What does it mean to abide in God’s love? We are invited to answer this by reference to four passages from John’s gospel. The first of these starts us with the great them 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). With this, we know that abiding love refers to a nurturing constancy that only God can accomplish. The sense in active and ongoing, such that we must strive to keep connected to God lest our relationship wither.
Our next topic from John is that of joy, a splendid emotion indeed! “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 to raise our joyful awareness. If happiness is a more shallow and temporary expression of goodwill, then joy is the deepest and most enduring. Most people want joy in their lives, and this is a great entry for sharing God’s good news. We are to be joyful and share our joy with others through outreach.
It’s worth pondering how religious tastes and circumstances can alter how we experience our faith. Some folks come across with a deadpan seriousness that doesn’t communicate joy. Other Christians seem to push joy to an extent that it is perceived as silly and even pathological. Certain extremes aside, the bottom-line is that joy is a great thing, and we need to find ways to make everything in our lives more joyful (even amid accusations of silliness).
Now what? Well, Jesus gives us his only new commandment: “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 our Lord. 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.
All the aforementioned themes enrich us. First, we have God’s abiding love which indwells us, empowers us, and transforms us. Next, what better way to create such joy than to let it flow unrestrained from our faith-filled lives. Then, the cycle is complete as we give back to others the same love God originally shared with us. Are you ready to abide in God’s love, to share it joyfully with others, and to elevate and multiply God’s love? My prayer is that we all will respond with a resounding “Yes!”
–Reverend Larry Hoxey