The Rev. Dr. Robert S. Langworthy, preaching
May 9, 2021
Decades ago, the most popular TV sitcom was a show called All in the Family. In it, a young married couple, Michael and Gloria, lived in her parents’ home.
In one episode Michael and Gloria are alone in the kitchen. He’s eating a sandwich, and she’s baking cookies. She asks him, “Do you love me?” “Yup,” he grunts without looking up to keep his focus on the sandwich he’s ready to devour. She follows up with a 2nd question, “Would you give up your life for me?” “Sure, after I finish this sandwich.” “Ma saw this movie about a husband and wife in the desert. He gives up his life so she can live. Would you do that for me?” “Honey, if we’re ever in the Sahara desert together, you got my life. So you got more pickles?” Gloria frowns. “I’m serious. If we’re stranded in the desert, and we had just enough water for one of us, what would you do?” “I’d flip you for it,” Michael replies; but, upon seeing her scowl, he hastens to add, “Of course, it’s hard to answer. You never know what you’d do in a life-or-death situation.” “OK, forget the desert,” she replies. “Let’s say we’re in the ocean, and a shark is coming at us. Would you swim in front of it to save me?” “How big is the shark?” “It’s big. It’s a man-eating shark.” “Well, then you should swim in front of it.” “Why?” “You said it’s a man-eating shark, not a woman-eating one.” At this point, Gloria throws up her hands. “I just want to know how much you care about me.” “I care about you, honey. And if you care for me, you’ll let me eat my sandwich!” Gloria then snatches the sandwich out of his hands, and fixes him with her glare. “We are lost in the mountains. This is our only food, our only chance for survival. Would you give me the sandwich?” “I wouldn’t have to. You’d take it from me.” “I just want to hear you say you’d lay down your life for me.” “OK!” he gives in, exhausted, “I’d lay down my life for you! Now can I eat in peace?”
We don’t have to beg Jesus to tell us He’d lay down His life for us. Without our asking, He did, and He did it apart from our having any kind of relationship with Him like that in a marriage. In fact, the Bible says that, when we were alienated from God, Jesus proved the greatness of His love by laying down His life for us.
Last week we studied the first 8 verses of John 15. In those verses Jesus did not once use the word “love”. Rather He spoke again and again about “abiding”: our abiding in Him and His abiding in us. Jesus started out the next 8 verse section of John 15 with a variation on that theme. He commanded us to “abide” in His “love”, and uses the word “love” 5 times in the first 2 verses! He saw abiding in His love and abiding in Him, who is love incarnate, as the same thing. In this two-way indwelling, we make our home in His heart and He makes His home is ours.
This mutual abiding changes a believer’s heart. It makes the heart loving, open, warm, welcoming, empathetic, compassionate and outreaching. It causes the heart to go out to others, and renovates the heart to become a home for others, a home in which to experience God’s love.
To abide with Jesus is to stay attached to Him; so that, when He leaves the confines of the relationship, so as to bring His love to others, we go forth with Him to help in the effort.
To abide in Jesus’ love is then to keep the commandment He repeated throughout that Thursday evening just before He laid down His life: that we should, as He said here in verse 12, “love one another as I have loved you”. Obeying Him and abiding in Him go together. “If you keep my commandments,” He said in verse 10, “you will abide in my love.”
As we keep His command to love others as He loves us, we should view Him, not merely as the model of our living right, but more as the cause of it. He generates it, catalyzes it, energizes it. That’s why He said, “You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit.” Jesus creates our fruitfulness – originates it, initiates it, precipitates it. We love out of His first loving us and out of our abiding in that love.
This abiding not only benefits others, but also ourselves. Let us note the two ways Jesus here indicated. First, He said in verse 11 that it makes our joy “complete”. It brings us the exhilarating, exuberant exultation that comes from fulfilling our humanity by making the world better.
Last February, the Washington Post ran an article about how medical professionals were finding such delight in bringing people peace, hope and smiles by administering the COVID vaccine that many clinics and hospitals couldn’t accommodate the would-be volunteers. One veteran nurse said giving those shots was the highlight of her long career! Is that not beautiful? And do not we, who follow Jesus and share His love, save people from a greater danger than COVID?
Loving like Jesus gives us joy. Second, it gives us special closeness with Him. He said, “You are my friends if you do what I command you.” While we’ll never be His equal, we become a friend of His by taking to heart what is on His heart and passing on the love He gives us. In joining Him in that outreach, we become a companion of His and develop a deep bond with Him by which we know His heart as one good friend knows another’s.
As we make a home in Jesus, and a home in our heart for His love for everyone else, we come to know everything the Father says: most especially, that there’s love enough for us – and for all people! Let us pray.