Familiarity Breeds Contempt

A quick thought about LOVE as Christmas is nearly here. We could look at a lot of different places here- the greatest commandment to love God and love your neighbor or the even harder instruction to love your enemies. But those are really instructions Jesus gives to the general populous. Is there something more that Jesus says to specifically instruct his followers?

So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” John 13.34-35

At first glance, this isn’t any different from any of the other times Jesus is talking about love. Right? So what’s the big deal? Well, Jesus indicates here that the disciples’ love for each other will be the thing that sets them apart. Not their love for their neighbor. Not their love for their enemies. Their love for each other.

And again, this seems like an easier charge- almost as if Jesus is lowering the bar. But let’s just shoot straight here. They say familiarity breeds contempt. That the more intimately you know someone, the more the more likely they are to really grate on you. And who do you know better than your own family?

See, with others, it’s easier to show some semblance of love or compassion. We can buy a cup of coffee for a stranger or offer a simple smile to the person walking down the hall. But we’re much more comfortable with family. We’re suddenly hit with laziness, apathy, bitterness, comparison, one-upmanship, and cynicism.

I really think Jesus understood here that if we could get a grip on really, truly showing love to the people in our own body- our own church, our own family, our own friend groups, that would spill over into our interactions with people who aren’t yet family. But if we love those outside and don’t love those inside… well, there’s a word for that. Hypocrisy. And suddenly we don’t become a clear reflection of Christ. We become exactly what the world expects us to be. “Do as I say, not as I do” hypocrites.

Love like Jesus. Anything else falls short.  

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