“Love Commanded, Love Connected” (John 15:9-17)

Sixth Sunday of Easter
May 9, 2021

“Love Commanded, Love Connected” (John 15:9-17)

“This is my commandment, that you love one another.” So says the Lord Jesus today in the reading from John 15. “But, but, Jesus, how come you’re giving us a commandment? Like we’re supposed to obey this? But I thought you were not about commanding people, just forgiving them. This sounds like Law to me, and I thought you were only Gospel!”

Yeah, how can you command us to do this, Jesus, to “love one another”? That’s too hard. I mean, there are some people I like to love. I love my children; I love my spouse. Well, most of the time, at least. When they’re being nice to me and sweet. It’s a little harder, though, when they’re being ornery or getting on my nerves.

But there are lots of people I don’t like to love, at any given time. People who rub me the wrong way. People I disagree with. People who bore me or are just not up to my standards. Yeah, you know, like that person over there in the other pew. I can’t stand people like that. And you want me to love them? Seriously?

How can you command us to do this, Jesus, to love one another? And it isn’t just about other people; it’s about me, too. I mean, honestly, when I look inside myself, I don’t always see a whole lot of love. Instead, I see someone who is curved in on himself, self-centered. I like people, I love people, if they do something for me. This is sort of a self-interested kind of love, if you can call such a thing “love.” That’s the problem, I guess. I don’t have enough love in me to do what you’re commanding me, Jesus.

Well, no, I don’t, and I suspect you don’t either. Are there people you have trouble loving? Are there people you love most of the time but don’t love some of the time? Is the problem their lovability or your own “love ability,” that is, your ability to love? Maybe both.

That’s the problem with us, isn’t it? We don’t love enough. And that will always be the problem when I look inside myself for the source of love. If I look to myself for the resources to do what Jesus commands, I won’t be able to do it. With that approach, of looking to self for the answer, we will certainly not be able to love one another.

So how can Jesus command us to do this? What was he thinking? You know what? We can find out what he was thinking by looking at the rest of this passage. Because Jesus tells us what he means with “This is my commandment, that you love one another.”

You see, there’s an important piece we’ve left out so far. Listen to what Jesus adds when he gives us this command. He says, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. “As I have loved you”! That’s the key! This is the missing piece of the puzzle! This is the all-important resource we need in order to do what Jesus commands. “As I have loved you.” There it is. Jesus’ love for us. Without that, we will never be able to do what Jesus commands, to love one another. First, Jesus has to love us.

And he has! Jesus has loved us. How do we know that? Well, listen to what Jesus says: “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lays down his life for his friends.” And then look at what Jesus does: He does exactly that: He lays down his life for us! Surely this is the greatest love of all: Not some self-love or self-generated love that I find within myself. No, the greatest love of all is the love that Christ Jesus demonstrated when he laid down his life for us.

Think of that love! Was it because we were so loveable that Christ did this? No, not hardly. “Christ died for the ungodly,” Paul says in Romans. Christ died for the unlovely and the not very loveable. It’s hard to fathom this love, so pure and self-sacrificing it is. The very Son of God came in the flesh, as a man, and loved a world of rebellious sinners. He loved those who would nail him to a cross. He loved a band of fickle disciples who would desert him in his hour of need. He loves a poor miserable sinner like me, a poor excuse of a disciple, who has failed his Lord and his friends and family so many times. That Christ does this for the likes of us–this is love, my friends, this is love. If you look up “love” in the dictionary, there ought to be a picture of Jesus next to it. Jesus with his arms stretched out on the cross, laying down his life for his friends. Greater love hath no man than this.

How do we get this kind of love, with which to love others? We get it from him. Last week we heard the verses from John 15 leading into today’s text. Our message was about the branches abiding in the vine and bearing fruit. And that’s how it goes for us being able to love one another: by abiding in the vine. Jesus even repeats it today. “Abide in my love,” he says. Just as life flows from Christ the vine into us the branches, so does love. Jesus is the source of both, life and love. For us to be able to do what Jesus commands, to be able to love one another, we need to abide in Christ the vine. Abide in his love.

So this is how Jesus can command us to love one other: because we are connected to him, and so we receive love from him. Love commanded, love connected. What Jesus commands he also supplies. Therefore, it is not impossible for us to love one another. We have the life and the love of Jesus flowing through us. We know what love is because we ourselves have received love from Christ.

Love commanded, love connected. Jesus says, “Love one another as I have loved you.” And this connection goes back even further still. Jesus says, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you.” The love connection flows from the Father to the Son to us, and then out from us to one another. The Father has loved Jesus. Remember what the Father said of Christ at both his baptism and transfiguration? “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” The Father loved the Son for taking on the mission of saving the world. He loved him for going to the cross and laying down his life for sinners. Love from the Father to the Son; love from the Son to us; and then love from me or you to one another. This is the love connection. This is how it goes. This is how it flows.

So this is not something you have to muster up on your own, this love that Jesus commands. No, this is love you first receive in order to have something to give. The command to love does not occur in a vacuum. Rather, it comes to us who have received, and continue to receive, life and love from the divine source, the living vine, Christ Jesus our Lord. The connection happens as we abide in the vine, as we abide in his love.

Now do you see how Jesus can command this of us? It’s because he gives us what we need to do what he commands. We have all the love we need when we receive it from Christ. We know what love is. And we know that we have an inexhaustible supply with which to love our brothers and sisters.

That’s who Jesus is talking about when he says, “Love one another.” He’s talking about loving our fellow Christians. Yeah, he’s even talking about loving these people here around us in church. Yes, including that person over there in the other pew that you don’t like very much. Loving your fellow Christians, loving your fellow church members–this is Jesus’ special concern here in this command. Not that we don’t also love other people. We do. But in this passage, Jesus is calling special attention to loving one another within the body of Christ, both in this congregation and in the church at large.

Here are your brothers and sisters, my friends. They’re sitting here in the pews right along with you. These are the people that Christ is commanding you to love. Now, will you do what Jesus says? This means forgiving the people you have a grudge against. It means getting to know the people you usually try to avoid. It means being alert to their needs and helping them in practical ways. It means giving of yourself to care for others. This is what love looks like. And yes, you can do it. Because you are connected to Christ. You are abiding in his love.

Love commanded, love connected. Jesus commands us to love one another. Connected to him, we have what it takes to do what he says. Love commanded, love connected. Christ Jesus has connected himself to us, and he has connected us to one another. It happens in this community of love called the church.

And now, as soon as this service ends, then the sermon will really begin.

Published in: on May 8, 2021 at 7:57 pm  Comments (1)  
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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. Wonderful sermon. Thanks!

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