Posted by on May 9, 2021 in Pastor's Blog | Comments Off on Abide and Grow

The gospel lesson for this 6th Sunday of Easter is from John 15:9-17. These verses come right after John had recorded the parable Jesus was telling the followers about the vine and branches as we considered last week.

The words Jesus spoke in verse 9 are: “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you. Abide in my love.” Jesus is telling us of how deep the love is for all those who God has created and for whom Jesus gave up His life. Do we really realize how deep God’s love for us is? This isn’t an emotional type of love…this is a “giving” love”. This is a choice God has made….and chose to give His Son up for those he loves.

Jesus goes a little farther in the verses to say that if his followers keep his commandments, as he has kept his Father’s commandments, they, too will abide in God’s love. In some of my reading, one of the authors suggested that the word “if” should be interpreted as “when”. When the followers keep the commandments Jesus has given them, they will abide in God’s love. In other words, there is no question that if the disciples of Jesus follow his commandments, they will continue to be loved and cared for by God.

I looked up what commandments Jesus gave to the people who were listening to him during his life and well as to his disciples. There are seven commandments Jesus gives to us all. They are all named in the New Testament, but here they are for our consideration today. The first and greatest commandment was to Love one another…as God has loved us. Jesus also asked his followers to pray for our enemies, to repent of our sins, to believe that Jesus and the Father are one and the same, to take up our Cross, deny themselves and follow him. He also asked his disciples to go into the world and make disciples and ultimately to pray always.

It is also interesting to see that Jesus states that he looks on his followers as friends, not servants. He states this plainly in verse 13 when he says, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down his life for one’s friends.” Jesus is saying to us that he offered his life as a slave, but that the disciples and we are considered not slaves, but friends.

In comparison to the Jewish laws that the people of Israel had been following for years, the commandments of Jesus are VERY different and carry the assurance that when the commandments are followed, the people will always be living in God’s love. As we can see from the statements about the commandments, they really consist of a sacrificial love for other people. Like Jesus gave up his life for us, we are to live and love sacrificially…not in concern for our own personal things and well-being, but for the people God has made.

This command to love others as God has loved us is a choice we make. In the rest of the section from John, we see Jesus saying to us that He has not hidden anything from us. We are friends, not servants. He has told us all that we need to know to be His disciples here on earth. The ultimate statement is that now, the listeners to Jesus at this time were then not called disciples, but apostles. They were, after these statements, given the appointment to go and tell the world about Jesus.

We, too, are apostles now. We have been appointed to bring people into the knowledge of Jesus’ love for them. We are to remember that Jesus loves us and when we follow his commandments, we will always be part of His family. When we slip up and need forgiveness, we are granted that forgiveness and challenged to continue reaching out to God’s people in God’s world.

So…if we abide in Christ….how do we grow? We grow when we realize that even if we live in a society that values self above others, we turn away from that thinking to consider everyone a member of God’s family. We will then consider the responsibilities and duties of all of God’s people rather than only valuing individual rights.

We will be like the Gentiles and Jews that Luke was writing about in the reading from Acts 10. When the people were listening to Peter’s sermon and the Holy Spirit came upon them all. No one was singled out. All were given the gift of the Holy Spirit….just as we have been given that spirit. This was just as the Holy Spirit came to those in Jerusalem on Pentecost.

Do we believe that God is trying to have the people of our world overcome the things that separate people? Do we acknowledge that we are apostles and appointed to bring God’s message of love to all people?

Can we love one another even as God has loved us? Can we follow Christ’s commandments and be forever part of God’s family?

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