The 15th chapter of John’s gospel is filled with talk of love – love expressed in word, thought, and deed. It is love for us to live with; it is love for us to live in. The verses appointed for today discuss this major dimension of a Christian’s life. Love is so important that some say that love should be what all else is built upon. We read a remarkable section in a profound chapter. The word “love,” is repeated eight or nine times --- yet, as a person reads the passage quietly to himself, each involvement of this important word has a slightly different shade of meaning, giving the whole statement additional dimension.
“The way to spread Christianity is to be a Christian.” It sounds a little like the wisdom that states “To have a friend, be a friend.” Sounds so simple that it might be a “toss off,” but it is so comprehensive that it requires total commitment. Jesus, in the fullness of His love, has given His life in love for us.
Have you read something and then re-read the statement, and perhaps given it a third reading or hearing? Maybe you passed on what you read to be voiced by another reader in order to hear additional meanings in it as it is read by a different voice. Try that with this passage.
The source of all this powerful love is God the Father. “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you.” These are sustaining words, and when we really hear them, we know that we have heard a core truth. We also know we need to hear more.
“Love is the answer”. It’s an answer to a lot of things in life. Sometimes this answer comes quickly. Sometimes we are called to go on a life-time pursuit or journey. Often we begin by asking “What would love bring to this question or to this situation?” Answering this question and its variations may take our lifetime.
This week we continue the thoughts we began last week. Our close relationships with Jesus were described in last week’s passage using the word “meno.” The first two verses of today’s text continue what we read last week. Today’s reading also uses this word that the NRSV translates as "to abide". This word sometimes conveys the idea of “stay,” “live”, “dwell”, “last”, “endure”, “continue." It's also a word that can express the connection between a branch and vine, between believers and Jesus, or Jesus' word, or Jesus' love. The grace of this includes us.
Jesus’ basic teaching is stated in His commandment. Jesus tells us we are to love one another as He has loved us. This is not just a short-lived experience or something we do when we’re feeling like being agreeable. It is guidance for the ups and downs of life. This is our assignment: “Abide in my love.”
Just as Jesus' obedience to his Father's command is a witness to the world about Jesus’ love for his Father, so our obedience to Jesus' command becomes our witness to the world about our love for Jesus.
Sometimes we misuse the word “love” when we speak of getting or having something. “I love strawberry jam” or “Don’t you just love this purse I bought?” Often “love” is misused when speaking of belonging or acquiring. It becomes a descriptor of feeling about something I “own” or I want to get. This may include a person or an object, but isn’t self-giving love.
Mother Teresa clearly knew that love is not possessive. Love might include giving “until it hurts.” Mother Teresa’s own life-style was an expression of this understanding.
We are sent out into the world to love one another, to do for one another, to care for one another. That's what Jesus does. In fact, Jesus not only gave until it hurt, He continued giving until He died. He suffered horrible pain on behalf of those He loved (EVERYONE). “I no longer call you my servants; I call you my friends.” Jesus taught us and gave us a path toward intimacy with God.
Several different verses in today’s reading have been often used out of context. Throughout history, people have misinterpreted their calling from God. Often people seem to believe they have been chosen for privilege instead of purpose. God calls us to the privilege of serving others.
A commentator points out that in the passage we read this week Jesus continues to prepare his disciples for his physical departure from them. Jesus has told them that He is the “true” (v. 1) vine, the Father’s agent, and that they are the “fruit” (v. 2), “the branches” (v. 5). The disciples are to represent him in the world – to bear fruit, to love in his name. In this way, God’s love will be extended among humans.
Jesus has loved the disciples as the Father has loved Jesus. His followers are to continue to love Him, by being obedient to his “commandments” (v. 10); Jesus has been obedient, even to death on the cross. He continues to be in a loving relationship with the Father. This kind of love leads to “joy” (v. 11), ultimate joy. Jesus, the model for our behavior, loved us so much that he gave his life for us, his “friends” (v. 13).
The writer of the First Epistle of John adds to this teaching. The writer of the First Epistle of John says that our love of each other reflects our love of God
There’s a song you may have learned as a child. The refrain repeats variations of “They’ll know we are Christians by our love.” Let’s ask ourselves this coming week if this describes us and pray that it will. Amen.