Modeling Love

By Kate Dugan

“I give you a new commandment: love one another.As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.”

Love one another. It sounds like such a simple charge; a commonsensical charge that makes brilliant sense to even kindergarteners. But what does it really mean? And why is it not always so easy to do as I thought it was when I was six?

Jesus tells these words to his disciples in his final resurrected days. He trying to tell them that he will be leaving soon, their time together is limited. And the way to live out what they have experienced is to love one another. I wonder if any of the disciples ever wanted to just shake their heads at Jesus and say, “yeah, sure; easier said than done.”

Loving one another, it seems to me, is sort of a complicated mix of appreciating people for who and where they are and recognizing that even if I don’t like something, it doesn’t mean I don’t still love that person.

I grew up with two younger sisters and were had our fair share of fights and quibbles—some lasted for a few minutes and others for days. But my folks always reminded us that we don’t have to like everything about each other all the time, but we have to keep loving our sisters.

Somehow or another, I grew up knowing I loved my sisters and my parents. I knew it when I first loved my husband. I realized as an adult that I loved several of my friends. Love seems to be more an instinct for me than a trained trait. And yet, Jesus tells us to love one another—as if it something we can hone in ourselves and each other.

I’m reminded of that great book, Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree. Love is also something we learn by modeling. The little boy learned about loving from a lifetime of watching (usually unknowingly) the tree give love. I must have picked up on how to love people in my life by watching my folks love each other and my sisters and their siblings and their friends. We learn it by osmosis. So maybe Jesus’ charge is really about realizing the ways people all around you are modeling love—so that we might remember to follow their example.


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