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.
My husband’s cousin Allan was a remarkable man. He was a Holocaust survivor having endured the hardships and suffering of Auschwitz and Mittelbau-Dora. Allan was witty and intelligent and had the most remarkable sense of humor. He used to tell us this joke: he would say: my friend Morty and I, we are best friends. There is nothing I wouldn’t do for Morty; and, there is nothing Morty wouldn’t do for me. As a consequence we go through life doing nothing for one another.
Doing nothing for someone does not strike me as one of the characteristics of a good friend. But having a wicked sense of humor might be.
I’ve been thinking about friends and friendships in light of this morning’s passage and I am wondering about the characteristics of a good friend. I have two of them: one on the East Coast and one on the West Coast. I have known each of them for about 40 years and they know me very well. They are very good at keeping my confidences.
My friends are supremely loyal; I know I can depend on them in any circumstance. They share things with me about themselves so that our relationship is mutual. They want nothing more for me other than my own well-being. I know that either one of my friends would help me if I needed it. My friends often give me excellent advice – sometimes unsolicited, but valuable advice, nevertheless. And both of them are very good at telling me the truth about myself, even when it is painful for both of us. Most of all, my friends love me; and I love them. There is nothing we wouldn’t do for one another.
Love is the root of deepest friendship. And love is the main theme of John chapter 15.
In last week’s reading we learned that Jesus is the true vine. The first half of the chapter is about love: the love of God for Jesus, the love of Jesus for his disciples and the love of the disciples for Jesus. The first verse of this morning’s reading says, “as the father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love.” In other words as deeply as the Father loves the son; that is how deeply Jesus’ loves us. God’s love for us that comes to us in Jesus Christ is high, and wide, and deep, and strong. It is some pretty amazing love. It is the love that is the root of our friendship with the Divine.
The setting for John 15 is the last supper. Unlike the descriptions of the Last Supper given in the synoptic Gospels, the author of John’s gospel highlights Jesus taking care of his friends. Jesus washed the disciples’ feet; he fed them, and Jesus promised the disciples God would care for them after his death. At the last supper, Jesus attended to the best interests of his friends, consoling them and giving them the best advice they ever heard.
“As the father has loved me, so I have loved you; Abide in my love.” Live there. Let it wash over you and heal you and bring you the peace that passes all understanding so that you may go out into the world bearing fruit – bringing that same love and healing to others. “Abide in my love.” Live there. Let it wash over you and heal you and bring you the peace that passes all understanding so that you might bear fruit as an instrument of peace – an active force and passionate voice for a just and compassionate society.
“As the father has loved me, so I have loved you; Abide in my love.” But, what does it mean to abide in that love? How do we do that – abide in God’s love? A love that was so great, Jesus was willing to lay his life down for us and for the sake of the world.
Well, Jesus does another thing a good friend does for his or her friends: He tells them what he expects. Jesus doesn’t leave us clueless. Jesus does not expect us to read his mind. Jesus said if you keep my commandments you will abide in my love. If we keep Jesus’s commandments it is a sign that we abide, we rest, we remain in that wondrous love.
And, Jesus said “this is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” It is that simple; it is that complex. “Love one another as I have loved you.” It truly is that clear and understandable while at the same time being that complicated and mysterious. Love one another as I have loved you.
What are the things you do out of love?
Down in Mechanicsville, Virginia, I had cousins, Edna and Floyd. I used to stay with them from time to time when I was young. One summer Floyd was having terrible migraine headaches. He would lie on the couch with a compress on his head and he could barely move. Now, Edna and Floyd had a pretty extensive vegetable garden.
Floyd used to get up really early in the morning let’s say, four o’clock, to tend to his own garden before he went out to work. While his headaches were so bad, Edna began getting up at three o’clock so that she could weed and do whatever people do in gardens so that Floyd would have extra rest.
When Floyd figured this out he started getting up at two o’clock so that he could tend to the garden because he knew that Edna was taking care of children in the house and she had a hard day ahead of her.
Eventually it got to the point that the two would sit up waiting for the other one to go to bed. This is how Edna and Floyd related to one another. When I was young I thought it was all pretty comical, but I now realize that they each were willing to sacrifice their much needed rest for the well-being of the other. It is what they did for love.
Loving Jesus is not simply all gush and emotion. Loving Jesus implies some sort of decisive, continuous action on our part. If we profess love for Jesus Christ we must demonstrate that love in the way we treat one another. We must demonstrate that love in the way we welcome one another in this community of faith. If we profess love for Jesus Christ, we must demonstrate that love in the way we treat all God’s children. Because the truth is, we are not only to bring this love to our brothers and sisters in faith. We are called to bring this love to everyone we encounter – this love for the sake of the world.
And don’t forget, Jesus gave this love to us long before we found ourselves in love with him. We did nothing to earn it.
Jesus chose us and loved us with an expectation – an expectation that we would respond in love – an expectation that we would bear fruit. Jesus chose us and loved us with an expectation that there would be some tangible evidence of the love we have for Jesus. And that evidence is not a one-time-wonder – it is a continual state of being.
The truth is, the term “love one another” is grammatically in the present imperative state. Even the grammar used here tells us Jesus’s intent. Jesus intends that the love we have for all God’s children be continuous and intentional and ever present.
It is this “fruit” – this tangible evidence of our love for God in Jesus that distinguishes Jesus’ friends from all others. It is this love – this abiding, enduring, steadfast love for others as for oneself that marks us as Christ’s disciples. Those bearing this fruit, this love, become part of an even greater relationship, for in this love we find favor with God even as we have favor with God’s Son.
The love that Jesus gives to us and commands of us has the potential to transform the world by the power of the Holy Spirit within us.
In this love we have the potential to make a difference in this world in the name of Jesus Christ. Do you believe that? Do you believe that in the power of the Holy Spirit you have the potential to make a major difference in your family? In your workplace? In this city? In the world? Do you believe in the power of the Holy Spirit you have the power to be – an active force and passionate voice for a just and compassionate society?
I do. I believe it with all my heart and soul and strength. I believe what we do for love makes a difference. I believe what we do here in this community for love of Jesus Christ has the power to change the world.
What are the things you do for love?
What are the things you do for love of Jesus?