By Nathan Washburn
Pastor, First Baptist Church, Greenbrier
Jump like LeBron James.
Sing like Carrie Underwood.
Write like C.S. Lewis.
Were we to be given these commands, we would fold under the weight of being unable to even come close to measuring up to these greats. When we hear Jesus’ words, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:12), we can feel the same way (but to an even greater degree). How in the world are we supposed to love like He loved us?
Receive love from Him. Self-sufficiency is not an option for the branches (John 15:4-5). No matter how convicted we are, no matter how strong a resolve we have, and no matter the number of opportunities that are available, we cannot love others on our own. To help His followers grasp this, Jesus used the picture of a vine and branches. Branches don’t have a set of roots gathering nutrition for them. Their nutrients come from the vine, or they don’t come at all. God is the source of love in this. In order to love, we must first receive God’s love toward us.
Know the spiritual landscape. It’s obvious in this extended picture that the branches represent people, and their abiding (or non-abiding) represents how they are found to relate to Jesus. There are those who believe in Him, love Him, listen to Him, and abide in Him, and there are those who don’t. Those that do are bearing fruit (namely keeping His commands and loving others) and those that do not are being broken off and thrown into the burn pile (John 15:6). There are no neutral branches. We are either bearing fruit to the glory of God or being broken off to burn forever in eternal shame.
Walk in joy. For those who bear the fruit of loving Christ and clinging to His commands (which we see as not being burdensome — I John 5:3), true joy will be increasing. Jesus longs for us to be full of joy, and the reason He gives us these words in John 15 is so that His joy will be in us and our joy will be full (v. 11). We must then contend for our joy to be full by listening to Him, so that the prophet Jeremiah’s response will resound with us, that “your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart” (Jeremiah 15:16).
Bear the scrutiny of the world. Abiding in the love of Christ also means enduring the hatred of the world (John 15:18-19). When we are connected to Christ, it means we disconnect ourselves from all other imposters who promise fulfillment but deliver emptiness. If we receive His love, we will then receive the world’s anti-love. We should expect no less, for the darkness hates the light (John 3:19-20). We should, however, take heart, for the love and joy of God is ours in Christ, and when we abide in Him, love can’t help but flow through us, even to our enemies.