“Remain in God’s love.”
That phrase from John 15 caught me. What does it look like to remain in God’s love?
According to the passage, we remain in God’s love by keeping God’s commands. But what does that mean? Do we step outside of God’s love when we don’t keep God’s commands? That can’t be right, because God is love; nothing we can say or do will ever change God’s love for us. We cannot make God love us any more or less. God loved us before creation, long before we were born. Before we had the capacity to say or do a single thing, God loved us. God’s love does not depend on us.
God loves us, every single one, from the beginning to the ultimate end, no matter what. (How many ways can I say the same thing? Though it bears repeating, since we’re so good at forgetting: God is love. God’s love never wavers, never changes, never ceases).
So what does Jesus mean?
I’m sure I’m not alone in this, but commands don’t motivate me. Many of us quaver under barked orders. Sure, I’m a rule keeper and a people pleaser and I mostly color within the lines. But I don’t wake up in the morning excited about commandments. The dos and the don’ts provide a helpful structure, yet they don’t cause me to jump for joy.
Love, though … that’s different. Love motivates me. I may not love washing dishes, I may not love doing laundry, but I do my share of the house chores (mostly) willingly because I love my guys and this life we share. We also never gave our kids an allowance tied to chores because chores are part of playing on this team we call Family, the calisthenics at the beginning of each practice. We participate in the work of Family because of love. It’s all about the relationship.
Keep reading in John 15 and you’ll see that the command to which Jesus directs his followers is relational: love one another. Always, it boils down to the all-important basics: love God, love your neighbor as yourself. Everything we do comes back to love.
We demonstrate our love for God as we continue in the way of love Jesus showed us. Because God first loved us, we respond to God’s love with actions motivated by love. Even when we’re not feeling especially loving, the truth of love motivates us to keep moving forward in loving action. And, I suspect, in keeping the command to love, we are also reminded that we do these things because of Love flowing back and forth and all around.
“Remain” … the word that first caught my attention. What does it look like to remain in God’s love? Let’s try something: I’ll offer a series of words that might, in this context, act as synonyms. You pick the one to which you feel most drawn and mull it over throughout the day. See what it might reveal to you about being in God’s love.
Abide. Move. Act. Hang out. Continue. Stand. Sit. Pause. Linger. Swim. Run. Walk. Work out. Garden. Grow. Serve. Play. Rejoice. Receive. Rest. Nest. Live. Love.
Which word stands out, or does another suggest itself? Take that word with you today, offer it to God, and see if it doesn’t influence your attitude toward loving others … and remind you of God’s always and forever love.