John 15:9-17 The Law Of Christ

Authored By Rev. Takao Kiyohiro, Tokyo, Japan

Remain In My Love

1.  "As my Father has loved me, I too have loved you.  Remain in my love," (verse nine).

2.  Love can be a one way thing.  Love doesn't question someone's reasons.  Love even goes to a person who is against you.  Love accepts the people who hate you just as they are.  "Love is forbearing.  Love is compassionate ... " (First Corinthians 13:4), says Paul.  This means that true love is not a natural emotion in any sense, but is a purposeful activity that requires forbearance and compassion.  True love of this kind is not controlled by someone else's circumstances or reasons.  It was truly with this kind of love that Christ had loved his disciples.  Christ did not love the disciples because they loved him.  He didn't love the disciples because they were worth being loved.  The love of Christ was completely one way.  The Lord says, "I have loved you."

3.  But, "a relationship" based on love cannot be one way.  Relationships are not made to be like a one way street.  Even though the one person has loved the other so much, a relationship has not been constituted by any means [because a relationship takes two.]  That's why Christ does not only say "I have loved you," but "Remain in my love."  It points to the relationship in which the branches of the vine are connected to the mainline and it is alive with the sap going back and forth between the mainline and the branches.  The Lord is looking for the disciples personally to remain in a relationship of love that is alive like the vine and its branches.

4.  Now, what does it mean "to remain in [his] love?"  The Lord clearly articulates the meaning of this.  "As I keep my Father's commandments and remain in his love, you too, if you keep my commandments, will be remaining in my love," (verse ten).

5.  Don't think of "remaining in [his] love" as merely a matter of the heart.  This is not a problem of the heart, but is an issue of concrete every day living.  If it doesn't mean "living and feeling the love of Christ," it doesn't mean "living with affection for Christ" either.  We understand it by thinking of the relationship between God the Father and Christ.  God the Father loved Christ the Son and Christ the Son also loved God the Father.  There is a relationship of love between the father and the son among them.  It meant that Christ was "remaining in the love of the Father."  And the love of Christ for the Father is clearly not just a situation within the heart.  [His] love took a specific form.  It was revealed as submission to his father.  The text puts it like this, "to keep the commands of the Father."  It wasn't an internal matter of the heart.  It actually meant his walk going to the cross.

6.  In the same way, when we remain in the love of Christ, it is not just an internal matter of the heart.  A response to the love of Christ takes on a specific form.  It is submission to Christ.  The Lord puts it like this, "You too, if you keep my commandments, will be remaining in my love."  It has to do with our every day way of living.  It has to do with our entire lives [as] one unbroken series of daily [living].

Love One Another

7.  So, what are his commandments?  What does it mean to respond to the love of Christ and to live as Christ wants us to?  The Lord says this, "As I have loved you, please love one another.  This is my commandment," (verse twelve).  When we read this in Japanese we don't get it too clearly, but the word "commandment" as it appears in verse ten is written in the plural.  But, "commandment" in verse twelve is singular.  Here in this text Christ arranges all of [his] orders and all of [his] commandments in only one statement.  What might that be?  It is to "Love one another."

8.  "As I have loved you, please love one another.  This is my commandment," (verse twelve).  This is not some vague teaching of love for one's neighbor.  Christ is speaking to specific disciples right before him.  When Christ said, "Love one another," as the disciples looked to their sides, the faces of the other disciples right next to them were right there.  The [persons] right next to them were individual personalities with proper names and faces and with idiosyncratic characters.  Some of them were ex-tax collectors and were the kind of persons who lived betraying their own Jewish countrymen and women.  And others of them were originally nationalists of the Zealot Party.  Any way you look at it, the reason they were standing together in a place where they could see each others' faces up close was not because they naturally had the exact same aspirations and hopes.  Christ loved just one, and because he loved another one [and another], they were there together.  It is with this reality before them that the Lord could say, "As I have loved you, please love one another.  This is my commandment."

9.  If he said, "You should love everyone," our answer might be, "Yes, we agree exactly."  But, when he says, "Love the person closest to you," we feel distress instantly.  Were he to say, "Love of neighbor is important," no one would oppose that.  But, Christ pointed to specific individuals as they faced across from each other in the church and with their different personalities, different ways of seeing, thinking and feeling, and said "Love one another."  [I] say that is indeed the response for the love by which Christ has loved us.  That indeed is nothing other than submission in the form of a response of love.

10.  Of course, there is a reason the Lord said these things.  The Lord says, "The reason I told you these things is that so my joy might be in you and that your joy might be full," (verse eleven).

11.  The Lord says, "my joy ... "  We must take seriously this small phrase which is written without much ado.  Because what he is saying, no matter how you look at it, it is not a situation in which the Lord can [rightfully] speak of joy.  The Lord knew quite well what might happen to him.  The Lord knew well that he would be forsaken by persons, hated, judged, crucified and killed by the authorities.  These are the words of a man who had his own death right before him.  How in the world could anyone still speak on "my joy" with his or her own death right before him or her?

12.  We often talk about "happiness and joy."  Or, even if we don't, we are always in pursuit of our happiness.  We think of how we can make ourselves happy.  But, when the Lord speaks on "my joy" with the cross before him, we sense what we normally think of as joy but fading away at once.  It is no more than like the chaff that has no substance to it, but ends up flying off into the air when a little wind blows upon it.  And, actually, haven't we often experienced these things flying away?

13.  The joy of the Lord was a joy that he could speak on with the cross before him.  It was a joy that would never be robbed by any authority of this world or by any betrayal by someone close to him or by anything.  It was a joy not even death could steal.  And the Lord wanted this joy to be in us.  "The reason I told you these things is that so my joy might be in you and that your joy might be full," (verse eleven).

14.  This joy was a joy that came from the unchanging relationship of love between Christ and God the Father.  It was a joy that came from remaining in the unchanging love of God the Father.  "Commandment" and "joy" are probably two words that are very difficult to associate together in our minds.  But, in hearing the phrase "to keep the commandments" in verse ten, we should not think of a joyless legalism tightly bound to a chain of commandments.  Christ did not obey God the Father as a slave.  He obeyed the Father out of love as a beloved son.  In the same way, Christ does not want his disciples to serve him like [some] joyless slave.  Instead, what Christ wants is to share with us the joy that he has had.

You Are My Friends

15.  Therefore, Christ no longer calls his disciples "servants," but calls them "friends."  "If you practice what I command, you are my friends.  I will no longer call you servants because a servant does not know what his master does.  I will call you friends because I will let you know everything I hear from the Father," (verses fourteen and fifteen).

16.  With the imagery of the word "friend" all kinds of people come to mind.  In Christ calling us friends and becoming our friend various images can be depicted.  For example, he is with you when you're lonely.  He gives us comfort when we're sad.  He rejoices with us when we're happy.  Christ is certainly like that.

17.  But, what is being said here is not that kind of sentimental kind of thing.  In order to understand this [text], we've got to go back to the Old Testament.  In the Bible we find only one person ever called "my friend" by God, (Isaiah 41:8, Second Chronicles 20:7).  It is Abraham.  The conversation between Abraham and God appears in Genesis, but just before the sinful towns of Sodom and Gomorrah are judged God says the following to Abraham, "Do I need to hide from Abraham what I propose to do?," (Genesis 18:17).  And he showed Abraham that he intended to judge Sodom and Gomorrah.  In other words, God shared his will and his plans with Abraham.

18.  Here when Christ says, "You are my friends," the meaning that it has is the same as in the case of Abraham.  The relationship between God and Abraham is [no different from] the relationship between Christ and his disciples that we have here.  Because Christ also has shown his friends the disciples what he himself would do.  Christ made clear to his friends the disciples God's plan of salvation in which he had intended to be obedient and give up his own life.

19.  The reason we are being invited to be disciples of Christ and his friends is none other than to take part in God's plan of salvation which has been thus made so plain to us by Christ.  The Lord said, "You have not chosen me.  I have chosen you.  I have ordained you that you go out, bear fruit, and that your fruit remain and that whatever my Father wills in my name be given you," (verse sixteen).  It is in this way that we are called to bear fruit.  The church is under this type of purpose from the Lord.  What is being said here is the fruit of preaching and is the fruit of salvation which is written as "go out and bear fruit."  The church is called so that this kind of fruit be abundantly yielded and its fruit might remain, that is to say, that people would remain in the love of Christ.

20.  However, the really interesting thing here is that the first thing said is not "Go out and perform some kind of deed."  The thing that is said over and over is to "Love one another."  First of all the disciples being called now are to love one another and to form that kind of church.  The Lord says, "This is my commandment."

21.  The disciples of the Lord had to learn to love one another for no other reason than that Christ had first called them.  We have to learn to live together in accepting one another and in pardoning each other just as Christ did for us.  In this manner then, we had better obey what Christ calls "my commandment."  Thus, as Christ's friends, in sharing in the true joy that Christ calls "my joy," we go out and are able to yield forth fruit that will remain for ever.  Unless we live in the church as persons saved by Christ, we can't expect to be able to spread the salvation of Christ on the outside.  Unless we live in the joy of obedience to Christ personally, we can't expect to go out and invite persons to follow Christ.

22.  "As I have loved you." -- Christ loved us and gave his life up for us.  That truth inevitably leads us to the following next words, "Love one another.  This is my commandment."

 
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