When I was a little girl, my parents often left my brother and me home alone. This wasn’t an act of neglect, but rather one of necessity. There just wasn’t always someone around, affordable, or prudent for them to leave us with while they were gone. Moreover, there was an expectation that we behaved responsibly and obediently to their commands even without their presence hovering over us. What they told us to do in the moments right before they left the house, they expected us to do, and doing it kept us safe and free from spankings when they returned.
I’m reminded of these just-before-we-leave times today as I reread John 15. Unlike my parents who laid down a litany of rules (“Don’t answer the phone or go outside. In fact, don’t even go to the window if the doorbell rings. And you better not let anybody in this house! You already ate, but if you get hungry, you can warm up a potpie in the microwave, not the stove. And if you do warm something up, eat in the kitchen. Don’t be taking food all over my house. Stay downstairs. I don’t want you upstairs or in the basement while I’m gone. You can watch tv or read a book. Don’t touch my stereo!”), Jesus said one thing over and over again to his disciples: love.
Whether Jesus was telling the eleven (for Judas Iscariot had already gone to betray Him) to remain in His love or to continue to love one another, the directive is clear: love is a sign of obedience to and connection with Him.
But this love is not always a convenient or easy love. Jesus says in John 15: 12, “Love each other as I have loved you” (NIV). When we explore Jesus’ love, that command can be so far from our constitution that it seems counterintuitive. Sure, I can love you as long as you’re loving me, but Jesus says in essence that there is no reward in that (Matthew 5: 46). In fact, these departing words of Jesus are not just for his disciples in their relationship with one another, but they are also a clear echo to his Sermon on the Mount where He commands followers to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5: 44).
Jesus will go on to demonstrate, not just deliver in a parting speech, the full manifestation of His love: “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15: 13, NIV). Jesus considers those whom He has chosen, taught, engaged with, cried with, comforted, and loved His friends. And we are not merely servants either. And just as He has laid down His life for us, He expects us to sacrifice our flesh in love, too! When we love Christ, our friendship and obedience to Him is made known in our laying aside of arrogance, selfishness, acts of revenge or vengeance, worldly desires, and creature comforts for the good of others and ultimately the glory of God. And for some of us, like His disciples over 2000 years ago, we may be called to die for our love for Christ.
Today, I pray for our strengthening friendship with Christ! I pray that his parting command not fall on deaf ears. I pray that we operate with one another in love, even when it is most difficult to do so. I pray that Christ’s love guides us as we encounter others, both friend and foe, in the world.
Have an amazing day in the love of Christ, Friend!
“This is my command: Love each other” (John 15: 17, NIV).