Connections 05.06.2018: Love One Another

John 15:9-17

“Love one another” (Jn 15:17b). Is there a greater calling in Scripture than this? Is there a harder one? It is often paired with what Jesus called the Greatest Commandment, “Love God with all your being.” In fact, Jesus said the second one, to love each other, is like this first one about loving God; he held them as two sides of the same coin (Mt 22:36-40). They are inseparable. We cannot truly love all people without loving God, and we absolutely cannot love God if we don’t also love the people God made.

I don’t know about you, but there are plenty of people I find hard to love. In fact, if I’m honest with myself, I really don’t love them. There are some for whom I might even feel a bit of hatred. That’s a hard truth to face in my spirit. It hurts. It is antagonistic toward Jesus, the supposed love of my life. It goes against the very nature of God.

I think Jesus respects how hard it can be. He lived on this earth as a human being. He experienced our nastiness firsthand. He knows how terribly we can treat each other because he endured it himself. Surely he understands that it’s not easy to feel love in our hearts for people who do and say awful things—including, sometimes, our own selves.

In our passage where Jesus urges us to love one another, this verse stands out to me: “I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father” (Jn 15:15). How profound it is that those of us who strive to follow Christ as our Lord and Savior are no longer his servants but his friends! Being his friends means that we understand his mission. His mission is to draw all people to the God of love through himself, and he is the incarnation of love.

Jesus knows that loving all people will never be easy for us. But I think he would also want us to understand that nothing truly worthwhile is easy.

Discussion

1. What part of this passage stands out to you? Why?
2. Why do you think the New Testament writers so frequently emphasized loving God and loving others?
3. What stories can you think of from Jesus’ life that exemplify these two greatest commandments? How did he demonstrate this kind of love in the way he lived?
4. What would your life look like if you truly loved all people? What makes it hard to feel and show this kind of love?
5. How can you draw closer to Jesus so that, more and more, you can see every person through his eyes and sense his love for them?

Reference Shelf

In vv. 7-10 covenant structures of thought dominate. Deuteronomy 7:7-16 assists in understanding such thought forms. Its train of thought runs: (a) the Lord set his love on Israel and chose her, i.e., God’s love means election (v. 7); (b) the Lord keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who keep his commandments, i.e., God’s love means covenant fidelity toward those who obey (v. 9); (c) the Lord will love you, bless you, multiply you, take away diseases, destroy enemies (vv. 13-17), i.e., God’s love means bestowal of all these benefits. John 15:9-10 says the Father loves Jesus (i.e., has chosen him, remains faithful to him, and blesses him); that Jesus loves the disciples in the same way; and that the disciples’ role in the covenant is to abide in his love, i.e., keep his commandments. If the disciples do abide in Jesus and his words in them (i.e., they obey them), then there are two benefits for the disciples: answered prayer (v. 7; cf. 1 John 3:22) and fruitbearing (v. 8). To receive such benefits brings joy.

The basic direction of thought in 15:1-17 is that abiding in Jesus results in fruitfulness, i.e., loving one another within the life of the community. If this fruitfulness produced by abiding in the vine is a reality, then there are positive benefits (like answered prayer and joy), and the negative consequences (like being taken away and burned) are avoided. The central point of 15:1-17 is the soteriological priority of Jesus and the derivative character of the disciples’ existence. In a community where progressives “have gone beyond/are not abiding in” the doctrine of Christ (2 John 9) and have become secessionists (1 John 2:19), refusing to receive fellow Christians who visit (3 John), this twofold message is needed: (a) “Without me you can do nothing” (v. 5); (b) “Love one another, as I have loved you” (v. 12).

Charles H. Talbert, Reading John, Reading the New Testament (Macon GA: Smyth & Helwys, 1992) 222, 223.

Kelley Land, a graduate of Mercer University, has been an assistant editor for Smyth & Helwys curriculum and books since 2001. She attends church and leads an adult Sunday school class in Macon, Georgia. She is also the office administrator for Jay’s HOPE, a local charity serving families of children with cancer. Kelley enjoys spending time with her daughters, Samantha (12) and Natalie (10) and her husband John. For fun, she tries to stay caught up on the latest amazing TV series (including Doctor Who, Sherlock, Gilmore Girls, and The Crown).

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