This Week’s Focus: Need a Hug?
As the Father has loved me, so I have 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. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete. "This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another. John 15: 9-17
Wow! Read the Bible from cover to cover and you won’t find more love packed into so few lines anywhere else. In eight verses, love is mentioned nine times. If the New Testament is a love letter from God, then this passage is a great big hug from Jesus. Love is the essence of Jesus. As the gospel tells us, he gets it from the Father. And he gives it to us in overflowing abundance. It is ours for the taking and the sharing. We are links in a reciprocal chain of love … bound to each other and to the Father through the saving grace of the Redeemer.
But don’t let all this love stuff confuse you. There is nothing mushy or sentimental about the love of Christ. It is literally a matter of life and death. Jesus gave his life for us. He expects us to reciprocate – not as a transactional exchange, but as an affirmation of our inseparable union with the will of the Father, the love of the Son and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
The life we give to Jesus is our timid, self-centered, mortal one. The life he gives us back is a joyful, blessed, immortal one. Not a bad deal. If only we were bright enough to take it and to keep it. But we are so easily diverted. Our devotion becomes distraction. We are fickle and lack focus. Yet Jesus loves us as we are. He is constant when we are confused. He cuts right through the silly trivia we have made our life’s priorities. Our feelings come and go. His love for us does not.
Fortunately, we are made in God’s image. He is not made in ours. C.S. Lewis makes the point that: “He is not proud. He will have us even though we have shown that we prefer everything else to him, and come to him because there is ‘nothing better’ to be had.” Christ’s love may be our last resort, but it is always our best resort.
Fully aware of our failings, Jesus pays each of us the ultimate compliment. Our God calls us “friends.” He invites imitation of his love. He dissects and explains that love … its origins, its purposes, its ends and our unique place in his plan. As the old spiritual says: “What a friend we have in Jesus.”
We are strongly charged to pass on and share the love of Christ. Love your neighbor is not a suggestion. It is a bedrock commandment. In Romans 13, St. Paul tells us: He who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. As such, love supersedes the “shall not’s” Moses took down from Mt. Sinai.
But for all its lyrical beauty, in the starkest terms, this gospel contains Christianity’s essential challenge: that you love one another as I have loved you. Orders don’t get any taller than that. Yet every step of the way, Jesus will be there to guide and comfort us. The further we get into prayer and scripture, the further we get into imitation of Christ, the more we’ll feel his arms around us in a hug that tells us: You are loved. You are protected. You are mine. Everything will be OK.
God love you!
Ann from Detroit. Love and Happiness, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN.http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=54939 [retrieved May 8, 2012].
Reproduced from Revised Common Lectionary Prayers copyright © 2002 Consultation on Common Texts admin. Augsburg Fortress. Used by permission. A complete edition of the prayers is available though Augsburg Fortress