John 13: 34-35.  34 So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.   35 Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”

There’s an old saying that character is ‘who you are when no one’s lookin’.  Well, Jesus delivered the above because he knew that soon, he wasn’t going to be looking over his disciples’ shoulders.  He would be gone and he knew what we humans are made of, putty and clay and other malleable stuff.  He knew even his disciples needed some really simple instructions, something even their (and our) small brains could grasp and he knew they needed a reference point, something to use an example so he told them, ‘Go act like me, do the thing that I have done for you and to you for as long as I have known you as my followers.’  And then he trusted them with his love, in absentia.

It’s Latin and if you’re like me you’ve heard it but didn’t really know what it meant.  It means “in the absence of” and its concept meshes nicely with what Jesus was instructing these men to do.  He delivered his command shortly before his death and at the same time he told Peter he would betray him three times.  Of course Peter vowed he wouldn’t but he had no idea the impact of the absence of his leader.  Jesus knew these men would be tested, persecuted and many put to death for what they did in his name.  He knew it would take a powerful truth and the most powerful of forces to prove who they were to the people who would not believe.  He chose the biggest force he knew; love.

Jesus knew that like the inexorable bond of the two words ‘in’ and ‘absentia’ (they’re almost never used alone) his love should forever be associated with his followers.  He knew that love was the one and only way they could stand out, from the crowds, from the naysayers and from the charlatans.  It’s really no different today.  Although ‘love’ gets bandied about as much as it ever has it’s certainly no easier to find.  And the commitment that is true love, tested by time, forged through difficulty and given away freely is just as special and defining as it was when He said it to his disciples.

Use it, be it and carry it as his follower and his teaching, his legacy and his love will live forever in you, in absentia.

I imagine we all ought to be aware of our legacy but I think the worry about it is a little overblown.  The direction really is pretty simple.  Love one another.  Everything else will fall into place after that.

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