The year was 1966. The war in Vietnam was being ratcheted up by Washington with President Johnson vowing that the 250,000 troops in South Vietnam would stay until the aggression was ended, a move that countered the Soviet Union’s insistence that the US leave. We soldiered on with the Cold War, The Space Race, and the Civil Rights Movement. John Lennon said the Beatles were apparently more popular than Jesus, but then later apologized saying he, “didn’t mean it as a lousy anti-religious thing.” Charles Whitman went on a shooting spree at the University of Texas. Batman, The Monkees, and Star Trek all debuted on television. There were many instances of minority firsts and minority violence and a growing sense of dissatisfaction among the youth of America.
On January 14, 1967, the prelude to the Summer of Love, the Human Be-In, happened at Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco. The Human Be-In intended to focus on personal empowerment, cultural and political decentralization, communal living, ecological awareness, higher consciousness (with the aid of psychedelic drugs), acceptance of illicit psychedelics use, and radical liberal political consciousness. Twenty to thirty-thousand people showed up to listen to the music of Jefferson Airplane, The Grateful Dead, Big Brother and the Holding Company, Quicksilver Messenger Service, and Blue Cheer and speakers like Richard Alpert, Allen Ginsburg, and Timothy Leary who encouraged the crowds to, “Turn on, tune in, drop out.” This was the beginning of what would be known as the Summer of Love, a time where “many were suspicious of the government, rejected consumerist values, and generally opposed the Vietnam War. A few were interested in politics; others were concerned more with art (music, painting, poetry in particular) or spiritual and meditative practices.” It attracted people across the social spectrum: teenagers and college students drawn by their peers and the allure of joining an alleged cultural utopia; middle-class vacationers; and even partying military personnel from bases within driving distance. While atmosphere promoted was one of love and peace, Haight-Ashbury could not accommodate the massive population explosion, and the neighborhood fell apart, with overcrowding, homelessness, hunger, drug problems, and crime afflicting the neighborhood. The entire movement ended with a funeral for “The Hippie” on October 6, 1967, with organizer Mary Casper saying, “We wanted to signal that this was the end of it, to stay where you are, bring the revolution to where you live and don’t come here because it’s over and done with.”
The sentiments of the Summer of Love were captured in a song written a few years before and released by the Youngbloods during in July 1967:
Love is but a song to sing
Fear’s the way we die
You can make the mountains ring
Or make the angels cry
Though the bird is on the wing
And you may not know why
Come on people now
Smile on your brother
Everybody get together
Try to love one another
The truth is, that last part, the song’s chorus, has a lot in common with Jesus’s message in our passage today. Some theologians consider our passage to be the true beginning of Jesus’s pastoral or high priestly prayer with and for the disciples as they are gathered in the upper room. Jesus begins by talking about glorification, that God is glorified – held in honor or magnified – in Jesus and will also glorify Jesus in himself (God). Jesus goes on from there to talk about how is going away, something he will mention several times in connection with the coming of the Holy Spirit in the next few chapters. Then Jesus gives them a new commandment, but one that sounds familiar already but with a slight caveat, I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. “The newness isn’t so much a matter of never having heard words like this before. It’s a matter of the mode of this love: love one another, in the same way that I have loved you.” The implication of loving others shows up throughout the Gospel of John in Jesus’s ministry, but this is the first explicit mention of the phrase in the text and Jesus is tying it to the example he has set over the past three years. Jesus will mention this phrase five times over the span of the next nine paragraphs, each time reminding them to love one another. But what does he mean?
In the Mediterranean world, love had an underlying meaning that helps begin the process of understanding for us. It meant attachment of some kind to a group – someone’s family, village, neighborhood, ethnic group, or kinship group or as an attachment to God. Love meant doing something for one of these groups of people in order to demonstrate the emotional attachment that was felt: if you loved someone, you did things that supported their well being. It was a way of showing loyalty, reliability, faithfulness, and harmony with the other person or people. For the better part of the last three years, this is what Jesus has been doing for those who have been in his path. He has most immediately demonstrated to the disciples as he washed their feet, showing them a humble, self-effacing service that will be a sign of their discipleship to one another, an example of their love for each other.
The idea that Jesus was trying to get across to the disciples was to look at his entire life and ministry as an example of something called kenotic love. Kenotic was a word popular with the early church fathers that meant ‘to empty’ especially the idea of emptying one’s self out to be filled with the Holy Spirit and then be used in service for others as an imitation of Jesus doing the same. Thinking about love in this way shows us that Jesus life was a revelation of God’s love to us through the work of Jesus. In presenting it this way, Jesus commandment to love one another (the Greek for commandment being a word on the order of a royal proclamation) becomes an expectation, if you are going to call yourselves my disciples, my followers, my examples of godliness in Creation, you have to love one another in the same way I have loved you.
One commentator said, reading this should makes us cringe at the way so-called Christians have turned the gospel into a weapon to brandish at the world. Understanding that we love as Jesus loves means we love everyone: no exceptions, exclusions, provisos, quid pro quos, or other attempts to weasel out of it. If they are a living, breathing human being placed here on this terrestrial ball we are to love them.
So, let’s see how we are doing. I think a good litmus test is found in the Sermon on the Mount so let’s look over some of what Jesus taught us to do and see how we are doing.
- Anyone who is so much as angry with a brother or sister is guilty of murder.
- Anyone who is so much as angry with a brother or sister is guilty of murder.
- Your heart can be corrupted by lust even quicker than your body. Those leering looks you think nobody notices—they also corrupt.
- And don’t say anything you don’t mean…You only make things worse when you lay down a smoke screen of pious talk, saying, ‘I’ll pray for you,’ and never doing it, or saying, ‘God be with you,’ and not meaning it.
- Jesus said, “You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst.”
- Be especially careful when you are trying to be good so that you don’t make a performance out of it. It might be good theater, but the God who made you won’t be applauding.
- And when you come before God, don’t turn that into a theatrical production either…Find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage.
- Your eyes are windows into your body. If you open your eyes wide in wonder and belief, your body fills up with light. If you live squinty-eyed in greed and distrust, your body is a dank cellar. If you pull the blinds on your windows, what a dark life you will have!
- Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults— unless, of course, you want the same treatment. That critical spirit has a way of boomeranging. It’s easy to see a smudge on your neighbor’s face and be oblivious to the ugly sneer on your own.
- And finally, if you just use my words in Bible studies and don’t work them into your life, you are like a stupid carpenter who built his house on the sandy beach. When a storm rolled in and the waves came up, it collapsed like a house of cards.
Think about that. Let it sink in. After you have, ask yourself this, where’s the love, man? Where’s the love?
Haenchen, Ernst. 1984. John 2: A Commentary on the Gospel of John Chapters 7-21. Philadelphia: Fortress Press.
Malina, Bruce J., and Richard L. Rohrbaugh. 1998. Social-Science Commentary on the Gospel of John. Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress Press.
Martin, Francis, and William M. Wright IV. 2015. The Gospel of John: Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic.
Sloyan, Gerard. 1988. John: Interpretation – A Bible COmmentary for Preaching and Teaching. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press.
Wright, N.T. 2004. John – For Everyone: Part Two, Chapters 11-21. London / Louisville: The Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge and Westminster John Knox Press.
Youngbloods, The. 1967. Get Together. Comp. Chet Powers.
 Taken (with a grain of salt as always) from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1966_in_the_United_States
 Hinckley, David (October 15, 1998). “Groovy The Summer Of Love, 1967”. New York Daily News. Retrieved September 28, 2012.
 Gail Dolgin; Vicente Franco (2007). The Summer of Love. American Experience. PBS. Retrieved April 23, 2007.
 “Transcript (for American Experience documentary on the Summer of Love)”. PBS and WGBH. March 14, 2007.
 (Youngbloods 1967)
 (Wright 2004, p.55)
 (Malina and Rohrbaugh 1998, p.228)
 (Haenchen 1984, p.117)
 (Martin and Wright IV 2015, p.242)
 (Wright 2004, p.56)