15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. 17 This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you. 18 “I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. 19 In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. 20 On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. 21 They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.” — John 14:15-21
As Jesus continues his farewell discourse we are once again encountered by the teaching of Christ to abide by what Christ has given us. Jesus shows us there is more to faith than simply belief, but that that belief is lived out in the adherence to the commandments Christ gave us.
This Easter season we are talking about being changed. We are talking about how we are changed through the resurrection of Christ and are led to becoming the church. This is so important for our journey as Christians in that we have a very specific purpose as the church, and when we are not living out that purpose we are choosing to go against that which has been commanded of us. In our awakening we experience Jesus. Whether it is through our call to ministry, communion, or baptism, it is in our awakening that we take on, and are continually reminded, of our nature as a Christian. Once we are awakened, and every time we are awakened for that manner, we focus on becoming. Becoming one with Christ, one with each other, and one in ministry to the entire world. These are the important aspects of who Christ calls us to, and our acceptance of the invitation, the oneness in Christ, we found out is the first step in this becoming, As we become one with Christ our lives are opened and changed.
How then in our experience, and oneness, with Christ are we changed?
Well we may have had a week long break in continuing this scripture, but Jesus continues in the discourse we looked at last week. Chapters 14-17 of the Gospel of John are most often referred to as Jesus’ farewell discourse. In that this is the final talk that Jesus gives before he is executed. Jesus is gathered around the last supper table with his disciples and this is the final sermon he gives them. It is this second little portion we are looking at today, again just pulling a small part of this discourse for our purposes today. However, I encourage you to examine the entire discourse as it provides continued support as we examine our call under Christ.
It is this first line that this sermon hinges on as we dive into talking about how our becoming one with Christ leads us to also become one with each other.
There is this great and wonderful understanding that Christ will always love us. This is the basis behind our Wesleyan understanding of prevenient grace, this grace that comes before, and it is a reminder that we have always and will always be loved. If God loves us before we know him then it is fair to say that God loves us even if we forget about him. I want to make this clear because in all of what we talk about today that is important to understand.
However, in our scripture, and I think pertinently for our society is the idea of how we express our love for Christ. Christ says in our passage today,
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments…” (John 14:15)
Essentially Jesus is saying that those who live as Jesus calls them to show their love for him by doing that.
Therefore, the first question is what are these commandments? And this where we often get tripped up, because we often try and push back that Jesus here means the entire law, each and every rule listed in the Hebrew Scriptures. However, lets remember that when confronted about questions of the law in Matthew 22 he responds with two commandments that we are called to live by. Jesus says,
“’You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Matthew 22:37-39)
As Jesus is confronted with what instructions he is to leave his disciples he tells them to, “…keep my commandments…” (John 14:15b) and Jesus’ commandments are to love God and love neighbor. The love God portion of this was covered as we talked about becoming one with Christ last week and the importance of that can be reiterated here today, but even more so is this importance of loving neighbor.
To become one with each other means that we essentially live by the golden rule. Treat others the way we want to be treated. We treat them as Christ calls us to when he tells us to love our neighbor.
Why is this so important?
Because as we find out in this scripture, true oneness in Christ is felt, shown, and exemplified in our oneness with others. In our scripture today Jesus tells his disciples,
“They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.” (John 14:21)
Oneness with Christ comes through acceptance of the invitation, but it is continually lived out through living out the life calls us to live. Christ says he is sending the Spirit, the Advocate, and we will feel Christ’s presence through the Spirit. Therefore, we are called to love, and that is how we embody oneness with others.
So then, we have two questions.
The first is who do we love?
This one is easy, but also very difficult for us. We see it play out in the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke’s Gospel. Many of us have heard the story. A man is robbed and beaten half to death, he is passed by both a Priest and a Levite who fear touching him will corrupt them. However, the Samaritan, a certain outcast, is the one who stops and helps. We are called to be like the Samaritan. We are called to not observe cultural barriers in who we love. Whether they are rich or poor, black or white, gay or straight, immigrant or refugee. Our love and compassion is called to be the same.
So who do we love? EVERYONE!!! It doesn’t matter what we think of them…or their lifestyle. What matters is they were created by God, and deserves God’s love from us, the people of God.
The other question is how do we love?
Again easy, but we have made it very difficult. Loving is as simple as letting them know that they are a beloved child of God. That God crosses cultural boundaries and gives love and we should too. Jesus did not surround himself with the pure and spotless and pietistic of society. Jesus brought around him those that had serious issues both social and emotional. He brought them into his fold and loved them. Gave them all he had to give and even gave himself to show how much they were truly loved. We are called to give that same unconditional and undying love to all those whom we reach out to.
This is our role in the kingdom of God. We are called to be one with each other.