emotional or psychological difficulties: a place where affected persons can be assisted in becoming re-integrated into society. But the neighbours protest, ‘We don’t want people like that in our community.’

People like that?

There, is a phrase that objectifies people. It makes them faceless, nameless, easy to hate, easy to hurt. 

Strangely enough, when the city has gone ahead over objections, and put such a residence into a neighborhood, and people have got to know their new neighbors, their hatred has dissipated.  Those ‘objects’ are now seen as real people, worthy of care.

I knew a man who professed to hate Arabs. He was quite vociferous about his feelings.  As far as he was concerned, they were all the same, all having the same bad traits. There was no arguing with him!

Then one day I saw him talking to his dry cleaner, who happened to be a Moroccan. So, I asked him, “If you hate Arabs, so much, how come you are friendly with Ali?

Oh, he said, “Ali is alright. He’s not like the rest.”

By virtue of their acquaintance, the Arab had become a person. No longer an object.  My friend couldn’t hate Ali.

See where this is going? If you see people as objects, it is easier to hurt them.

If you see them as people, it is not so easy to hurt  them.  You might even be able to love them.

As followers of Jesus- – today, he tells us that we are his friends – we are enjoined to love each other.

This will be the beginning of stopping the hatred that seems to fill the world.

But to stop the hurt in this world: to stop the hurt in this town, in our church, in our family, we have to stop seeing people as objects –   stop labeling them.

You know what I mean:

All Conservatives are out for themselves. Liberals have no principles.  

All gypsies are thieves.

My neighbour is a nasty person.

All Scotsmen are cheap.

Yorkshiremen are cheaper.

All Indians are drunks. 

All homosexuals are sexual predators.

And these are the milder epithets

Brothers and sisters, taking the hurt out of this world is a big job.

And frankly, there is only one way and that is to love people. All people? That might be too big for you and me, you might say.

But we could make a start, here at home, at work, when we are out and about.

Avoid stereotyping.   It means  looking  for ways to understand  someone rather than  condemning them out of hand. It means making a real effort to eliminate hatred,  rather than nurturing it.

The exploitive, sexploitive, explosive, violent nature of this world seems set so deep. that we despair of ever making a difference, let alone triumphing against it, but John tells us that we –  we- children of God can defeat the world, and it is our  faith that will give us the victory.

And you know, Jesus so loved us – and loved those who pervert this world too – that he willingly died for us, and them!

When Jesus tells us that the greatest way to show love for our friends is to die for them,  he is illustrating how much we have to love them.

Well, we might give up our life for a member of our family. Or a really close friend.  But who would willingly die for a stranger?

PARIS (REUTERS, AFP) – The French policeman who was shot three times after voluntarily taking the place of a hostage during a supermarket siege in south-western France on Friday has died, France announced on Saturday (March 24).

Arnaud Beltrame, who once served in Iraq, had been raced to hospital fighting for his life after the siege in which he took the place of a female hostage at the Super U store in the town of Trebes, near the Pyrenees mountains. 

“He fell as a hero, giving up his life to halt the murderous outfit of a jihadist terrorist,” President Emmanuel Macron said in a statement shortly before dawn on Saturday. 

So someone did! 

Give up his life for a stranger.

Perhaps Arnaud Beltrame felt he had no choice.

Because, as Jesus says, “You did not choose me. I chose you.

And, he continues, ” I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.”

Well alright, you say, but I don’t have the skills, the words, the strength.

In a church meeting I attended – where discussion was about the sad state of their financial affairs, a motion was made that a sum of money that had been donated yearly to a home for women – mothers and their children escaping violence – be terminated, the mood was solemn, and it seemed that the motion would pass denying that support.

Then a woman stood up and made an impassioned plea,  speaking  so eloquently, and movingly, that everyone decided that that the donation must be continued.

Afterward I congratulated her on her speech, its eloquence, and persuasiveness.

She replied, ” I have never spoken up at a meeting, before, I have always been afraid to do so. I don’t know what came over me.”

“I chose you!.”

And when he chooses us, he gives us the power!.

Amen.

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