Tribulation Saint

Historic Christianity in the Twenty First Century

Month: October, 2019

LOVE ONE ANOTHER – I

 

So what exactly is it that Jesus has commanded us to do?  If our fruitfulness and our joy depend on our abiding in Him, and our abiding in Him depends upon our keeping His commandments, what are His commandments?  Jesus answers the question in John 15:12: “This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you” (NKJV).  The defining characteristic of the church should be love.

The first thing that should be noted is that this love is demonstrated in the context of brotherhood.  Jesus directs his commandment to His disciples, and by extension to the church, of which the disciples were the core.  But they were to “love one another” – it was to be a mutual love.  Some people today, professing to be Christians, claim not to see any reason why they should be actively involved in a church – sometimes because of bad experiences they have had with churches in the past.  But the Christian life is not something that can be lived in isolation.  Its core value is love, and love is something which must be demonstrated towards others.  And so Christians exist together in a community of believers, and they are commanded, by their Savior and Lord, to love each other.  But in order to do that they must have regular contact with each other.  Anything less than a visible demonstration of brotherly love misses the whole point of the Christian life.

But how is this love demonstrated?  Jesus says that we are to love one another, “as I have loved you.”  And how did He love us?  “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends” (v. 13).  This Jesus said as He was on His way to His execution!  Love means that you care about others as much as you care about yourself: “. . . you shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Lev. 19:18).  It is a self-sacrificing love.  “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8).  On the one hand it means a willingness to suffer wrong without retaliation.  “Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice.  And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as Christ forgave you.  Therefore be imitators of God as dear children.  And walk in love, as Christ also has love us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma” (Eph. 4:31-5:2; cf. Col. 3:12-14).

On the positive side Christian love responds readily to human need.  “But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?  My little children, let us not love in word or tongue, but in deed and truth” (I John 3:17,18).  If we genuinely care about a brother who happens to be in need we will try to meet that need as we are able to do so.  Christians demonstrate their love for one another by serving each other. (Gal. 5:13,14) and by giving preference to each other (Rom. 12:10).

But most importantly, Christian love is expressed in church unity.  We are to be “with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:1-3), and Paul goes on to remind his readers that “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called into one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all” (vv. 4-6; Phil. 2:1-11).  When Paul says, “there is one body” he is referring to the universal church, the body of Christ.  All Christians, of whatever theological opinion, are to be united.

And then, to reinforce the message, Jesus adds a remarkable promise: “You are My friends if you do whatever I command you.  No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you” (vv. 14,15).  Jesus is our Lord and Master.  He could, if He so desires, simply assert His authority over us and demand blind obedience.  But instead He chose to His disciples “My friends,” and said that they would continue to be His friends if they continue to do what He commanded them.  The difference between a servant (or “slave” – Gk. doulos) and a friend is that a servant has to yield blind obedience to his master.  He does what he is told to do simply because he is told to do it.  No explanation is necessary.  But a friend is in an altogether different position.  Friends share information with each other.  And so it is with us and our relationship with Christ.  He is not asking us for blind obedience, but for a knowledgeable and willing compliance with His will.  It is an intimate relationship in which the reasons for the commands are made known.  Granted, in one sense Jesus is our Master and we are His servants.  But we are more than that – we are also His friends.  What an amazing way to look at our relationship with Him!

ABIDING IN CHRIST’S LOVE

 

Having told His disciples to “Abide in Me, and I in you” (John 15:4; NKJV), Jesus now goes on to explain the practical implications of that.  What does it mean to “abide in Christ”?

He begins by saying, “As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love” (V. 9).  This goes back to what He had said earlier in Chapter 14, verse 21: “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.”  As we have seen, this is a reference to God’s “love of complacence,” or His “complacent love,” as we might call it, the type of in which God is genuinely please with us and wants to have fellowship with us, as opposed to the compassionate love that He has for the entire world of lost sinners (the English word “complacent” comes from the Latin verb “complaceo” which means “to please exceedingly”).  In this case Jesus says that “As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you.”  Jesus was the Father’s only begotten Son; the Father loved His Son dearly.  This also, Jesus says, is the way He loves His disciples.  They were dear to Him.  They had followed Him; they had made sacrifices for Him, and as a result He genuinely loved Him.

But having established the fact of His love, He then tells them to “abide in My love.”  The quality of our fellowship with Christ is variable, depending on the extent to which we love Him and consciously seek to serve Him.  But if we wander and stray we lose the benefit of close fellowship with Him.  Our hearts grow cold, we become preoccupied with the things of this world, and we see little spiritual fruit in our lives.

But the Jesus goes on to reiterate something else that He had said earlier: “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” (v. 10).  The true measure of our love and devotion to Christ is our willingness to obey His commandments.  And here He points to His own example: He was willing to obey His Father’s commandments, even thought that meant going to the cross and sacrificing everything.  But in so doing He was abiding in His Father’s love – He obeyed because He loved the Father, and the Father loved Him in return.  And so we are required to be imitators of Christ, and to love Him the same way that He loved the Father – with a self-sacrificing love that is willing to surrender all.  Again, as we have noted before, this involves keeping His commandments.  We are not to go through life living for ourselves.  Jesus is our Lord and Master; He has given us commandments to obey, and we must pay close attention to what He has said and follow His instructions for our lives.  Christian discipleship is not a program of self-indulgence!

Does this sound grim and depressing?  It should not.  For Jesus goes on to say, “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full” (v. 11).  It may seem paradoxical – how can we experience joy by surrendering all the joys and pleasures of this life?  But true joy, lasting joy, is the gift of the Holy Spirit in our hearts.  It is the sense of Christ’s love toward us.  It triumphs over adversity and lasts for all eternity.

How much do we lose because we do not live for Him?  For too many of us our faith is but an empty shell and our lives our spiritually barren and fruitless.  We have a form of godliness but deny the power thereof.  We can experience the Christian life as it was meant to be experienced only by returning to Christ and seeking the restoration of fellowship with Him.  We are missing out on so much.  Let us turn around and set our sight on Him!