This past year, we studied the book of John in Bible study. In chapter 15, Jesus uses the analogy of a garden and gardener to reveal to us how we are to live. God is the gardener, Jesus is the vine and we are branches and are to remain close to the vine in order to bear fruit and have life. We are also told that the branches are pruned in order to produce more fruit. In this story, Jesus reveals to us his command for us, his followers. Not once, but twice. In verse 12 he states, "My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you." And then again in verse 17 he says, "This is my command: Love each other."
Sounds simple enough, right? We are to love each other. Well, no, I don't think loving each other is simple. Because we are to love each other as Christ loved us. And how did Christ love us? Verse 13 tells us, "Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends." Are we actually going to be called to give up our lives? I don't think this means literally, but I do believe that we are to give up personal gain or interests for what God thinks is important. We are called to serve and love others, as Jesus did. It means we are to love others even when they're hard to love. Even when we don't want to love them. Even when we don't think they deserve love.
This section is challenging for me because one question kept reverberating through my brain, "Who is God calling you to love?"
Initially, I was very sure I was doing well in terms of loving others. But then, several people came to mind that I said I had forgiven, but in reality, I was still holding onto some bitterness or anger towards them. On the outside, it may look like I was loving certain people, but on the inside, I truly wasn't.
One was my son’s friends made racist comments against him. Every time I thought of this boy, I was a little annoyed my son had forgiven his friend because I didn't trust him. I also thought of the person who teased our daughter, who has special needs. I just couldn't let go of my anger towards this person. I was having trouble forgiving him for coming into our home, eating our food and then teasing someone who didn't understand she was being teased and made fun of.
But as these people and specific circumstances where I felt justified in not extending love came to mind, I also was reminded that Jesus didn't say to love others who were easy to love. He said to love others as He has loved us.
How do we get to a place where we can love others the way Jesus loved us? One way that helped me to have a change of heart was to spend time with Jesus and in my Bible. I was better able to understand just how much Jesus loves us when we are hard to love! By allowing God to prune me, I was able to look at people differently. I no longer wanted to be justified in not loving them, I wanted to change so that I could love them and others the way Jesus calls us to love.
How do we love others the way that Jesus loved us? By abiding in Him and submitting to God's pruning work in our lives. Because this pruning leads to change in us, that change leads us to obedience and obedience leads us to loving others as Jesus has loved us.
So friends, who is Jesus calling you to love?
Last Chance to Register for the Priscilla Shirer 4-Week Spring Study
May 17 - June 7, 2018 Thursday 6:45 - 8 PM Kennett Square Campus
Join us for a unique 4-week themed study experience with short videos that include thought-provoking, modern-day parables and opportunities for weekly Bible study related to the theme. There is no fee for this group but please register so we have plenty of study guides available. See details on our Events page.