Reflecting God’s Love, for All That It was Meant To Be
John 13 begins, “Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end [telos].” Telos can mean an end, as in a termination point. However,It most often is used to convey a sense of achieving a purpose or a goal.
As I read John 13, it seems the culminating point comes in vv. 12-16: “When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.” Or, perhaps the penultimate is vv. 34 & 35. “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Jesus has spent several years helping the disciples to understand how much God loved them. It seems to me that he is now teaching them that His love reaches it’s purpose, i.e., it becomes all it was meant to be, when they, in turn, love one another. In fact, to come up with an excuse to justify why I cannot serve or love an individual is to say, in essence, “that was all right for you, Jesus, but, I am better than that.” I can’t say that I ever felt superior to Jesus. However, in practice, sometimes it seems that I do consider myself to be such.
1John 4 also develops this concept of God’s love becoming all it was intended to be through us: v. 12, “If we love one another, God resides in us, and his love is perfected [telos] in us.” Or, vv. 16,17, “God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected [telos] with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world.”
So far, I would summarize thus, “Yes, God wants me to know how much God loves me. But, that is only the beginning of the story. His love only realizes it’s true, fullest intent when I in turn love and serve others, as He has loved me.” But wait, there is even more!
Matt 5: 44-48 states, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers,* what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect (telos), as your heavenly Father is perfect [telos].”
It seems to me that the first intent of the verse is to note the unconditional love of God, i.e., that He also is gracious and merciful to those, who don’t seem to deserve it. I conclude then, that my love is not all that it is meant to be, it hasn’t reached it’s fullest expression, until I love, and am merciful to, not only my brothers and sisters, but even those, whom I might consider unworthy of such love—even my enemy, as God does. Hmmm . . . a tall order for today.