The early followers of Jesus were obsessed with one thing: imitating Jesus. They made two simple claims.
First, they insisted that “Jesus is alive.” And they didn’t say it in a “scientific-proof-trying-to-make-converts” or a “Jesus-has-a-plan-for-your-life” kind of way. For them, “Jesus is alive” meant that Jesus was resurrected and so all of humanity got activated into a new possibility. It meant an alternative way of living – not vindictively, not self-interestedly, not warringly. Jesus was alive, all right – in the community of people living out his sayings. In how they said “yes” to the things Jesus said God cared about, and “no” to the things conventional religious and political structures told them to care about.
The second thing they said was, “Jesus is Lord.” And that didn’t mean Jesus was on a golden throne somewhere looking down on it all. It meant their new “Jesus-is-alive” resurrection ethic wasn’t just a fad or a phase. It was yeast and seed and light taking hold and becoming reality under the nurturing hand of Jesus’ “abba, Father” God. It meant when the government said, “King So-and-So is Lord,” the Jesus people disagreed. They had something else to offer. They imitated Jesus.
So, how do we know what love is? We watch and listen to Jesus. We pay attention to the people of zero social status who he healed. The subversive inclusion he preached. The children he held in his arms. The violence he repudiated. The favour he bestowed on the most unworthy.
Jesus said he was imitating God.
When we imitate Jesus, we imitate God.
Here’s what’s incredible about serving as an agent of love in the neighbourhood. It can’t be done for money. It can’t be done from a top-down place. Neighbours won’t come to your potluck because of your authority or your sexy subculture. In the neighbourhood, you’re just “one of us.”
But when I’m a Jesus follower, I do have a particular, peculiar ethic of radical love for my neighbour, my family, my friend, my enemy. I believe that Jesus is alive and Jesus is Lord. And as both good and tough relationships build with the folks next door and across the hall, I imitate Jesus and then discover how Jesus is alive and Lord over there, too. In the houses of my atheist and Hindu and Muslim neighbours when they minister to me.
After all, Jesus is alive and Jesus is Lord… everywhere. I just get to join the party.
That’s why “our love must be not just words or mere talk, but something active and genuine,” according to John’s letter to his community. Because Jesus is alive, and he’s Lord, and he wants you and me and them to be alive with love. Just like him. Just like God.
Mark Allan Groleau is a neighbourhood minister, professional wedding officiant, and mediapreneur. He blogs, YouTubes, writes love stories for wedding ceremonies, builds websites, trains wedding officiants, consults in website copy and marketing, and Jesus is his guru.