John 14:15-21 (NRSV)
The Promise of the Holy Spirit
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.”
“If you love me, keep my commandments”.
Sometimes its hard to follow Jesus. It’s not so hard to pray a prayer and follow some rules so we get to heaven. What is hard is to lay down our lives, forgive our enemies and love our neighbours. That can be hard. That is hard.
There is something that is just so very vulnerable, painful and difficult about loving people. Of course there is so much joy, pleasure and at times it can be easy but love always costs us something and is always sacrificial in nature and sacrifice does not come easy. I used to think that ‘love your neighbour as yourself’ was a call to make sure that we can look in the mirror and affirm ourselves as fearfully and wonderfully made and then in turn we can love others. While that has a lot of truth to it, there appears to be a separation between myself and my neighbour in this way of thinking. I think part of what Jesus was getting at is a de-othering of our neighbour. A realising of the humanity and ‘image bearing’ nature of our neighbour and that we take our internal monologue out of the equation. We listen to what Abba says about us which is also what he says about our neighbour and, in turn, as we love them we are loving ourselves.
This love we speak about isn’t a love that calls us to ‘stand up for Jesus’, it is a love that calls us to ‘stand with Jesus’. It’s all the difference in the world. Jesus doesn’t need defending. He needs representing. And Jesus is represented in the victim. He stands with the oppressed, the outsider, the voiceless, the abandoned, the ostracised. It’s why saying ‘I love them which is why I tell them they are sinning…’ etc. rarely, if ever, cuts it. Ask *insert people group the church has demonised here* why they don’t feel welcome in church and I’m sure it’s because they feel the agenda of ‘love’ at times. At other times, it is just straight up condemnation and accusation (remember who the accuser is? Yeah, lets not be on the side of the satan) ’I love them which is why I invited them over for dinner said words of comfort or nothing and just listened to their story’ sounds more like Jesus to me.
Love for love's sake.
Love because he first loved us.
Love because love never fails.
I wonder if one of the best ways to start keeping the commands of Jesus is to admit that we find it hard and in reality, we can’t do it on our own. That is why Holy Spirit abides in us, empowering us to obey and to love. Compelling us out of a generic ‘love’ of people to a real, messy, visceral love for people. Not a condescending ‘love them to salvation’ kind of love but an agenda less love while trusting Jesus with the eschatological details. I wonder what that would look like? To acknowledge the presence of holy spirit, to obey the commands of Jesus and to truly love unconditionally? I think it might just change our perspective and move us out of wishful thinking in to action. That action being love.
Ferg Breen is married with two kids and is a counsellor, psychotherapist, lecturer and pastor in Dublin. He also performs motivational seminars inspired solely by the work of David Brent.