Preaching to the Choir

These are some sermons, but mostly lectionary discussions. It also has prayers for some Sundays.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

If you Love Me...

Today I have been thinking about beginning of the Gospel lesson for this Sunday from John 14:15-21:

"If you love me, you will keep my commandments and I will ask the Father . . . ." and then the end of the passage; 21 Those who accept my commandments and obey them are the ones who love me. And because they love me, my Father will love them. And I will love them and reveal myself to each of them.”

Jesus says the same things over and over in different ways in these farewell lectures. The central word is love.

" If you love me you will keep my commandments.
" A new commandment I give you, that you love one another as I have loved you.
" Whoever does not love me does not keep my words.
" I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.

Loving Christ is the key to a vital relationship with God. The "great commandment" is to love God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind." (Mk.12:30 Love of God is the vehicle by which God has access to our inner lives. Keeping the commandments of Christ is the outward manifestation of this inward love.

"If you love me...." Not a conditional clause in the rhetorical sense... "If you love me you will... but if you don't love me..." There is congruence between the believer's love of Christ and keeping of the commands / words of Christ. To love Christ is to keep his commandments -- to keep his commandments is to love him. (Gail R. O'Day in NIB)

The question seems to be, which commandments is Jesus referring to? Is it the 10 commandments?

When it comes to Jesus giving commandments in the Gospel of John, this is what he has to say:

I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. (13.34, 35)

Or was Jesus referring to his own simple summary of the Law:

He said to him, "'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets." (Matthew 22:37-40, NRSV)

Fifty-seven times Jesus uses love verbs (agapao, phileo). Add to that all of the occurrences of "friend" (which is the translation of philos) as well as the fact that the primary disciple in the Fourth Gospel is an unnamed character called "the beloved disciple," and we might accuse the author of touting a single issue. And why not, for is it not the case that "God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten son that whosoever believeth in him shall not perish but have everlasting life"? (3:16).

The passage begins and ends with love.

Bill Coffin's wrote this: "If we fail in love, we fail in all things else."


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