The lectionary reading from John’s gospel is a treasure trove about a spiritual life of 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” (John 15:10). Abiding love is a consistent, constant flow of love, nurturing the soul/spirit.
As with many spiritual blessings, abiding love is available as a person seeks God. It’s not that someone earns abiding love as if completing a cold equation or transaction. Instead, God’s abiding love is unleashed as a person of faith connects to God’s essence, also known as the Holy Spirit. The process can be described like how a wire plugged into an outlet unleashes power. Following this analogy, abiding love provides energy that electrifies humans’ true spiritual nature. Otherwise, a person’s spiritual life can weaken and wither and life won’t be properly fulfilled.
The next insight from John is that of joy: “I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete” (John 15:11). How wonderful for God to provide complete joy. When it comes from God, joy is at its peak of power and purity. Other aspects of life can also create joy and myriad pleasantries but the highest and greatest form of these emotions arise from God’s energizing spirituality.
Compared with joy, happiness is more fleeting and perhaps shallower. Joy is a deeper, more enduring expression of positive emotion. Most people want joy in their lives, and this is a great entry for sharing God’s good news of redemption. People of faith are both obligated and privileged to share life joy through outreach, the encouragement to experience God for the best possible life. With so much pain and suffering in the world, the joy of faith is like a beacon of hope
Religious tastes and styles can alter the experience and perception of faith. Some devotees come across with a deadpan seriousness, communicating a cold lifeless faith that doesn’t attract people. Other Christians feign an ecstatic exuberance, revealing more of their own unrestrained psychopathology than the presence of God’s spirit. Extremes of religious expression aside, the bottom-line is that joy is wonderful, and we need to find ways to make life more joyful for ourselves and others.
Jesus did something surprising by giving his followers a single commandment, which is also the best: “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:12). There it is, the quintessential statement that elevates love, straight from the lips of God’s messenger. Just talking about love isn’t enough, which is why Jesus moves to a concrete, relevant example of love in action. “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13). Love is ready, willing and able to give of itself, to make the ultimate sacrifice. Seen this way, love becomes more than just a feeling and instead transforms itself into the greatest gift of all—life.
We’re enriched by today’s themes of love and joy in John’s writings. First there’s God’s abiding love which indwells, empowers and transforms people from the inside. The cycle of love is complete as we share with others the same love God provides us. All this love generates joy, which is organically and authentically generated by having proper priorities guided by loving thoughts and actions. Are you ready to abide in God’s love and to share it joyfully? My prayer is that we all will respond with a resounding “Yes!”