Now you must hear this before we go on. After all that you have just heard please know this, it is a very very very important point. Do not, I repeat DO NOT set out to “try and love one another,”. DON’T DO IT. Do not attempt to gird the proverbial loins and use all your strength you have to love. I know it’s very hard not to feel a little discouraged as you hear the words commandment and begin to realise the sort of levels we are called to achieve. If you try to love you’re way off in the wrong direction. If we have to “try and do it,” then we’re just adding an impossible burden onto what is already a pretty big weight. Trying to love one another is a recipe for guilt-ridden dead religion, in which the commandment does indeed become a commandment, in every negative sense of the word. It’s not the gospel, not what Jesus meant, and we won’t succeed, God knows we may even look around now and think, yeah it is hard, if we try to love this lot then we’re bound to burnout.
The key to this “commandment” is in the last words of v9 and v12, “abide in my love” and “as I have loved you.” We’ll come back to “abide in me” in a moment but for now concentrate on “as I have loved you” The love of the Son for his disciples is the source of the disciples’ love for one another. It’s not the other way around. We do not receive love if and only when we love Jesus. We are loved, regardless. We are not accepted because we love as Jesus loves but are accepted because Jesus loves us. To come to terms with that can be difficult. We are messed up and often, and I have say continue to be, feel we cannot possibly be worth that love, surely we need to earn it… That is religion and commandment which hopefully we have begun to see is not what is meant in this circumstance,
Another misinterpretation is that the phrase in v12 “love as I have loved you” to mean that Jesus’ love is the example or model for our love; we believe He calls us to the kind of radical love he shows. That’s kinda true in the fact that I think that this love is very different from what we think is love, but in fact we do not nearly come close to what Jesus is trying to say...
Jesus’ love is the fount of our love, the ever-flowing spring of the love that flows to and through the disciples. Loving one another is not meant to be a task in and of itself, but is ultimately shown in action. This love is something and that is about a way of life. That way of life is that “loving one another” becomes a natural outworking of being loved by Jesus.
In all of this “loved by” and “us loving out of being loved” I want to ask a simple question we all should be able to answer to some degree or another. We may in fact have quite a few answers to it and it is this, and I use action deliberately. How has Jesus shown His love for you? What ways has He demonstrated His perfect love? What grace has been given to you? When has He shown you mercy, dusted you down and lifted you up? How has God helped you in your hour of need? What strength and hope has been given to you by the Holy spirit when you most needed Him? You may also want to ask your own questions to bring to mind the love of God shown to you and those you know and love?
We might even dare to change John’s verb here. What if we read this line in the present tense, “Love one another as I am loving you.” What is happening now that shows God’s love for you? What grace is apparent in your life that is showing Jesus’ love in action? What need is being met even now?
As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. Love comes from the FATHER, through the SON, to us. Not from us through Jesus to God. And… As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love.
ABIDE is a great word here...to remain, abide
in reference to place - to wait, not to depart, to continue to be present, to be held, kept, continually
in reference to time - to continue to be, not to perish, to last, endure, of persons, to survive, live
in reference to state or condition - to remain as one, not to become another or different.
But I think the word TARRY marks for me a difference that uplifts “abide in me”… stay longer than intended; delay leaving a place.: linger, loiter. There is no force of will, no strained and difficult holding onto but an easy natural state of lingering in the presence of jesus’ love. When we are in touch with — when we abide— in the love of the living Christ for us and for all people, then love for one another flows as naturally as water from a fountain. It’s like a tree that bears fruit. The tree doesn’t try to bear fruit; it just does, because that is what a healthy tree does! When we spend time with Jesus, remembering His complete love for us. As we bring to mind all that hHe did and continues to do for us we can do nothing but bear fruit.
I believe I have been mistaken in my earlier assessment of what the command actually is. I don’t think it is to “love one another” but I think now that the actually the commandment is much simpler than that and is so much less hard work. Now I think the commandment is to tarry, linger and stay a bit longer with Jesus. I think I can do that.