“As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love.”
Again this week, we read Jesus’ call to stay close to the Father. Then, he pushes things much farther. There is nothing static about this call because you can’t static and in community. You need to grow, and here we find the fruit of the vine. This is about loving everyone.
But many things are called love.
Love for a child and love for a parent.
Saturday was my Mum’s birthday but I’m living far away right now. Still, I wanted to mark it with more than a phone call and a card. I’m living in her hometown right now, so I rounded up the kids and the Spouse, and we went to look at the house where she was born. We took the camera with us. The day was bright and chilly, so we all wore woolly sweaters. Blue was on his tricycle and Bean on her scooter, and we got cold hands, and held them for each other to warm up. The kids wanted to hear a hundred stories – baby stories about everyone we love, and the stories of their own births. And we stood on MacDowall Road and tried to imagine my mum as a baby, Great Granny Anne as a mummy, the flowers still blue and growing in the gardens and the sky still bright and cold overhead. We held hands and missed Granny.
Love for the stranger on the street.
It was also Kierkegaard’s birthday over the weekend. You might not know that he was a great walker. He made a point of walking every day, and not for exercise or solitary escape. He thrived on human interaction – he called his walks his “people bath.” Kierkegaard would meet people everywhere. All throughout the streets of Copenhagen, he engaged with people whether through a simple gesture of greeting or a full-blown debate. He saw everyone wherever he went. And in seeing, he was enriched and enlivened.
Love for friends far flung and close by.
The past few weeks, I have felt the great gift of support of friends at my table and across the oceans. It is wonderful to know that despite the practicalities of daily lives, we can love and support each other across time and space. The internet’s connections are as nourishing as the knitting group at the coffee shop next door (and it too is a great gift!) Imagination that allows us to connect is a blessing.
Love for all others, even the difficult ones.
This is a harder calling, but maybe that makes it easier to focus on. Jesus called us into community and that’s going to take work. Intellectual, emotional, spiritual, imaginative work.
“The more I think it over, the more I feel that there is nothing more truly artistic than to love people.” Vincent Van Gogh
The more we focus on love, the more we abide in God and know God’s love flowing through us. This is the work we are cut out for.
And yet, and yet, despite all this sustaining love, I trip up. If you keep my commandments and then again at the bottom I am giving you these commandments. I wonder at John including these bits. Can this be right? This feels like law when I’m craving the taste of grace. Is it love if I am commanded to love? Duty alone can’t produce good fruit. How do we love if it is a commandment? How is that love?
“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”
But here’s the answering call. As I have loved you. Not as duty dictates or as you can figure out for yourself. But as Christ has loved you. And the love of Christ is so much richer than duty.
Christ’s love is deep, abiding love for the Father and shared with us. And it occurred to me last week that we speak of being born again or born of the Holy Spirit, we are seeing God in a maternal light. Birthed by the Spirit, we are mothered into being. Father, Son and Mothering Spirit – the image of God in the knowledge of family love.
Christ’s love is the love for the stranger, too. The people in the streets. The woman at the well, the tax collector in the tree. The thief on the cross. The beloved disciple in every age. Each are seen by Christ and met and loved.
Christ’s love is also the love of friends. I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. That is the radical heart in this passage. Christ’s love is intimate. And inclusive. It welcomes us in and tells us everything. It calls us to the table and offers us comfort. Then, of course, we are commissioned to welcome others.
Christ’s love is the love of even the hardest kind. We’ve been through the days of Holy Week – we’ve seen that burden. And then that victory.
Keep my commandments. Share my thinking. See the world as I see the world. And Jesus sees the world with passionate, loving eyes, loving in so many ways.
Maybe in each of these ways, Love is glimpsed, just as God is glimpsed in each of us.