I’ve loved you the way my Father has loved me. Make yourselves at home in my love. If you keep my commands, you’ll remain intimately at home in my love. That’s what I’ve done—kept my Father’s commands and made myself at home in his love.
I’ve told you these things for a purpose: that my joy might be your joy, and your joy wholly mature. This is my command: Love one another the way I loved you. This is the very best way to love. Put your life on the line for your friends. You are my friends when you do the things I command you. I’m no longer calling you servants because servants don’t understand what their master is thinking and planning. No, I’ve named you friends because I’ve let you in on everything I’ve heard from the Father.
You didn’t choose me, remember; I chose you, and put you in the world to bear fruit, fruit that won’t spoil. As fruit bearers, whatever you ask the Father in relation to me, he gives you. But remember the root command: Love one another.
Is Jesus saying, “My Father has built this house for me and I want you to come in and make yourselves at home in it. But…you can only stay here as my friend if you keep all my rules. I’ve told you this so that you can be as joyful as I am.”
I don’t know about you but the if in this verse would make it impossible for me to ever make myself at home. And as for joy, it would be out of reach because I would never know if I have sufficiently obeyed the owner’s commands. This interpretation would force me to think of myself as a tenant who must work hard on obedience to remain in good graces with the landlord. I don’t believe we can work in this sense and be at home in God’s love therefore I do not believe this is how Jesus would intend for us to interpret this passage. I’ve tried to live in the house on these terms and I am certain I misunderstood the agreement.
If I think that my stay is dependent on my performance I have not really listened to what God is truly saying. First of all, I am in God’s love because it was there in that house that I was conceived and born. It is critical that I am living in the house on the merits of having been chosen not on the shaky ground that I may or may not be qualifying through my obedience.
I certainly cannot love others unconditionally as I am commanded if I am living conditionally. If I am to obey by loving others I cannot begin as a tenant. I must make myself at home in his love as a permanent guest – all housing costs paid by Another. Presuming upon his love for me and His choice of me is the essence of abiding as I understand it and am experiencing it. I cannot address the if’s in our passage in any head-on way. If I attempt this through my labors (which I have), abiding is immediately undermined and I am back to living an insecure tenant’s life and preaching (with my life) a false gospel deficient in grace.
We must abide in the reality of the 1 John 4:19-root of the command: Love one another. We love, because He first loved us. In other words we can only fulfill the if’s if we are comfortably settled in the house which is, by the way, very large. Paul knew this and prayed that we would…
be able to take in with all followers of Jesus the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God.
Father, help us to vacate any substitute dwellings that have discounted the dimensions of your love. Help us to leave behind all the conditional contracts of performance discipleship. Help us to come to terms with the indestructible nature of your covenant with us. As your friends, let us go out afresh with Your joy, secure in your love, living out the new Life within us. Through our love and our fruit shake this world from its alignment with darkness. Amen.