John 15:1-16:4; 2 Chronicles 23; Psalm 80
There is an amazing freedom in life the minute we realize that Jesus loves us in the midst of our imperfections. We spend so much time either consciously or unconsciously seeking to gain God’s pleasure; seeking His love as if something we could do would make Him love us. The reality, though, is that God loved us long before we ever knew we needed His love and He loves us even with our faults – our sins. As Jesus spoke to the disciples, He reminded them of that. “This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. You are My friends if you do whatever I command you.” (John 15:12-14) Jesus put it on the line for this bickering, selfish group where members continually sought ways to elevate themselves in the group. He loved them and they should love each other. Rather than seek the higher positions of honor, they ought to seek out opportunities to sacrifice for each other to elevate the other brother. Jesus put it simply here. We are not just servants; we are friends if we do what He commands us. In this passage, His command is to love one another, to lay down our lives for each other. Such simple words; such a simple concept; and yet how difficult it is to live according to those words. Our sinful nature, the nature we were in when God first loved us, keeps coming to the fore and we put ourselves before our brothers and sisters in Christ. We set up barriers among ourselves so that we accept some who claim the name of Christ but disregard or belittle others because they don’t fit our cookie cutter mold of what a Christian should be like. Where we should be humbled by the fact that God loves us in spite of our sin, we begin to think that God’s love is vindication of our lifestyles and beliefs which makes it easy to look down on others who might have different beliefs on non-essential issues. The essential issue, according to Jesus is love for God and love for our brothers and sisters. We aren’t to judge their orthodoxy, God can do that. We aren’t to give them tests of Biblical understanding to make sure that they fit our mold. We are to love the brethren as Jesus, who went to the cross, did. A friend used to ask people a question designed to stimulate thought about their relationship with God. He would ask them, “What flavor are you?” The idea was that he had his “flavor” as a child of God and he wanted them to think about how they fit into the plan of God’s kingdom. There are many flavors in the Kingdom of God. Some may not be exactly to our liking; but all who love Jesus and love others as Jesus did are part of the family of God.
Lord, forgive me when I put up barriers to fellowship. Many of Your children have different experiences with You and their faith shows in different ways. May I always love Your people like You do. May I always be willing to lay down my life for my brothers and sisters.