Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made frill. This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.
I have had several podcasts lately about friendship. I almost didn’t play this one today because I wanted to be sure you had not heard too much about friendship from me lately. Yet, in this podcast, I realized that there have been crucial dark moments in my life when I would have floundered or fallen apart if I had not had friends to carry me, to comfort me, to guide me when I couldn’t see where I was going. So I hope that you will listen to this podcast today and be encouraged once again about how vitally it is to understand that much of our joy is sustained through relationships with people who have chosen to love us, to help us, to be committed.
I find it curious that Jesus said, "These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full." He wanted his disciples to be joyful—full of joy! And he was telling them how. He gave them a whole list of connections, and it is all about relationship! He said that we are to obey him and that if we do, we will abide in his love, live there, dwell there, flourish there in his love. And then he went on to define the commandment that will help us to abide in his love and experience full joy: "This is My commandment, that you love one another." That's it? Not that we have to be perfect or holy or righteous or without sin, but that we love one another? That is where our joy is made full?
Absolutely. This is why Jesus commanded us to cultivate and be committed to "life-laying-down," serving, loyal love.
As I consider this passage in light of my most committed "love" relationships—marriage to Clay, who has stuck with me through thick and thin for nearly forty years; Gwen (and a few other close friends), who have loved and accepted me unconditionally for more than four decades; my children, who are the closest of friends and beloved of my heart—I realize that it has been in my relationships with them that I have had the most joyful memories, the deepest intimate encounters, the greatest celebrations of life. I have felt deeply loved and accepted in the common life experiences that have knit our souls together. And it all came through committed, "I will be loyal to you and love you no matter what" love.
I also see that severed relationships have kept so many of the people I know from having joy. Any broken relationship is like a divorce: it tears a portion of our heart apart when something that was made to be whole is broken. I wonder if a statement opposite of Jesus' could also be true, "You will not experience fully my Father's love, nor have your joy be full, if you refuse to love one another. That is what will keep you from experiencing the intimate love of God and the fullness of joy in life—because you were created for love!" And I also wonder if a statement such as "Greater love will a person lose if he is not willing to lay down his life for his friend" is true as well.
This laying down of our lives—serving, giving, helping—is the key to real friendship and love, and ultimately, the fullness of joy. What does that look like? Looking back at the passage, Jesus said, "Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you." How has he loved us? He gave up his throne in heaven and came to the earth as a simple, humble man. He lived and loved and served and healed and poured out his life and died on the cross to pay for our sins. So that becomes the standard for what he means when he says, "Love one another."
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