John 15:9-21 (FNV)
“In the same way the Father loves me, I have loved you. Never stop walking this road of love. By doing what the Father has told me, I have remained in his love. As you walk in my ways, my love will remain in you. I am saying this so your hearts will be filled with the same joy I have.
“To walk the road with me, you must love each other in the same way I have loved you. There is no greater way to show love to friends than to die in their place. You are my friends if you walk in my ways and do what I say. I no longer see you as my servants but as friends. Masters do not share their hearts and plans with their servants, but I have shown you everything I have heard from my Father.
“You may think you chose me, but I am the one who chose you. You are my new garden where I will grow a great harvest of my love – the fruit that remains. When you bear this fruit, you represent who I am – my name. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask for. I am telling you this so you will walk the road of love with each other.
“If you are hated by the world, remember, it hated me first. The ones who walk in the ways of this world love the ones who do the same but look down on and hate the ones who do not. I have chosen you to walk away from the ways of this world, on a different path, and that is what the world will hate you. Remember, I told you a servant is not greater than the one he serves. I f I was hunted down, it will be the same for you. If they walk in my message, they will walk in yours.
“The people who walk in the ways of this world will do this to you because you walk in my ways, representing me. The shows they do not know the one who sent me.”
Friendship is like riding a motorcycle. Some people say that it’s dangerous, and some people say that it’s fun. Most of those who ride for any extended amount of time will know that it includes its share of scrapes and bruises. But those who are too scared to get on will never know the feeling of wind blowing through the hair, or how the sting of raindrops can feel so good at the same time as feeling so painful. They hear stories of such joy, but the knowledge of fatal accidents keeps them from ever climbing on. So, I’m writing this as a veteran. With my share of concussions, fractures, and road rashes, I take my stand on my crutches to talk about how much I love riding my motorbike. I’m putting my fingers to keys to talk about something that “loves at all times,” when we all know that it doesn’t seem possible really, or rather, we’ve never experienced it. But we’ve heard the stories, so we hop on this ‘hog’ to try to experience what we’ve heard, even if it kills us. Somewhere deep seeded in us seems to be the concept of friendship. With its ideals, we all have standards…we all reach for as “David and Jonathan” as we can get. It’s the star, or to be less corny, it’s the dream that we all reach for in one way or another…but to be sure, at least, in our own way.
Our fears are being conned, betrayed, hurt or something worse, if there is something worse than all of those. We’ve seen the gruesome pictures of all the fatal accidents and heard of how much time and physical therapy it takes to recover. And in deep ways, and shallow ways-we’re afraid to step out of the boat because our logic won’t let us believe that a human being can walk on water. But this Gospel is not of logic…it’s of “somehows.” So, believing that in some miraculous way, we take the first step hoping against hope that this Gospel will stay afloat so that we have something to set our feet on. And the thing actually works when we come to the end of ourselves and we see that this is the “No greater love has man than this” thing that “somehows” are infused with. Suddenly the focus turns from “how could anyone love me?” to “I’m so glad to be loved.”
The love that we’re filled with is a martyr’s love, which is good because to love can mean persecution. I’m not talking about the love itself, but the simple fact that for the one that pours this kind of love out, the realization must be made to him that chances are he won’t get it back…and that, many times, seems nothing short of persecution. “If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first.” Even for Christ, who came to give the world life the world rejected it and still rejects it.
All metaphors aside, we know that “perfect love casts out all fear” (1 John 4:18). With the Gospel, an incredible revelation of the Father is offered. The disclosure is of a love so pure, so perfect, and so full of life that it releases with it a fearless joy that turns its back on the world and gives its only devotion to God. Fearing and honoring God, to be sure, but with a fear and respect that’s fueled out of a love for Him. It’s the love that draws one to devotion so deep that death can’t stop it. It’s watching the sun set on the mesas of Navajo America and knowing that you might never know yourself again. That is because through all the “losing” yourself you know that something else will eventually emerge and that “else” will be saturated in love because it’s born of love, and that will make you to never want to know your old self again. And this love that we find ourselves in becomes how we love others, our friends as well as our enemies, our spouses as well as those that grate our last nerve. Somehow with enough time, this love becomes something that we are instead of something that we do. “Somehow” that is. I don’t know all its workings, but it works. And I don’t understand its timing but I trust it.