“Remain in my love”
I’m sure all of us can think of a situation when we have really appreciated a true friend. David F tells the story how, after his wife off 44 years died, he didn’t feel the urge to socialise with anyone. He just wanted to be left alone. But that didn’t stop his friend Tony from inviting him to join a group of blokes who got together every Thursday for dinner. In David’s words, “I told him I wasn’t ready. He called again the next week, and again I said no. He kept calling every week, and finally I said, “OK, I’ll go. Anything to keep you from calling me every week.” It has now been six years since David’s wife died, and thanks to Tony, he enjoys an active social life that includes going to dinner with the group of blokes dubbed ROMEO – Retired Old Men Eating Out.
We could spend a while listing the qualities of the people whom we consider to be good friends not just in name, but how they have helped and supported us in amazing ways.
In John 15:9-15 we hear Jesus say, “You are my friends”. When you think about it, this is an amazing statement. Jesus is our Lord, our Master, our King, our God. The Scriptures make a point of telling us that he is highly exalted, glorious, all-powerful, creator of the universe and today he says to us, “I call you my friends”.
Jesus is talking about a loyal true-blue friendship. Not the kind when everyone pretends to get along – everything will be fine when clearly everything is not fine. We get along nicely so long as no one steps on anyone else’s toes or says or does something that is taken the wrong way.
What Jesus is talking about sounds very intimate, very close, very personal. Jesus explains what he means. “I love you just as the Father loves me”.
We know how close the bond of love is between God the Father and God the Son. We know how powerful Jesus’ love is because it led him to complete total obedience to his Father’s will. Jesus’ love led him to places where we wouldn’t like to go.
He willingly allowed wicked people to treat him cruelly, mock him, humiliate him, and nail him to a cross. He didn’t have to go through all this, but he did, because of his love for his Father and for us. John says, “We know what real love is because Christ gave up his life for us” (1 John 3:16). That’s the kind of love that Jesus has for us. Jesus himself says that no-one shows greater love than the person who gives up his own life for his friends (John 15:13).
The love of Jesus for each one of us is beyond doubt – whether you are ready to acknowledge that or not – whether you believe or not – it makes no difference. Jesus has a powerful love for you. The love Jesus has for you is the same love that he has for his Father. It’s a powerful, personal, intimate, close, understanding, forgiving, compassionate, ready-to-do-anything kind of love.
It’s a godly kind of love that is prepared to even look past our failures, forgive our sins if you like, and embrace us just as the father welcomed home his boy in Jesus’ story about the son who left home, led a riotous life, came home sad and sorry, expecting nothing from his father, but was received with open and loving arms. It’s a great story about Jesus’ love but there are too many who refuse to accept that love for themselves. We need to work harder telling and showing such people about this powerful love of Jesus.
We have seen this godly love during our baptism. Many of us were baptised when we were small in our mother’s arms and unlike the son in the Bible story I just quoted, hadn’t had a chance yet to lead a wild life, rebelling against authority and loving guidance. In fact, we did nothing at all to contribute to our baptism. Jesus came to us, and said, “I am choosing you, to be my friend. I love you in the same way as my Father in heaven loves me”. The water of baptism is a sign of that promise of love and Jesus’ promise of his presence has been invisibly imprinted on us with the sign of the cross. “You are my friend”, he says to all of us. Or as Isaiah 43 puts it, “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.”
When Jesus says, “You are my friends” he is saying,
“I know you intimately and personally. I know what frightens you and what makes you sad. I know what life’s journey holds for you.
But regardless of what the future holds, I will never forget you. I will never abandon you. My love for you, my forgiveness and offer of eternal life is my promise to you”.
Jesus adds, “Remain in my love” or the older wording “Abide in my love”. Jesus really means, “Live in my love”, “Be surrounded or immersed in my love”, “Let my love flow through everything in your life”. This love that Jesus has for us is not a passing emotion; it’s something that changes our lives. He urges, “Live in my love – let the same kind of love that I have for you, guide the way you love other people. Remain in my love and let your attitude to others be guided by godly love.” In short Jesus says, “My commandment is this: love one another, just as I love you.”
This looks and sounds like a great idea until you actually have to love like this. Then it gets difficult. Think of some of the times that you have become involved in heated and tense moments that strained relationships with other people. I know I can. There’s no point in saying it’s the other person’s fault or somehow excusing our behaviour because we were too tired, too stressed, or the other person has pressed our buttons. Whatever the circumstances we still end at the same point – we have not remained in Jesus’ love. We have not lived his love in our own lives. We failed to abide in his love.
“Remain in my love”. When Jesus talks about love, he is talking about an action, not just a feeling. For Jesus, it meant giving his own life for us, his friends – making the ultimate sacrifice. The Bible always talks about love in terms of being like Jesus.
Just a few examples of loving life Jesus: serving one another; being tolerant of others; generously forgiving; looking out for the interests of others; considering the needs of others before your own; helping and sharing those who need support; praying for one another; showing respect for all people; accepting other people for who they are; don’t criticise, don’t judge, don’t complain.
As you can see love is always described as an action. It might mean rolling up your sleeves and doing something that is really difficult; something that really goes against the grain; doing something another person’s way and not always getting your own way. It might mean encouraging that person who has done a good job, but you don’t like that person very much. It might mean forgiving and making peace even though you feel as though you are the one who has been wronged.
Jesus words, “Remain in my love” indicate there are no exceptions to what he says, “Love one another as I have loved you”. There is no room for an eye for an eye; no argument whatsoever for turning your back on someone in need; no room for intolerance, impatience, and rudeness; no reason for walking away and not seeking friendship.
One Easter dawn service when the church was still in darkness, the Easter candle was brought into the church and walked down the aisle. Every worshipper had been given his/her own candle and those closest to the aisle lit their candle from the Easter candle and passed the flame on to the next person until the whole church was filled with light. This is what Jesus means to remain in his love. Christ is love, then every act of love that is passed from one person to the next is passing on the love of Jesus into the lives of others. When the friends of Jesus abide or are immersed in the love of Jesus imagine the profound effect this can have.
If every individual in our churches, if every committee and council and convention, if every person who leads the music, serves morning tea, cleans this building, chairs a meeting, teaches our children, parents a child, is bent on abiding, being immersed in the love of Christ, what a difference we would see.
This is a tough call but let’s always remember who it is that is speaking these words. It’s the One who says, “You are my friends” and as our friend he loves us so intensely that when we mess up, he is willing to dust us off and give us a fresh start to “live in his love”.
That’s the other aspect of remaining in Jesus’ love. Trusting him – he will always be our friend. A genuine friend who will stick by us through thick and thin. It’s a privilege to be called a friend of Jesus. It’s a joy to be abide in Jesus’ love, to be surrounded by his love, and then to love others as he has loved us.
Jesus has committed himself to us in his death on the cross. May we also renew our commitment to following Jesus and all that these words of Jesus mean, “I call you my friends …. Remain in my love”.
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