"If you love me, you will keep my commandments."
Last Sunday I preached from John 14:15-31, a portion of what is known as Jesus’ Farewell Discourse, an important preparation of the disciples for his crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension. (Here is a link to the YouTube video if you would like to hear the message https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nagQK1P-uvY )
Jesus’ declaration that if we love him we will keep his commandments has often been relegated to specific orders Jesus had given. But John uses “commandments” and “my word” interchangeably in this text leading us to understand that we are dealing with more than “orders;” we are dealing with the whole of his communication throughout this Gospel. And what we find in the Gospel is Jesus’ interaction with the “world” as those who are outside the family of faith.
In each of the encounters that we have in John, the Samaritan woman, the man incapacitated from birth, the man born blind, and the woman caught in adultery Jesus is teaching us how to interact with a world that rejects him, that has its own theological and philosophical biases. Where the leaders of Israel rejected Samaritans out of hand, Jesus invited her into conversation. Where the leaders of Israel held that both the paralyzed man and the man born blind were subject to their sin or the sin of their parents (that was the common theology of the day) Jesus refused to get caught up in their rules and healed each of them. And the woman caught in adultery had her accusers accused by Jesus’ writing on the ground. When all had left Jesus released her, not only from the condemnation of the crowd, but also from her bondage to her sin.
In these actions Jesus gives us a pattern for dealing with the world that rejects the Savior. We are called, not to argumentation and insistence on our rights, but we are called to engage those with whom we disagree—not accepting their sin as normative—but engaging them with grace.
The challenge of our day and in our culture is that we have entered into a reduction ad absurdum—we have reduced every disagreement into a rejection of the other. Instead of engaging the world with Jesus’ love we insist on shrill argumentation that only succeeds in increasing anger and eviscerates any possibility of sharing the Good News. While Jesus never let his conversation partners off the moral hook, he never alienated them by his action, his attitude, or his words.
We can do no better than that, and certainly, no less. “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”
With deep affection,