“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 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. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. This is my command: Love each other.
- John 15:9-17
“If I am a friend of Jesus, I must deliberately and carefully lay down my life for Him. It is a difficult thing to do, and thank God that it is. Salvation is easy for us, because it cost God so much. But the exhibiting of salvation in my life is difficult. God saves a person, fills him with the Holy Spirit, and then says, in effect, ‘Now you work it out in your life, and be faithful to Me, even though the nature of everything around you is to cause you to be unfaithful.’ And Jesus says to us, ‘…I have called you friends….’ Remain faithful to your Friend, and remember that His honor is at stake in your bodily life.”
- Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest
In Chambers’ devotion leading up to the quote above, he describes that Jesus ‘laid down’ His life for 33 years for His friends. Which friends? As the Scripture above states, those who Jesus chose.
Did Jesus choose you?
If so, follow His commands. Love each other.
In each church that worships Jesus, there is bickering. Charles Stanley wrote in one of his books that it was depressing going through towns and finding six, eight, ten half-empty churches. He might not be a half-empty versus half-full type person, but in the case of churches, there was a reason why there were so many churches in each small town. They were each ‘half-empty’, and the amount of emptiness might be generous in a characterization of ‘half.‘ No one in the town could get along with each other. Stanley attributed this to not listening to the Holy Spirit. Sure, some might be different denominations or different styles of worship, but in worshipping a loving God, we do a poor job of following one simple command, to love one another.
When we moved to our little out-of-the-way place, an old mining town near Pittsburgh, we found five active Presbyterian churches. Living in the southeastern US, not every town had one Presbyterian church. We thought this was odd, until we learned more about the community. Within a couple of years, one of the churches was converted into an apartment building. Another of the churches had 3 or 4 devoted families and a preacher willing to serve them until they passed on or moved on – more than 20 years later and the group is getting smaller. They might love Jesus, but their sense of tradition is strong. Another of the churches was Presbyterian in name only, staying to themselves.
We joined one church, simply by being invited. The others had their chance. The preacher was weird, but after about a year, he emerged as highly liberal. He chose me as his intellectual equal, whether that was true or not, and he picked fights to argue various points of his sermons. I realized that some people attended church just to see the sparring match as I shook the preacher’s hand after the service. I did not wish for the worship of God to become a side show. We left and joined a church 10 miles away in a larger town.
The preacher retired a year or two later, and the church collapsed. It is now the Sunday school building for one of the other Presbyterian churches next door. Why were two churches of the same denomination next door to each other? I asked. Most people would not give any answer at all, the pain too deep. Those that did answer said that when they saw people from that other church, they turned and walked the other way. Now, they are all one big unhappy family.
And what else did Jesus command, in this short bit of Scripture that is often quoted? He chose us to bear fruit. The preacher does not bear fruit. The church leader does not bear fruit. All who call upon Jesus as Lord and Jesus calls ‘friend’ bear fruit, fruit that will last. Hopefully, the preacher and the church leader bear fruit, because they are friends of Jesus, also.
We’ve got our work cut out. We have two commands, but truly, if we do the first properly, the fruit will be an out-pouring from the evidence that we love one another.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.