At first I think it’s a gimme. A tap in. An easy shot. A no-brainer. But as I chew on it, while I may think it’s simple, if I’m honest with myself I know that far too often it isn’t easy.
Reading in John 15. The importance of abiding in Christ. Apart from Him I can do nothing. In Him I can bear much fruit. But the key is to be abiding.
So, how do you abide? For sure it has to do with being in His word and His word in you. Equally for sure it’s hard to imagine abiding with anyone without at some point talking to them, and them to you. So, prayer’s gotta be a part of it too.
But as I read further in John 15 this morning Jesus makes pretty clear another dynamic of abiding. He does so through the use of transitive truth, where if A=B, and B=C, then A=C. Here’s what I read, you do “the math.”
“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 . . . This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”
(John 15:10, 12 ESV)
See the math? Keeping His commandments is abiding (add obedience to reading my bible and prayer). And His commandment is to love others as He has loved me. Thus, abiding in Jesus happens as I love others as He has loved me. If I want to experience abiding in Jesus’ love then all I need to do is love others like Jesus loved me. Simple, right? Yeah, I think so. But a gimme? Easy? Hmmm, not so fast.
What about the brother who’s kind of bothersome? Or, the sister who can be kind of sinister at times? What about the saint with whom you don’t quite sync? And don’t even talk to me about the family member who’s constantly frustrating? Not so easy to love sometimes.
But isn’t that why purposing to love others is so helpful in abiding in Christ? Just as reading reveals Christ through His word, and praying engages the presence of Christ through conversation, so loving others, especially those we have a hard time liking, drives us to Christ for divine power — the power to love others as He loved us.
And how exactly did He love us?
God showed His love for us when, while we were still weak, and while we were still sinners, and while we were still determined enemies, Christ died for us (Rom. 5:6, 8, 10). That’s how Jesus loved us. That’s how we should love others.
But God is love, and Jesus is the Son of God, the fullness of God dwelling perfectly in and through Him. And me? Well, not so much. So, if I’m gonna love those who are hard to love as Jesus loved me, I’m gonna need Jesus living through me, and that’s gonna happen as I abide in Him.
If I am willing to obey Jesus and love others, then it will drive me to abide in Jesus in order to have the capacity and resources to love as He loved.
Really easy to love the lovable and to like the likeable and to get along with those who are on my same wavelength. But I don’t think that’s who Jesus has in mind here. He loved His own when they were yet sinners, and even loved them afterward as sinners saved by grace but not yet perfected through sanctification. Loving Peter, even as He denied Him, even when he stood up to Him and said, “Not so, Lord.” Loving Thomas when He doubted. Loving John and James as they jockeyed for top spot in the kingdom. He loved them with the steadfast love of the Father, and He loved them to the end.
How am I going to do that with the Peters and Thomas’s and Johns and James’s in my life? By leaning into the source of love. By confessing, repenting, and asking Him to love in and through me. By abiding in Him, and He in me.
Simple. Not easy. But doable.
By His grace. For His glory.