John 15:9-12 (NIV)
“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.”
As Jesus prepares his disciples for the fast-approaching end of his earthly ministry, he stresses the importance of love, mentioning it seven times in these four short verses. As Jesus has loved and obeyed the Father, he remains in the Father’s love, that is, in close, devoted communion. This is the relationship that Jesus also desires with his disciples so that they might love one another.
“Remain in my love,” he says. “That is how you can obey my command to love each other.” He adds that their obedience will arise not from compulsion but from joy. It is the same joy that compels Jesus to finish the work of the cross that the Father has laid before him.
Such joy is a God-centered happiness that results from that close, devoted communion in which we know, love, and serve God. It is a gift of the Spirit meant to establish God’s kingdom in our midst. As we learn to live a life centered in Christ, our joy deepens and strengthens.
This joy is not the self-centered happiness that we pursue for the sake of our own comfort and pleasure. Such worldly joy is elusive and leaves us hungering to be filled rather than motivated to love. The pursuit of self-centered happiness inevitably leads us into conflict because even our most loving relationships are bound to disappoint us sooner or later.
If you are experiencing personal conflict, ask yourself: Am I disappointed because this person failed to meet my needs or expectations in some way? Am I too hurt and bitter to love this person as Jesus commands? Do I have a deep hunger that needs to be filled before I can feel generous enough to forgive?
If such is the case, you are wise to focus on your relationship with God more than on your relationship with the other person. Pray for a better understanding of God’s heart and his desire for your life. Lean into a deeper dependence on God to satisfy the hungers of your soul. Then receive the joy that Christ promised and allow yourself to be used by Christ to love and forgive this other person for the sake of the kingdom.
FATHER, teach me the difference between selfish joy and the generous joy that helps me to love and forgive those who injure me. Thank you for loving me so much that you provided a bridge to me through the life and sacrifice of your Son. Help me to remain in the love of Christ so that I can love and forgive others without conditions.
Psalm 16:11; Hebrews 12:1-2
Why is loving one another so important to Jesus that he makes it a command?