As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.
This is a message from the upper room, where Jesus is distilling the essence of his teaching to his disciples. For three years He has been with them, teaching and showing what God is like, that He like the father of a prodigal son, who runs out on the road to meet his son, even while he is still far off, to welcome him home. For three years Jesus has shown His disciples by example exactly who they, and we, are called to be. This message comes from first communion table, Jesus has just established the sacrament of Lords Supper. In doing so, he has relocated center of God’s activities on the earth from the temple back to the table, where it actually began at the Passover with the Hebrew people in Egypt.
Jesus takes the disciples into the heart of his teaching. He takes his disciples into the very heart of what he’s been teaching for 3 years. What, exactly, is the heart of Jesus teaching?
Jesus is talking about love.
We have 9 verses here, Jesus uses the word love 9 times. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. You will abide in my love. This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this.
God is a trinity. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. A communion, a Holy Union. A trinity of divine, eternal, self giving love. John is right to say God is Love. The Father loves the Sin, the Son, loves the Father, the Holy Spirit is that love. Jesus here invites his disciples to participate in this divine dance of love.
Early church fathers, trying to communicate what God us like, liked to refer to the “circle dance”, the ongoing eternal dance of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Now Jesus invites to join this dance.
Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.
We come and bow down before the cross of Christ in worship, we call him Lord, and this is what is appropriate. But Jesus lifts us up and calls us “friend“. While we do accept that Jesus loves us, we find it really hard to believe Jesus likes us. We know he loves us, but we think Jesus plays that word game we sometimes play, especially maybe when we are angry or upset with someone, we might tell someone about another “I might love them, but I don’t have to like them!”
What if Jesus really likes us?? It is true.
Do you remember Jesus calls Judas “friend” as Judas is betraying him? “Jesus said, “My friend, go ahead and do what you have come for.” Matthew 26:50 NLT. Jesus says this with no irony. He considers Judas a friend. This means Judas can turn at any moment turn toward the light, toward love, and be embraced in the friendship of Christ. But it is up to him.
In John chapter 21, we see Jesus restore Peter to a deep sense of personal friendship. Do you believe that Jesus considered Peter to be his friend??
Jesus is always inviting us to join him in his love. Unless you love your life will flash by. Unless you love, your life will flash by, because you will always be chasing some delusion. I am beginning to recognize that I chase a lot of delusions. I chase success, achievement, recognition, security, and yes, I pursue my own happiness, that great American Idol written directly into our earliest founding document. 45 years later, I’m still chasing it. Anxiety, soul killing commutes, sleepless nights, and wasted days have gotten me no closer.
Because, love alone can ground you in the present moment by giving your life sufficient meaning. It’s love that grounds us in the present moment, so that we can be content in the here and now instead of always chasing something else.
If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love…Jesus throws that IF in there and we all become self judgmental, stressing about this like we stress about our job, thinking we have some impossible task for a harsh taskmaster whose commandments are an impossible demand. Another new “boss” the same as the old “boss”, just waiting to tear us down for not following his ways.
But what’s his commandment we are to keep? This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. The commandment we must keep to abide in Jesus’ love is to love. Just like the circle dance of the trinity, Jesus’ great command here is a circle dance of love. If we want to abide in the love of Christ, the way to do that is to love. The commandment to abide in the love of Christ is simply to love.
Jesus gave us 2 commandments. We are to Love God with all our mind, strength, mind, and soul, and we must love our neighbors as ourselves. The biblical test case for loving God is loving neighbor. The test for loving neighbor is loving your enemy.
Christianity not a religion of rules but circle dance of love.
Love is the only valid defense of Christian faith. Love alone is credible. If we defend our Christian faith without Christian love, we are not credible.
It is by our love they will know we are disciples. Living a life characterized by love is what makes us credible. Maybe this is why we seem to have lost all credibility in society today. It seems we are known for everything but love.
“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.” 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 ESV. As the apostle Paul tells us here, without love we are nothing.
Yet – we viciously attack even each other over our Christian truth. We attack each other for our differing beliefs about how to love and worship our savior. Yes, right belief matters. But right belief about God is less important than love. Love alone is credible.
So internet warriors crusading for their “Christian truth” are not credible.
Treating people cruelly in defense of our Christian truth is a betrayal of Christ’s greatest command. The command that we be known for our love for one another. You may be right in your argument – but still be left behind as a credible disciple of Jesus.
We make much of the persecution of Christians around the world today. But throughout history, more Christians have been killed by other Christians than by our non Christian persecutors. During the reformation more Ana-Baptist Christians, who believed baptism was for adults and that Christianity should not be joined together with the state, were put to death than all Christians during all of Roman Empire.
From the Middle Ages through the reformation, there is a long history of Christians killing other Christians over “wrong belief.” There is one particular case of a here unnamed Protestant hero that I was going to share, but in the interest of not offending anyone too badly, I will speak in broad terms here. We all know what it means to be burned at the stake. Don’t fully accept the orthodox view of things, don’t believe in the trinity, don’t accept “our” doctrine….we will kill you!! This was not a problem in the early church, they had all kinds of discussions and disagreements about what the cross meant, about Jesus’ divinity, about all sorts of things. But they didn’t reject the teaching of Christ to defend his truth. That didn’t happen until The Church became completely intertwined with The State.
When we speak of “combatting for God’s glory“, claiming that we know “the law God would have kept” and that in such combat we are to “forget all humanity“, we are missing the whole point. First of all, how can we forget humanity in the defense of Christianity? We serve a God we rightly believe was fully human, correct? I think I’ve said this before, to be inhumane in our treatment of others is to be against Christ, not for him. You might even call it anti-Christ.
The New Testament tells us God’s glory was defended by the cross. God was most glorified by his one and only begotten Son forgiving his enemies from the cross.
Jesus half brother has this to say – “If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well.” James 2:8 ESV. Loving your neighbor is the royal law according to the Scripture. We would do well to remember this. God’s glory and honor are not defended by burning people at the stake.
The church was and u\is built on the shed blood of Jesus Christ, not the shed blood of heretics and infidels. Exactly what faith was being defended, or will be defended by cruelty and inhumanity? Attacking people under the banner of the cross is the ultimate exercise in missing the point. Because the cross us where Jesus forgives his enemies. He doesn’t climb upon that cross to kill his enemies. Let me ask you, exactly which museum is it that you can find the sword of Jesus Christ?
As Christians, we don’t use force or cruelty to convince others we are right.
Who have you burned at the stake lately? On Facebook? Or Twitter? Who have you excoriated on social media over their slightly different theology. Maybe they misinterpreted the seventh horn on the third dragon in Revelation. Heretic!!!
Even worse, who have you attacked because of politics? Elephant and donkey games!!
Don’t be a disciple of the cable news hotheads who make their fortunes burning people at the stake.
Be a disciple of Jesus Christ, who taught us to love our neighbors as ourselves. While we’re at it, love your enemies too.
There is no Facebook exception.
We will contend for the truth if Christ. But we will always love more.
“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. These things I command you, so that you will love one another.”
John 15:9-17 ESV