In the midst of slurs and attacks on Christianity which are popular in the media today, what is Christianity really all about? Are the critics right? Is Christianity irrelevant and out of touch or is it still the most relevant belief in existence?
Let’s understand how love is the basis of real Christianity.
We will look at John 15:9-17 and Jesus’ command for us to love each other.
Abide in Love
John 15:9-10 emphasizes keeping Christ’s commands and abiding in the love of God and Christ. That is the fruit that will abide or last (vs. 16). It is fruit that only comes to those who remain in connection with the vine. Love is the major discussion of this entire passage: God's love for Jesus, Jesus' love for us and our love for each other. The Greek root words agape and philos are used interchangeably. When Jesus says that we are his friends he means “those who are loved.” To be Jesus' friend and to love Jesus are the same thing. That friendship is defined as keeping Jesus' commands, the chief of which is to love. John referred to himself as the one Jesus loves. What would it mean to us to identify ourselves primarily as ones that Jesus loves?
What does the word command mean in this passage? Nowhere does it say Ten Commandments, so let us not assume without any further evidence that is what it means as some seem to do. Jesus speaks of his commands and his Father’s. Jesus’ commandment is clearly to love one another (John 15:12). Jesus obeys his Father’s order. What are they? The Bible does not contain all of God’s commandments. Some are those orders which were only between the Father and Son. The context here seems to actually refer to Jesus' life of obedience to his Father’s wishes. Jesus' obedience to his Father's command shows his love for the Father. Our obedience to Jesus' command shows our love for Jesus. In John 15:10 the word keep actually means to hold dear because of a joyful response of our love for God.
Mother Teresa once said that America has become a selfish nation. Even our religion is primarily about us, our health and our wealth, and not Christ. We have lost the meaning of love, which is to give until it hurts. Love is giving. Jesus gave until he died. That is the Gospel. The focus of the Gospel is what he did for us. Unlike the “decision for Jesus” movement, Jesus said that we did not choose him, but he chose us (John 15:16). The word Gospel in Old English meant God’s story. It is about what God has done, not what we do. Statements to choose God, follow Jesus or do you love the Lord are not Gospel. They are not about what God is doing, but us. The Gospel is about what God is doing and his choice.
Helping Others Win
Imagine a game where the purpose is to help the other team win. What kind of sport is that? It’s a strange sport called Christianity. It is the sport of Jesus. Imagine playing pick-up teams and picking the weaker players first rather than last as usual. Imagine every score was for the other side. Of course there are limits to this analogy. Jesus had real enemies and we would not want them to win. Among them were the Pharisees, the pious people who prayed three times a day, knew their Bibles, obeyed God's laws, fasted weekly and gave 10% of their income. Jesus did not choose them. He chose fishermen, a tax collector, and a zealot, a bunch of rejects.
A Love that Gives Life
Many of us honor our mothers and fathers who gave so much of their lives for us. It is a sad fact when such giving is spurned in favor of a selfish life where career and money come before the love of children. Children are too often an inconvenience to be farmed out to a babysitter school system and day care. Those things have their place and every parent certainly needs a break. However, when the priorities are for self, our children suffer neglect. Yet the love of an unselfish parent can teach us to love each other, just as the love of our heavenly parent teaches us what selflessness is all about (John 15:9-17). A self-love that takes life from others destroys the taker. A love that gives life is the greatest love of all.
The Love Vine
Jesus taught about abiding in the vine, then abiding in his love (John 15:9-17). The two ideas are connected by the context. How do we abide in his love? If we keep his commandments we remain in his love. What commandments? His commandment is this: that we love one another as he has loved us. Remaining in the love vine makes us able to bear much fruit. It is such an important command that it is repeated: love each other. How is that love defined? What is the supreme example of such love? Laying down one’s life for one’s friends can be applied in many ways. Death is one way to lay down one’s life. So is living a life of self-sacrifice. It is the kind of love that a parent shows when time is given to a child.
Obeying Stupid Rules in Love
Some rules just don’t make sense. Stupid decrees which are a waste of time and resources just incite rebellion and disrespect. It especially makes Christians angry to be judged for ignoring brainless rules made up by bossy control freaks who think they have the right to interfere in private lives. Nobody likes to be shackled by idiotic regulations. Yet there is one rule that makes more sense than any other. If we all obeyed this rule the world would be wonderfully transformed. Those who disobey it are fools because it benefits everyone. That rule is to love each other (John 15:9-17). Sometimes it even makes sense to obey a stupid rule, if by doing so we are showing love to those whose faith is weak and tied to that rule. We show love by not offending a little one.
Brotherly Love & Love of Neighbor
Philadelphia is known as the city of “brotherly love.” The Greek word philos embodies the great command to love our brother. John used it to describe the friendship Jesus has with us. It means someone dearly loved. It is love for neighbor. For example, in John 15:9-17 Jesus stated that if we keep his commands we remain in his love. The principle command that he issued was to love one another. Then he stated that we are his friends if we do what he commands. When churches fall into squabbles over disputes about sins, money and power they fail their calling. Churches succeed in love when they give humanitarian relief during war, calamity or natural disaster disrupt communities and when they fight for the poor and oppressed foreigners. When we love one another, we are dearly beloved friends of Jesus.
OutroThe basis of Christianity is love. That love overrides all the silly criticisms that come from outside and inside. It is that love that built hospitals, shelters, serves the poor and provides humanitarian efforts to change the world. It is the love of Jesus that the world needs now.