The Big IF: Love

The Big IF: Love

The Big IF: Love.

Sometimes our eyes just skip over small words in Scripture when we are reading in a hurry. In other words, if we’re not careful, if we find ourselves skimming the Bible, we will miss what might be the most important word in our relationship with God. We might be blind to a little word that quite possibly is central to our discipleship of Jesus. The word is “IF.” If is not a word to skip over, because it is often followed by a “Then.” Jesus makes many promises in the Gospels, and many of them have an “If” attached. If you do this, then I will do that, says Jesus. He seems to offer many conditional promises, what seem to be promises with strings attached. Conditional promises highlight the fact that we need to do our part in our relationship with Christ. We need to accept our responsibility as we cooperate with Him. We are active participants in our walk with the Lord. God offers us unconditional love, but we do have obligations if we expect to receive what He has promised. When we do our part, we are not earning salvation. We instead are putting forth effort as we live into our life of deliverance. We are doing our part in order to receive God’s promises. Obedience to Christ often translates into actively fulfilling on the “IF” so that God can fulfill the “Then.” This is another way we are working out our own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in us both to will and do for His good pleasure. (Phil. 2:12-13).

“If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love; just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in His love.” (John 15:10).

Keep: fulfill; obey; keep eyes fixed upon; watch carefully; observe attentively.

Abide in: to remain vitally united to; to continue living in; to dwell in; to stay attached to; to be tightly joined to; to stay intimately connected to; to remain at home in.

It’s actually not that complicated to keep Christ’s commandments, difficult but not complicated. he helpfully boiled down His law to one word: LOVE. Jesus was clear about who to love. The gospels outline for us the objects of this love in order to keep His commands:

    1. Love God“Hear, O Israel! the Lord our God, the Lord is one; 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.” (Mark 12:29-30).
    2. Love your neighbor: “My second command is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”  (Mark 12:31).
    3. Love yourself: When you look in the mirror, you see a person of dignity who was made in the image of God. To accept yourself, honor yourself and treat yourself with careful love is blended into the commandment above.
    4. Love your enemy: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matt. 5:44).
    5. Love one another: “I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.” (John 15:17).

Jesus has a strong desire that we abide, we dwell  in, His love. If we obey Him and become a person of love, we will make a home in His love. In other words, if we disregard His commands and become a person whose life orbits around something other than love, how could we possibly expect to live in His love? The love in which Jesus wants us to dwell didn’t actually start with Him. The Trinity is the source of love, and so we can be encouraged that the Trinity’s Spirit of love can be shared with us humble, common human folk. The Father will love and honor those who Follow his Son. The Son has loved the disciples the way that the Father has loved the Son. Jesus has succeeded in telling the Father’s secrets to the disciples, out of His love for them (John 15:15). All who belong to the Son also belong to the Father (John 17:10). It’s a package deal. Amazingly, the Father loves the disciples the way that He loves the Son (John 17:23). Equally astounding is the fact that the Father’s love for the Son will actually be put within the disciples. (John 17:26).

This also might be too astounding for words: Jesus wants us to have the type of loving relationship with Him that He has with the Father! Jesus uses His Father’s love as a pattern for His love for us. The Lord wants us to remain in His love just as He remains in the Father’s love. How can we describe something as profound and deep as the loving relationship between the Father God and the Son Jesus? This is important to know, because the love between Father and Son looks like the love Jesus wants between Him and us. We’ll never get to the bottom of this mystery that is probably at the center of everything. George MacDonald once said of this indescribable union, “The secret of the whole world of humanity is the love between the Father and the Son. This is at the root of it all. Upon the love between the Son and the Father hangs the whole universe.” (Knowing the Risen Lord). Their love for each other is the energy source for all the love in the world. Without their trinitarian love for each other, there would be no love. Human love would not exist were it not for their divine love for each other. The personal relationship between Father and Son has been so intimate that somehow they are inside each other. There is nothing in the universe that is as tightly knit together as the Father and the Son. And to think that Jesus wants us to have that same sort of love and intimacy!

If we were to try to probe the love between the Father and the Son, and thus the love Jesus wants with each believer, we would have to include:

Loyal: The Father has faithfully loved the Son since before the foundation of the world (John 17:24), so clearly they share an eternal love of trust and loyalty. Whatever the Father does, the Son faithfully does (John 5:19). The words of the Son are straight from the Father’s mouth (John 14:24). The Son will faithfully do whatever the Father requires of Him (John 14:31). They are profoundly loyal to each other no matter what.

Transparent: The Father loves the Son so much that He shows the Son everything He is doing (John 5:20). There are no secrets between the two. The Son limits Himself to doing whatever He sees His Father doing, and whatever the Father does, the Son does. The Father shows the Son everything. Even the words of the Son are not his own; they are the Father’s words willingly shared by the Father to the Son. (John 14:24). The Father and the Son are totally transparent to each other. No surprises.

Oneness: There is complete oneness and unity between the Father and the Son (John 17:21). When we have fellowship with Jesus, it is impossible to miss having fellowship with the Father as well because they simply cannot be separated (1 John 1:3). No one truly knows the Son except the Father, and no one truly knows the Father except the Son (Matt. 11:27). When you know the Son, you know the Father. When you see the Son, you have seen the Father (John 14:7). The Father and the Son shared glory before the world began (John 17:4). The Father is in the Son , and the Son is in the Father (John 17:21). Only the Son truly knows the Father (John 17:25). The Father loves and trusts the Son so much that the Father is content to have all His fullness dwell in the Son (Col 1:19). There is complete union between the Father and the Son.

Affectionate: Jesus calls the Father “Abba”, an affectionate term of honor and familiarity (Mark 14:36). The Father gave His word of affirmation and blessing over the Son at His baptism… “You are my dearly loved Son, and you bring me great joy.” (Luke 3:27). The Father basically repeated His blessing over Jesus at the Transfiguration (Matt. 17:5). When the Son gets glorified, He lovingly gives the glory right back to the Father (John 17:1). It’s clear that their affection for each other knows no bounds.

Jesus wants to love us the way the Father loves Him! (John 15:9). That is our destiny. What grace.