Today’s message from John’s gospel highlights monumental 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, love accompanies a search for God. You don’t obtain abiding love as if doing so was like a cold equation or transaction. Instead, God’s abiding love is unleashed as a person connects to God’s essence, also known as the Holy Spirit (or simply spirit). This process can be described like how a wire plugged into an electrical outlet unleashes energy. Following this analogy, abiding love provides energy that empowers your spiritual nature. Without these processes, your spiritual life will weaken and wither.
The next insight from John’s narrative 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 come from God’s energizing spirit.
Joy surpasses happiness because it 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 joy through sharing God’s blessings. With so much pain and suffering in the world the joy of shared faith is medicine for the soul. And what better time to provide healing energy than now, as humanity strives to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Religious tastes and styles can alter a person’s perception of faith. Some religious people 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 acting ability and psychopathology than the presence of God’s spirit. Extremes of these religious expressions aside, the bottom-line is that organic, authentic joy is a wonderful way to gain spiritual health for yourself and others.
Jesus did something surprising by giving his followers a single, overarching directive: “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. There is no greater commandment than what Jesus said in his encouragement to love God and others. Love isn’t easy, but it is you highest calling.
Just talking about love isn’t enough, which is why Jesus moves to a concrete 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, even to make the ultimate sacrifice. Perceived 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 you from the inside-out. The cycle of love is complete as you share with others the same love God provides you. All this love generates joy, which is generated by proper priorities in thought and deed. 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!” –Reverend Larry Hoxey