“If You Love Jesus”


Easter 6

May 21, 2017

 

Text:  John 14:15-21; 1 Peter 3:13-22


 

    This morning we sang as our opening hymn that old Gospel hymn, “O How I Love Jesus”.  In our Gospel lesson today Jesus told his disciples, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”  We need to remember that when Jesus is talking about love here, he is not talking merely about intensely liking him.  He is talking about love that leads to obedience.  

    If you love Jesus, keep his commandments.

    But what are Jesus’ commandments?  Let’s remind ourselves of some of them:

  • He said the great commandments of the Law are to “love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength; and to love your neighbor as yourself.”

  • He commanded his disciples later in John’s Gospel to “love one another as I have loved you.  There is no greater love than this:  to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

  • In the Sermon on the Mount he told the crowd:  “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”  He also told them:  “Don’t judge, so you won’t be judged.”

  • And of course, there is the teaching we know as the Golden Rule:  “Treat people the way you want them to treat you.”

    If you love Jesus, keep his commandments.  And over and over what Jesus has commanded us to do is love others.  To seek God’s best for them.  To treat them the way we want them to treat us.  Even the ones we don’t like.  Even the ones who mistreat us and hurt us.

    This is not easy.  That is why, right after Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commandments,” he continued, “I will ask the Father, and he will send another Companion, who will be with you forever.  This Companion is the Spirit of Truth, whom the world cannot receive because it neither sees him nor recognizes him. You know him, because he lives with you and will be with you.”  Jesus understands that we need help.  We cannot keep his commandments on our own.  We find them too difficult at times.  But God has given us his Holy Spirit to help us to do what we cannot do alone, to help us love those we cannot love without assistance, to help us serve those we are tempted to judge as undeserving.  Jesus realizes that we need the life and love of God at work in our lives if we are to keep the commandments Jesus has given us.

    If you love Jesus, keep his commandments.

    Keeping Jesus’ commandments is not likely to make a person popular with the general public.  Instead it is likely to draw some criticism and condemnation.  For instance, there have been a number of cities recently that have attempted to place restrictions on churches and Christian ministries that shelter or feed homeless people, including Dallas, Philadelphia, Denver, and Iowa City.  While there is legitimate debate and discussion about the best way to help homeless people, even among those who are involved in that ministry, these restrictions are usually more about preservation of community image than they are about actually helping homeless people.  The ministries upon which restrictions have been placed have been called on to defend what they are doing in tangibly sharing the love of God in Jesus Christ with some of the most downtrodden people around.

    This is consistent with what Peter said in his first letter:  “Who will harm you if you are zealous for good?  (Note:  the church’s long experience is that there are some who will.)   But happy are you, even if you suffer because of righteousness! Don’t be terrified or upset by them.

Instead, regard Christ as holy in your hearts. Whenever anyone asks you to speak of your hope, be ready to defend it. Yet do this with respectful humility, maintaining a good conscience. Act in this way so that those who malign your good lifestyle in Christ may be ashamed when they slander you. It is better to suffer for doing good (if this could possibly be God’s will) than for doing evil.”  Peter then points out that in so doing we are sharing in the sufferings of Christ, who himself suffered and died for doing God’s will and work in the world.

    Now we don’t really suffer very much for doing God’s work.  Maybe some people will complain a bit; maybe we get criticized a little; maybe restrictions are occasionally placed on us.  But at least where we live we don’t face active persecution or death for doing the work of Christ.  There are many places in the world where if one professes to be a follower of Jesus the result is persecution, torture, even death.  Meanwhile, where we live some people may even praise us for doing God’s work.  But whether we are praised or persecuted is really irrelevant.  We are to do God’s work and keep Jesus’ commandment to love others regardless of what anyone says or thinks about it or how they respond to it.  We are not doing these things for the sake of what other people think.  We do them out of love for Jesus in obedience to him.

    If you love Jesus, keep his commandments.  Show God’s love and compassion to others whether it is convenient or not, whether it is easy or difficult, whether you are praised or criticized for doing so.  Jesus promised to send us a Companion, a Helper, the Holy Spirit, to be with us, help us, encourage us, and empower us as we do these things.  That Holy Spirit lives with us and in us even now.  Jesus will never abandon or forsake us.  Because he lives, we also live, and have been called and empowered to do God’s work in the world.  Let us always be faithful in so doing.  Amen.

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