St. John 13.vv.31-35
~ When Judas had gone out, Jesus said, "Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, 'Where I am going you cannot come'. I give you a new commandment that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." ~
Our reading speaks of something absolutely up to date and understood by all whether young or old, namely advertising. This is surely the great age of advertising, of trying to convince people that they need or want goods or services. Some advertisements are very amusing, some unintelligible, some pathetically poor, but they are all directed to the same end. In recent years we have seen a "rash" of T-shirts - some slightly obscene, some meaningless drawing attention to the self. There are thankfully some more honest and acceptable which draw attention to the dearly held beliefs of those who display them. Of such the "Ichthus" or fish symbol is a good example for it points to the one who is "Jesus Christ, Son of God, Saviour", using the initial letters of the Greek word for "fish", in itself a symbol of early Christianity.
But even if we do not seek to advertise ourselves or our beliefs or wish to draw others' attention to ourselves, we are nevertheless "public figures". "Smile, you're on TV" is the message of monitoring security cameras!
We may desire privacy but it is denied us. We are public spectacles, and what unprepossessing ones we sometimes are!
For Christians, as St. Paul says, there is a terrible terrifying responsibility for we advertise Christ. He does not say this in so many words, but if he were here (and is he not?) I am sure he would agree that is what he meant when he said, "We proclaim not ourselves but we proclaim Christ Jesus", and this we do by the quality of our lives - or like a cracked or distorting mirror we reflect a distorted reflection of Christ.
Do we in fact show in our lives that love, joy, and peace come from discipleship - for Our Lord said, "By this shall all people know you are my disciples if you have love for one another". Jesus did not say, "People will know you by what you say - but by what you are".
"Actions", we say, "speak louder than words". Of the early Christians it was said, "See how these Christians love one another". Visiting many Churches in my travels I can testify to the warmth and love of Christian congregations among whom the Holy Spirit works.
But we may well ask, "What is the nature of this love?". Jesus says he "commands" it! It cannot, therefore, be a love based solely upon a sentiment or feeling; it cannot be loving because the loved one is attractive and lovable; or the mutual regard of those who have "fallen in love". A love commanded is a matter more of the will than the heart, a love that shows unconquerable good will to all mankind - the unloving, unlovable and unloved. It must be the disciplined love that persists in the face of rejection and hatred; if need be a love like that of Jesus who said "Father, forgive them" at the Cross, the love that cannot be defeated, the love of Christ for all sinful humanity loving the sinner whilst hating the sin. Jesus said, "If you love like this, all will know you are my disciples".
If indeed we love like this, the world will see in us the distinguishing marks of the true Christian radiance, joy and glory - those marks that non-Christians will recognise and by God's grace wistfully yearn after with a desire to be drawn into the Kingdom of God.