15: 9 “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. 10 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. 11 I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete. 12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. 16 You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. 17 I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.” (John 15:9-17, NRSV)
Let us pray: Faithful God, make our hearts bold with love for one another. Pour out your Spirit upon all people, that we may live in your peace and walk in your ways. Amen.
Love is such a difficult word, emotion, sense to understand. I mean I love Monnie and I love my children, but I also love chocolate chip cookies and ice cream. I love sports and summer vacations so when Jesus talks about love and loving him it seems somehow to be different.
My mom told me she loved me and my dad often did so without actually using the words; my brothers and I did not say it to each other while we were growing up but we knew it and now we end each conversation and or visit with I love you. Growing up in the church, adults and others shared with me about their love of Jesus. I really did not know what that was all about loving Jesus…how could I do that when I didn’t really understand love?
As a teenager I didn’t date a whole lot and I certainly didn’t have many girlfriends but when I did I was certain that she was the one and I was in love with her and it was going to last forever because that is what love means isn’t it? My heart skipped a beat when I saw her, I was sure that this was love. Boy, did I have a lot to learn about girls, dating, attraction and love, but that is for another sermon. I never had those sort of feelings towards Jesus. Sure, I invited him into my heart and gave him my life and asked him to be my Lord and Savior but I did not have the same feelings towards him as I did my first crushes and girlfriends. And when you are a teenager, those first brushes with love and romance are not only intoxicating, all-consuming but they are also very confusing.
As Church goers we hear about Jesus and love all the time. One of the gifts my parents gave me was to raise me and my brothers in the faith where the truth of the gospel that God so loved the whole world and even you and me was taught. But love was not a word that was easily understood in the world that I grew up in not this kind of love. We believed in Jesus; we tried to live according to God’s Word; we learned the difference between right and wrong, we took great comfort and strength in the promises of Scripture and Jesus to us and for all the world, but love him? I am not sure I knew what that really meant.
You see, I don’t remember too many people saying out loud how much they loved their husbands, wives, significant others, their parents or even their children. It seems that that kind of love was far too personal, much too intimate to be talked about in public. Today maybe a bit different with social media where you can tell the whole wide world just how much you love him or her or pizza or the Reds or anything for that matter.
So, I began to wonder why people didn’t have such emotions and feelings for Jesus like we do for our boyfriends, wives, or children. Did I miss something because I didn’t feel all tingly or obsessed about Jesus? Could it be that I was taking Jesus for granted?
Sure I remember being taught that there are three different types of love in the New Testament. The first is agape, which is a verb. It is the highest of the three types of love in the Bible. Jesus showed this kind of selfless, sacrificial, unconditional love to all humanity. The second type of love is Phileo, which is also a verb. It is the friendship kind of love and affection for others. The final type is Eros, which is a noun. It refers to sexual, erotic love or desire. Obviously, Jesus is talking about a different kind of love than the hot and bothered teenage kind of love but what is he talking about.
In the scripture passage we read; Jesus is sharing his last meal with his disciples in the upper room. They are worried. They are worried about being left behind. So, Jesus takes this last opportunity to prepare them for his departure. He tries to calm their fears and ease their anxieties by telling them how to carry on, to live in his absence so he says to them “if you love me, keep my commandments…The love he is talking about here is not a sentimental passion, or a romantic infatuation or obsession, or even an attraction or lust. The love Jesus is talking about is behavior, it is an action not a noun. Jesus is telling his disciples not simply to say the word but to live it out. Don’t just talk about love, show me love! It is not about feelings, it is behavior, and it is defined by what we do, more than what we say!
This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.
Think about what this means, how in the world do we “show” Jesus we love him?
- When we love our neighbor
- When we show compassion
- When we do justice, love kindness, show mercy and walk humbly with God…
In my pervious church there was a guy named Clint. He had grown up in the church and he was there every time the church doors were open. In fact, he had his own key so he was there even when the doors weren’t open. He was known to sit in a chair next to the secretary’s desk for hours on end, he also walked down the center aisle with the family at a funeral procession when he wasn’t even a member of the family.
He was a bit off. He was an alcoholic. His life was in shambles. He was a good hearted person but he was very hard to love. It was hard to love him because he was difficult, he often did not bathe, he was not appropriate…he was tough but one day a group of the men in the church showed they loved him.
They went to his apartment and found him dirty, sick and very much alone. They cleaned out all of the liquor bottles, empty beer cans and trash in his filthy living space. They cleaned out the shower and then gave him one. The scrubbed him head to toe and then they took him to the doctor for a check-up. The next day they went with him and checked him into an alcohol rehab center. I know that they never said the words, “Clint, we love you but they certainly showed him just how much they loved him.”
I read in the Enquirer this week the tragic story of the young man, Travis Livers-Gowdy, the Cooper High School student who was tragically killed in a car accident last week in Northern Kentucky. A classmate told a story about him. She was new to the school and she was often teased and bullied. She described the first day that Travis Livers-Gowdy came and sat next to her at lunch. “Last year, I was the girl no one liked. I was sitting by myself at lunch every day,” “This popular upper-classman (Livers-Gowdy) came and sat next to me, and he sat there with me every day… To know that I was a nobody. For him to make me know that it (wasn’t) OK to be bullied because someone like him who was known and popular and loved could help someone like me.” He kept doing it every day.
I don’t imagine Travis Livers-Gowdy ever uttered the words, “I love you,” to her but he showed it. Not romantic love, not ever-lasting love, but the deep and abiding love for another child of God.
I don’t know if Travis was a Christian or not but he sure seems like it not because of anything he ever said but by his love. Jesus asks, “Do you love me? Then he commands us to love one another as he first loved us. This is the call and command of the Risen Christ to all of us, so let us all show him. Not merely by our words but more so by our actions.
Let us pray: