As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love.” (John 15:9-10).
In John 15:9-17, Jesus tells the disciples that he loves them like the Father loves him. What does that mean? It means Jesus loves us a lot. Shouldn’t we get that Jesus loves us? He lives for us, dies for us, and rises from the dead for us. He does all of that out of love. Hear that. Jesus really loves us. But, here is the thing, that doesn’t mean we always feel that love. In fact, there are many people, both inside the Church and out, who Jesus loves. The reality is that every human being ever created is loved by God. That is a truth. Jesus came to save all mankind. Also true and terrible, is that not every man will accept that salvation. Many of those whom Jesus loves choose to live outside of his love.
It is a tragedy, one that “being a Christian” in name only will not save you from. Jesus makes that clear too when he is talking to his disciples. These are followers who walked with him up until the end of John’s Gospel. He tells them he loves them and then says “remain in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love.”
It might be tempting to think that Jesus just laid out some sort of quid pro quo scenario. There is a cynical voice that creeps in and says, “see you have to earn Jesus’ love.” But, this is not the case. 1 John 14 tells us that “In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as expiation for our sins.” Jesus loves us, not because we earned it but because that is who he is. God is love.
“Keep My Commandments”
So, what is the deal with the “keep my commandments” talk? Well, Jesus knows human nature (John 2:24-25). He knows that, as much as he loves us, we are prone to finding other gods. We worship our sports, our work, our children, celebrities, and on and on. So, he gave us a commandment to keep us safe, and in his love. It’s the first one, “You shall have no other gods!” It isn’t so much that God is asking for something, or else! Instead, he is warning us against all the things that will draw us away from him. God desires the very best for us and wants us to live in the reality of his love. His commandments are the guide-rails that keep us on that path.
Consider the rest of this passage. Jesus commands us to “love one another, as I have loved you.” Can you imagine a life lived totally in this way? How much joy would there be in that? A life where every person you met was treated like they were someone incredibly precious. A life where people regularly sacrificed and put others before themselves. If every Christian really took this command to heart, we would not have to look for the love of God. We would feel it regularly through the work and life of our fellow believers.
Too often, we have equated being a Christian with being in some sort of club with great long-term benefits. Too often, living the Faith becomes completing some vague list of minimum attendance requirements. The truth is, we were meant to live in the love of Christ and to go forth and share the love of Christ. The two are not separate but, instead, are intimately connected. Jesus makes that clear. If you are going to remain in his love, then you are called to love like he does.