John 15:11-13 “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”
When we read this I think we tend to miss the context, which is that of obedience. We all want the joy of the Lord, I think, but we don’t realize that it comes in full only when we are in obedient step with the Lord. Of course, the very next verse is the famous command to love each other as Christ has loved us. That doesn’t seem like a very onerous command to obey, but it’s not always so easy! That said, allowing the love of God to flow within the Body of Christ is certainly a joyful thing indeed. It is my observation that churches that aren’t very loving aren’t very joyful, and vice versa. When we take ourselves too seriously we can’t loosen up enough to let God’s joy flow through us. We also need to remember that Christ’s love is totally unselfish. Rather, it is sacrificial. Most people have experienced the joy of giving in order to meet the need of another. That joy is often in proportion to the level of our own sacrifice. It is worth considering whether meeting needs or having possessions brings the greater joy. The world and the devil want us to focus on possessions, but that will not bring us the joy that God has prepared for us. We need to keep remembering that the world’s standards are not the standards of the Kingdom of God, and God’s standards are always better!
It gives me great satisfaction that this church is very loving. Just this past Sunday, as people were sitting around in fellowship after we had eaten a meal together, I was talking with someone who is not yet a committed believer, but has had a lot of exposure to another Christian tradition. I said something about how we didn’t seem so much like a church as a family, and the man agreed fully, with a degree of awe. I’m reminded of what Jesus said shortly before today’s verses: “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35) Everything is tied together: love brings obedience which brings joy. I am not to fail to proclaim God’s holiness and the need for repentance, but I think we will be most effective when we love people into God’s family.
Father, thank You for this reminder, and for all You have done in me and in this church over the years. Thank You for the ties of love that people evidently still feel even though they are geographically far from us. Thank You for the extremely loving wife You have given me, who has set the example for this church and been an “open faucet” of Your love. May Your love indeed bring many into Your family, for their salvation and Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!