The Way of Love

THE WAY OF LOVE

A few days ago the “Bible bus” came rumbling through the Upper Room Discourse (John 13-16). This is the final message Jesus gave to his disciples before his crucifixion. While reading John 15, I was struck by the difference between the first half and the last half of the chapter. In the first few verses Jesus speaks to his men about “abiding” in him. That means to develop a long-term intimate relationship with another person. A husband “abides” with his wife when he comes to know her through and through and loves her still, and even all the more because she “abides” with him in exactly the same way. No marriage can be happy over the long haul unless couples learn to “abide” with each other, forgiving quickly, learning to overlook faults, and enjoying each other’s company day after day. As we come to know Jesus intimately, we move from being servants to friends. And the mark of friendship is true and lasting love (John 15:17). Years ago Francis Schaeffer picked up on this theme when he wrote a little book called The Mark of the Christian, which declared that the central mark of a child of God is observable love. People can tell that we love Jesus by the way we treat each other. That’s the thrust of the first half of John 15. The second half is entirely different. The emphasis suddenly turns to the hatred the disciples can expect from the world (John 15:18-25). Jesus offers several explanations why the world hates Christians: 1) They hated him first [v. 18], 2) We are no longer part of the world [v. 19], 3) They treat us the way they treated Jesus [v. 20], 4) The people of the world don’t know God [v. 21], 5) They hate Jesus because they also hate God [v. 23], 6) They have rejected the works Jesus did [v. 24], 7) Their hatred fulfills Bible prophecy [v. 25]. The last two verses (John 15:26-27) speak of the Holy Spirit who gives us power to testify of Jesus Christ in the midst of a hostile world. If we put the whole chapter together, it looks something like this: Genuine love for others is the result of an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ. That love is our answer to the world’s hatred. If we are surprised by the world’s hatred, we don’t understand what Jesus said. If we answer hatred with hatred, we don’t believe what Jesus said. If we answer hatred with love, we are obeying what Jesus said. The world never loved us and never will. Don’t get angry with those who get angry at you. It doesn’t work, it’s a waste of time, and it just makes things worse. The way of Jesus is the way of love, even when others choose to hate.

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