Summary: Complete joy come from loving others as Jesus loves us.
“Renewable Energy: Being A Good Lover”
In her book “Smoke on the Mountain”, Joy Davidman told of a missionary in a dark corner of Africa where the men had a habit of filing their teeth to sharp points. The missionary was working hard at trying to convert an old native chief. This missionary was very much Old Testament in his approach, leaning heavily on the law and “thou-shalt-nots.” The native listened patiently, until at last he said, “I do not understand. You tell me that I must not take my neighbor’s wife.” “That’s right,” said the missionary. “Or his ivory, or his oxen.” “Quite right.” “And I must not dance the war dance and then ambush him on the trail and kill him.” “Absolutely right!” then the chief said, “But I cannot do any of these things! I am too old. To be old and to be Christian, they are the same thing.”
I wonder how many people see the Christian faith as something old, prohibitive, tiring, lifeless – as the enemy of life and joy. What a shame – for God is a God of rest and joy and life. We are to enjoy Him forever! But how do we do that? Jesus said we do it by being good lovers. In fact, he requires we be good lovers.
Let’s look at THE REQUIREMENTS OF LOVE. Jesus said, “If you love me…” He begins with AN EXAMINATION: “If you love me.” This question “Do you love Jesus?” is the preface to everything in this passage. But that shouldn’t be surprising. We find the same principle in the preface to the 10 commandments: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.” Then God shares His commandments, which Jesus summarized as “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength. And you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The message of God echoed by Jesus is “See how I have loved you.” God has always acted towards His people in love. He defined His relationship with Israel as one of love. He gave them the Law and the commandments not because He’s a tyrannical God but because He loved them and wanted them to walk in the way that would bring them peace, joy, and blessing.
John wants us to learn the same thing. One of the themes of His Gospel is that God does not live in solitary confinement, sequestered in the heavens. Rather He had made Himself known in three persons in order to love us more fully and powerfully. In each person – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – God shows Himself as giving, actively loving – even to the extent that he became flesh and dwelt among us and dwells in us; even to the extent that He gave His only Son to die for us; even to the extent that the Son who was soon to die could say, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you.”
So do you pass the exam? DO YOU LOVE JESUS? Do you love the One who gives Himself in love – and in death – for you? Who forgives and delivers you? Who refuses to leave you alone? A shy Welshman went and slipped a love letter under his neighbor lady’s door each week for 40 years. Because of an argument they had years before, she continued to refuse to speak to him. Finally, after 2,184 love letters – with no response of any kind – the now 74 year old man went and knocked on her door and asked her to marry him. Much to his surprise she said yes. His repeated messages of love had melted her heart. To melt your heart, to you to let you know how much He loves you, God has repeatedly sent love messages – the greatest of which is Jesus Himself. So Jesus wants to know: “If you love me…” Do you pass the exam? How can you tell?
Jesus gives us AN EXHORTATION. “If you love me, you will obey what I command.” Obedience is not optional; it is THE PROPER AND NATURAL RESPONSE TO LOVE AND GRACE. We cannot pick and choose what to obey; we obey what Jesus commands. Notice that Jesus does not say, “If you love me you will feel good.” He does not say, “If you love me, you will get goose bumps.” He does not say, “If you love me you will have a deep, emotional experience.” He does not say, “If you love me you will become a hero of the faith.” We might prefer He had said some of those things – after all we’re accustomed to living life by our feelings. We prefer that which makes us feel good.