Scripture: John 15:12-17 (alternate reading: John 14:6-14)
12 "This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide; so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. 17 This I command you, to love one another.
Meditation: What is the greatest act of love – of self-giving for the sake of another? Jesus defines friendship – the mutual bond of trust and affection which people have for one another – as the willingness to give totally of oneself – even to the point of laying down one's life for the sake of others. How is such love possible or even desireable? God made us in love for love. That is our reason for being, our purpose for living, and our goal in dying. God is love and everything he does flows from his love for us. He loved us so much – far beyond what we could ever expect or deserve – through the offering of his beloved Son, the Lord Jesus Christ who gave his life as the atoning sacrifice for our sins. God the Father willingly gave up his Son so that we might become his beloved sons and daughters, his adopted children (Romans 8:14-17).
Paul the Apostle tells us that we can abound in joy and hope because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us (Romans 5:5). God's love has power to transform and change us so that we can be like him – merciful, kind, gracious, and forgiving. In God's love we find the fulness of abundant life, peace, and joy. That is why Jesus came to give us abundant life through the gift and working of the Holy Spirit. Jesus gave his disciples a new commandment – a new way of loving and serving one another. Jesus' love was wholly directed toward the good of others. He love them for their sake and for their welfare. That is why he layed down his own life for us to free us from sin, death, fear, and everything that could hold us back from the love of God.
Jesus called his disciples his friends. Jesus not only showed his disciples that he cared for them. He enjoyed their company. He ate with them, shared everything he had with them – even his most intimate thoughts. And he spent himself doing good for them. To know Jesus is to know God and to understand the love and friendship God offers each one of us. One of the special marks of favor shown in the Scriptures is to be called the friend of God. Abraham is called the friend of God (Isaiah 41:8). God speaks with Moses as a man speaks with his friend (Exodus 33:11). Jesus, the Lord and Master, in turn, calls the disciples his friends rather than his servants. What does it mean to be a friend of God? Friendship with God certainly entails a loving relationship which goes beyond mere duty and obedience. Jesus' discourse on friendship and brotherly love echoes the words of Proverbs: A friend loves at all times; and a brother is born for adversity (Proverbs 17:17). The distinctive feature of Jesus' relationship with his disciples was his personal love for them. He loved his own to the end (John 13:1). His love was unconditional and wholly directed to the good of others. His love was also sacrificial. He gave the best he had and all that he had. He gave his very life for those he loved in order to secure for them everlasting life with the Father.
The Lord Jesus gives his followers a new commandment – a new way of love that goes beyond giving only what is required or what we think others might deserve. What is the essence of Jesus' new commandment of love? It is a love to the death – a purifying love that overcomes selfishness, fear, and pride. It is a total giving of oneself for the sake of others – a selfless and self-giving love that is oriented towards putting the welfare of others ahead of myself. There is no greater proof in love than the sacrifice of one's life for the sake of another. Jesus proved his love by giving his life for us on the cross of Calvary. Through the shedding of his blood for our sake, our sins are not only washed clean, but new life is poured out for us through the gift of the Holy Spirit. We prove our love for God and for one another when we embrace the way of the cross. What is the cross in my life? When my will crosses with God's will, then God's will must be done. Do you know the peace and joy of a life fully surrendered to God and consumed with his love?
The Lord Jesus tells us that he is our friend and he loves us whole-heartedly and unconditionally. He wants us to love one another just as he loves us, whole-heartedly and without reserve. His love fills our hearts and transforms our minds and frees us to give ourselves in loving service to others. If we open our hearts to his love and obey his command to love our neighbor, then we will bear much fruit in our lives, fruit that will last for eternity. Do you wish to be fruitful and to abound in the love of God?
"Teach us, good Lord, to serve you as you deserve, to give and not to count the cost, to fight and not to heed the wounds, to toil and not to seek for rest, to labor and not to ask for any reward, save that of knowing that we do your will; through Jesus Christ our Lord." (Prayer of Ignatius Loyola)
7 My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast! I will
sing and make melody!
8 Awake, my soul! Awake, O harp and lyre! I will awake the dawn!
9 I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples; I will sing praises to you among the nations.
10 For your steadfast love is great to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds.
11 Be exalted, O God, above the heavens! Let your glory be over all the earth!