Being religious or being spiritual is not necessarily the same as having faith and a life in the church, and being friendly is not the same as friendship. Last week we talked about branches connected to the vine and bearing fruit. There, Jesus told the disciples that to bear fruit we must remain connected to him.
Today Jesus makes it clear that this means remaining in his love – actively continuing in his love. If we keep his commandments, we will remain in his love, loving one another as he has loved us. What is important is that the focus of the command is to the disciples (us) and the church.
We cannot be left on our own in matters of love. Love cannot be a matter of warm, fuzzy and natural feelings towards others. Strangely it comes to us as a command. The question is, “But what good is a command to love someone?” We associate love with passions and feelings, affections rising within us based on likes and dislikes. We certainly say, “If I love someone, it won’t be because somebody gave me a command to do so.”
Jesus’ command to love is more than feelings and inclinations. Christ loves us when we are ugly; he loves us when we lack courage, when we behave hatefully, when we crucify him. When all this can be said about us, Jesus still loves us with the mercy only God can give us.
Husbands and wives are to love one another not just when they like it, but with constancy and fidelity that seeks the other’s good every day. Many have failed at this profoundly but it still remains the vision and demand of marriage. Feelings are never an adequate excuse or reason for not loving – our love must be “acting on behalf of the other’s well-being.” This love says, “I am for you.” Why? Because that is how God in Christ has loved us precisely when we are un-loveable.
This is the love that we should have available to everyone because we learn it from Jesus. The command is to: “Love one another as I have loved you.” This is how we are to love. He commands love from us, but not as a master who commands servants or a general of his soldiers. Jesus makes us his friends. The strength of this command is that it comes to us in extraordinary ways: Jesus made us his friends, and he lets us in on what he himself knows. He includes us in such a way that we share something with him that commands love of us. “For all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.”
Christ had made us his friends and therefore he can command us to love one another. How? Loving as he loved us. Our friendship with him makes us friends of one another. Being in him, we are brought together to accomplish what we cannot and would not accomplish on our own.
We Christians believe that friendship is essential to virtuous, good and decent living. We are to see and understand ourselves now through friendships, through Jesus’ friendship and the community of friends to which we belong because of our baptism.
We must learn to live as Christ’s friends and in friendship with him, to become like him. We are learning to love with him, to enjoy loving with him in his friendship – forgiveness, trust, counting on one another, fidelity, telling the truth.
Friends will seek the other’s good event at a cost to themselves. “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you.”
In the church, a friend of Jesus should be our friend, my friend and your friend. Jesus commands us to love him and one another with the fidelity with which he has befriended us. So we embrace each other with the peace which is his peace regardless of arguments and sentiments of the likes or dislikes. And when we do, it is the Holy Spirit in us and Christ’s command of friendship living in us.
“It is risky to be open to God, realizing how our thinking and acting might be challenged. We need courage to be Christ’s Body and announce to the world the joy of Easter, hope of the Resurrection. With courage in the Risen Lord, we can imagine a better world and cooperate with God in his coming.” Maya Angelou.
“In the Spirit: I Wouldn’t Take Anything for my Journey Now.” Random House, NY, 1993.
We must draw upon the power of the Spirit for our courage and be the light of Christ for a world in need. The Holy Spirit is the creative living memory of the church. God’s spirit unites us and energizes us as we come together to share, relive and learn from the memory of the Risen Christ. Jesus, the wise rabbi, the compassionate healer, the friend of the rich and the poor, the saint and the sinner, the obedient and humble Servant of God – is a living presence among us, a presence that makes us a community of faith, calling us together to offer Christ’s love, support and compassion to one another.”
“This is my commandment: love one another as I love you.”