Acts 15:22-31
John 15:12-17


This I command you: love one another.

I once spent time with a man whose wife had left him because of his violence. He could not stop saying he loved her. Like all of us he experienced a longing, a deep need, for love of another, and, like all of us, he felt the urge to possess, to control, to keep the other to himself, without respect for their freedom as a person. Out of control, those feelings led to violence and destruction.

Jesus invites us to forget self and our needs. He emptied himself. He let go of his own needs for the sake of the beloved. He could say, “Love one another as I love you.”

The disciples went out after the resurrection on fire with the love poured upon them by Jesus and yet they struggled to remain faithful to love’s call in the face of challenges. Today we read how those early Christians had a dispute on their hands; should non-Jewish converts be obliged to be circumcised?

Things got very hot in Antioch. Jesus had given peace and love, but it was unravelling with bitter disputes. Finally, the whole thing went up to Jerusalem to the leaders of the community. The discussion was lively until a wonderful speech by Peter convinced all that there must be no discrimination, and James settled it in these words,  “Therefore I have reached the decision that we should not trouble those Gentiles who are turning to God.”

We can look to Mary, the mother of Jesus. She too, emptied herself as she pondered in her heart the gift of her son, and on Calvary gave over that gift for us so that in that moment we became with John her new children.

How easy it is for our own needs to take over. Our unselfish love, our gift of ourselves to others, can be overwhelmed by the urge to possess and control without respect for the freedom of those we love. It is time to look into our hearts and discern our actions and motivation. Perhaps I am ninety percent giving and keeping ten percent for myself. Or, maybe a times giving only then percent, a token, while really driven by our need. It is time to let go.

This I command you, love one another.

Jeff Foale is an Australian Passionist living in Vietnam, a former New Guinea missionary with a passion for service of the poor and refugees and who loves life in all its forms and enjoys photography.