Motto for 2023

Love One Another‘A new command I give you: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.’

John 13:34-35

Rev Pieter Lalleman introduced our 2023 Motto.  

At the beginning of the year, many people ask: ‘What will the new year bring us?’ A correct answer would be: ‘365 opportunities to love one another – minus 7 because today is already 8 January.’

In choosing this motto I am not criticising the congregation.  The love for each other here is not less than in other churches.  But I am attentive to the warning of Jesus in Matthew 24:12: ‘… many false prophets will appear and deceive many people.  Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold.’  So we need encouragement.  And when it comes to love, we should never be complacent anyway.  Loving each other might also become harder as we get more diverse as a result of Renew 88.

Jesus calls this a ‘new’ command, but is it really new? Already in the Old Testament believers are called to love one another, see the reading from Leviticus.  Yet it is indeed a new command, because now Jesus is the norm, and the love between Father and Son is the norm.  In the immediate context of our text, Jesus talks about Peter’s betrayal.  But at the beginning of John 13, we read how Jesus washes the feet of his disciples.  He shows his deep love for them by doing the work of the servant.  In this way Jesus sets the example of love.  He also shows his love by coming to live on this earth and by his death on the cross.  His love is self-giving service.  He sets the standard.

Reflecting on this high standard immediately makes us aware that by ourselves we can’t do this. We can’t love like Jesus.  For this we need the Holy Spirit.  Love is one of the fruits of the Spirit.

Even if you struggle to love, think of the effect our love will have on others.  They will see it and ‘know that we are his disciples’.  Other people will come to know Jesus as a result of our love – or not if we don’t love!  Our testimony is at stake.

What does this command mean in concrete terms? Love is a verb, not a feeling.  We have to do it.  I could give many examples of what love means in practice, but here are just a handful:

  • To love one another, and the person next door, and the whole village, is something that involves all of us. It won’t do to say that you pay a community pastor to do this for you.
  • It does not mean that we need to agree about everything. If the church’s interior walls need painting, it is possible that some opt for yellow and others for green.  It is OK to disagree, but we still need to respect and love one another.
  • If anything has happened, if we have fallen out, we need to reconcile as soon as possible. Apologies are appropriate, and maybe we should bring flowers to the other person/party.
  • We should always defend one another vis-à-vis third parties. If anyone attacks one of us, we gather around that person.  We don’t believe what outsiders say about our people, unless there is real evidence of an offence.
  • A Dutch children’s song says: ‘When you love someone very much, you give them the best you have. That’s normal.’  In verse 2 it goes on to say that God gave us the best he had, i.e. Jesus.  That was not normal.  Loving one another means giving one another the best we can.  That might be our time and energy.
  • A former governor of Spurgeon’s College, who was a retired Baptist minister, often told us about a lady in his church who in her will had left all her money to Battersea Dogs Home. He rightly argued that she should have given at least some of her legacy to the work of the Lord.  Please show love for your brothers and sisters when you make a will.

Our Theme for 2024

There is but one Lord, Jesus Christ,
through whom all things came and through whom we live.

1 Corinthians 8:6