By Jay McCluskey
Pastor, North Cleveland Baptist Church, Cleveland
Focal Passage: John 15:9-14
In 1984 the musical band “Foreigner” declared “I want to know what love is! I want you to show me!” Those two statements can be thought of as a prayer. We certainly long to know what love is. Who better to show us than the Lord Himself? In this passage, Jesus helps His disciples know how to recognize love.
Love looks like obedience. “If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, (John 15:10). Love is not a mere feeling, though it certainly will stir feelings within you. Rather, love is an act of the will. Oswald Sanders affirmed this when he wrote, “We are each as close to God as we choose to be.” It is a voluntary decision to obey. While we can be forced by suppression into compliance, genuine love freely chooses ongoing obedience.
The verb “remain” means “a steady, continuous relationship.” In marriage, there is a wedding day when husbands and wives enter into a loving covenant with one another. But there is also every other day of marriage in which you choose to continue in a loving covenant with that same person. So also, Christians have a “Salvation Day” when we receive the Savior’s invitation to enter into a covenant relationship with Him. In every day that follows, our obedience to His commands testifies to the love we have for Jesus.
Love looks like joy. “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete” (John 15:11). Obeying the Lord is not a grim, teeth-clenching exercise. Rather, it is an experience of joy.
For many folks, the idea of “joy” may be a life with no rules, no expectations, and no obligations. Outback Steakhouse advertises “No Rules! Just Right!” It sounds appealing, but we know that there are plenty of rules followed in the operation of any restaurant! In addition, a life with no boundaries to obey is not a formula for joy. Instead, THAT is a formula for misery.
At the end of Judges, the Hebrew society was described like this: In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes (Judges 21:25 NIV). Sounds like fun! But it actually was a terrible time in their history! Loving, obedient, Christians are the most joyful people you will see.
Love looks like sacrifice. “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13, NIV).
Notice Jesus does not tell us to merely love Him in return (which we should). He says to love others in the same way He loved in the past and in the way He will love in the near future when He lays down His life.
Many people get love mixed up with “lust” or “infatuation.” But properly understood, sacrifice clears up any confusion. In time, infatuation fades as sacrifices are required to maintain a relationship. Genuine love inspires us willingly to sacrifice for the welfare of a person we love.
A young man sent his girlfriend this note: “My love for you is higher than the highest mountain, wider than the widest river, deeper than the deepest ocean. I’ll come to see you Tuesday, unless it rains!” Clearly his “love” was less than genuine.
Conclusion. To know what love is, simply look to Jesus laying down His life for His friends.
An artist was painting a rendering of the crucifixion. As he worked a small boy approached, looked at the canvas, and began asking questions. The painter patiently shared about all the characters. He told the lad what was going on, especially pointing out how Jesus loved us so much that He died for the sins of the world. The child then asked the final question: “Mister. Did he die for me?” The artist looked at the boy and said, “Yes son. He died for you.” That little dialogue inspired the artist to name the painting: “He Died For You.”
To know personally what His love is, embrace His friendship. Methodist minister Leslie Weatherhead said it well, “Christianity is accepting the friendship of Christ.”
— McCluskey is pastor of North Cleveland Baptist Church, Cleveland.