Christians ought to stand out from the rest of humanity. This is not a statement that is supposed to engender some sort of sinful pride or arrogance in the heart of Christians. It is merely an expression of a belief that comes from the heart of the Gospel. Jesus makes it quite clear that anyone who desires to follow in His footsteps must make a choice to love, not just his or her friend or relative, but all people. The imperative to seek revenge for one person’s sin against another person is gone forever! At least, it is supposed to be gone from the hearts of all Christians.

Jesus sets the example by praying for and forgiving those who crucify Him. If that is the response of Jesus to His persecutors then that is the example that we must follow if we are to become more like Him. In the Gospel today Jesus commands His disciples to love one another as He has loved them. Because they are His friends we feel as though we can immediately relate to this command. However, the command is deeper than we first think!

The disciples deserted Jesus in His hour of greatest need- on the cross! What does this tell us about Jesus’ love for them? Jesus is often frustrated with the disciples seeming lack of comprehension, yet He perseveres with them and does not give up on them. In other words, the disciples are just like us and their relationships with Jesus are probably very similar to our own- full of good times and bad; joys and sorrows; sins and forgiveness. The key in all of this is to realise that the command to love one another is not given to us as an impossible command to fulfil! God always provides us with the necessary grace to be faithful to His call.

We can be sure that God has given us the grace, through the gift of the Holy Spirit, in order that we can love one another and fulfil this wonderful call to put an end to the cycle of hatred and violence that so often results from the constant pursuing of revenge rather than love and forgiveness.

When was the last time that I deliberately chose to forgive and so end a cycle of revenge seeking or tit-for-tat? Do I always choose the way of love rather than hatred and violence?

Father in heaven, you chose to forgive me and so sent Jesus to be my Saviour. Help me to accept the grace of forgiveness that He offers to me for my sins and to extend the same forgiveness to those who sin against me.